View of Scottish National Portrait Gallery looking along Queen Street
Credit: National Galleries Scotland

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

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Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery opened in 1889 as the first purpose-built portrait gallery in the world. It houses Scotland’s national collection of portraits. All of the original artwork in the gallery comes from one eighteenth century art collector, David 11th Earl of Buchan. Today, the collection totals over 30,000 works and includes art from the sixteenth century to the present day. There is a great variety of media, such as paintings, sculptures, drawings, watercolours, miniatures, coins and medallions.

The Portraits

All of the portraits are of Scots, by artists from all over the world. For instance, Ramsay, Raeburn, Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Copley, Thorvaldsen, Rodin and Kokoschka. Highlights on display include portraits of historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. There are also many modern portraits such as those of Sean Connery, Alex Ferguson and Robbie Coltrane. In addition to the impressive permanent collection, the gallery hosts special exhibitions throughout the year.

The Building

The elaborate red sandstone building itself is a work of art both inside and out. Architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson designed it in neo-gothic style with friezes, murals, sculptures and embellishment adorning every surface. In 2009 the gallery underwent an extensive three-year refurbishment, revealed to the public in 2011. The project aimed to restore the building closer to Anderson’s original design. It added new facilities and made the building more accessible.

Visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

See the National Galleries Scotland website for more information.