News - Top 20 National Gallery Paintings

To prove it's not just art-geek Susan Omand that looks at National Gallery paintings on their website, there's now an official list of the top 20 artworks getting online views...

Press Release

Throughout the current lockdown, the National Gallery has remained open online, continuing to bring the nation’s gallery into the nation’s homes. Through our digital initiatives, we are open 24/7, providing everyone with access to great art at anytime, anywhere in the world. These programmes explore the various ways people can look at and respond to art from their homes including exploring the collection online, creative workshops, art talks and films.

The National Gallery say they are delighted that visitors have been able to access the collection virtually. The most popular painting page, with the highest number of views, is Jan van Eyck’s jewel-like The Arnolfini Portrait (pictured above), followed by Holbein’s The Ambassadors and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Other visitor favourites include works by Turner, Leonardo, Velázquez, Titian, Constable, Botticelli, Monet, Caravaggio and Vermeer. 

The list selection takes audiences on a journey spanning over 450 years, from a merchant family’s home in 15th-century Bruges ('The Arnolfini Portrait', 1434) to Monet’s garden in 19th-century Giverny ('The Water-Lily Pond', 1899). The twenty most viewed pictures are just a fraction of the masterpieces that form the Gallery’s collection of over 2,300 works.

There has been a rise in audience interaction with painting pages overall. These pages provide an in-depth look into the story behind each work with text descriptions and video content. They also allow the viewer to zoom in for a closer look – not unlike the experience of standing in front of a painting in the gallery, leaning in to focus on a particular section or inspecting a certain element in greater detail. Whether revisiting beloved favourites or discovering these masterpieces for the first time, the painting pages help guide the viewer and provide new layers of insight.

As institutions that engage with both the individual and the community, museums and galleries have an important role to play in times of crisis. Whether online visitors seek out the thrilling rush of Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed or the still, luminous interior of Vermeer’s A Young Woman standing at a Virginal, there is little doubt that art can provide solace and reassurance in a challenging historical moment.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, said ‘It is revealing that Jan van Eyck’s 'Arnolfini Portrait' and Holbein’s 'Ambassadors' are the pictures most people have looked for online. Both are indoor scenes with very dressed up people and I am wondering whether they reflect our own experience of being enclosed in our homes during lockdown but yearning to go out and celebrate! Even with the Gallery doors closed all our masterpieces are available online for everyone to enjoy.’

The top 20 most viewed painting pages are [in pop-picker reverse order of course - Ed]:

The figures are based on the largest number of individual views of a page from 19 March 2020 when the Gallery first locked down, until today.

Top image - Jan van Eyck, Portrait of Giovanni(?) Arnolfini and his Wife (The Arnolfini Portrait), 1434, Oil on oak © The National Gallery, London
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