The Guildhall, the meeting place of the Corporation of the City of London, is used for special civic occasions. The spectacular building, though looking medieval, dates from the late-18th century.
The Guildhall Gallery was established in 1885 but the original building was gutted by fire during the Blitz, destroying many valuable works. The demolition of the old Gallery building revealed the archaeological remains of London’s lost amphitheatre which are now incorporated in the basement of the gallery, which opened to the public in 1999.
The Corporation began collecting works of art in the 17th century and has a collection of around 4,000, mainly Victorian, paintings. However, only about 250 can be exhibited at any one time and part of the gallery is given over to a rolling exhibition so that more obscure works can be given an airing.
A digital gallery allows visitors to search for the pictures held in store.
The paintings are mainly of historical rather than artistic interest with battle scenes, London cityscapes from the 17th century to the present day, and portraits of former mayors and other dignitaries.
A highlight of the gallery is Constable’s oil sketch ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’.
The Guildhall Gallery now concentrates on acquiring work with London subjects or pieces with some relevance to the Capital.
An entrance fee may be charged for some exhibitions.