History of the Gallery
The story of the National Gallery of Canada began in the late 19th-century with a simple dream: that Canadians should have a national gallery to call their own.
It would be a place to showcase Canadian art; to preserve, study and teach about this vast nation’s cultural heritage; and to acquire magnificent works from around the world. It would expose us to great art from all periods and in all its manifestations: paintings, photographs, sculptures and more.
Today, the National Gallery of Canada is one of the world’s most respected art institutions, revered for its scholarship, applauded for its ability to engage audiences of all ages and all levels of artistic knowledge, and renowned for its exceptional collections: 36,000 works of art, as well as 125,000 images held within the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. It makes its home in a grand, light-filled structure of glass and granite, in which visitors can find a cloistered garden courtyard, a glass-bottomed pool, and a reconstructed 19th-century chapel.
But the Gallery’s evolution was not without bumps: from fires to politics to media controversies. By touring through our Gallery chronicles—on the collection, the building, and its people—you can discover how we got from there to here, from one simple idea to the impressive institution the Gallery is today.