The present building, the third to house the National Gallery, was designed by William Wilkins from 1832–8. Only the façade onto Trafalgar Square remains essentially unchanged from this time, as the building has been expanded piecemeal throughout its history. Wilkins’s building was often criticised for its perceived aesthetic deficiencies and lack of space; the latter problem led to the establishment of the Tate Gallery for British art in 1897. The Sainsbury Wing, an extension to the west by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, is a notable example of Postmodernist architecture in Britain.
Unlike comparable museums in continental Europe, the National Gallery was not formed by nationalising an existing royal or princely art collection. It came into being when the British government bought 38 paintings from the heirs of John Julius Angerstein, an insurance broker and patron of the arts, in 1824. After that initial purchase the Gallery was shaped mainly by its early directors, notably Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, and by private donations, which comprise two thirds of the collection. The resulting collection is small in size, compared with many European national galleries, but encyclopaedic in scope; most major developments in Western painting “from Giotto to Cézanne” are represented with important works. It used to be claimed that this was one of the few national galleries that had all its works on permanent exhibition, but this is no longer the case.
The Chudov Monastery and Ascension Convent, with their 16th-century cathedrals, were dismantled to make room for the military school and Palace of Congresses. The Little Nicholas Palace and the old Saviour Cathedral were pulled down as well. The residence of the Soviet government was closed to tourists until 1955. It was not until the Khrushchev Thaw that the Kremlin was reopened to foreign visitors. The Kremlin Museums were established in 1961 and the complex was among the first Soviet patrimonies inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990.
Although the current director of the Kremlin Museums, Elena Gagarina (Yuri Gagarin‘s daughter) advocates a full-scale restoration of the destroyed cloisters, recent developments have been confined to expensive restoration of the original interiors of the Grand Kremlin Palace, which were altered during Stalin’s rule. The Patriarch of Moscow has a suite of rooms in the Kremlin, but divine service in the Kremlin cathedrals is held irregularly, because they are still administered as museums.