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By the end of the eighteenth century, many European governments were acquiring treasured art collections and putting them on display in grand museums. The Uffizi in Florence, the Louvre in Paris, and the Vatican Museums in Rome all popped up at roughly the same time and captured the imaginations of the continent.
Not to be outdone, King George IV encouraged Parliament to buy the residence of a newly deceased banker and art collector by the name of John Julius Angerstein - he sounds like a happy chap. Angerstein's art collection included works by Rembrandt and Rubens, and was displayed in his residence at Pall Mall. The year was 1824, and this was the first National Gallery of England. The residence proved to be far too small to compete with the other museums of Europe, and so the National Gallery moved to the building which it now occupies, off Trafalgar Square, in 1832. The building was designed in a neo-classical fashion by architect William Wilkins, and its location, equidistant to both the wealthy West End and the lower-class East End, meant that people of all socio-economic backgrounds could access the museum.