The members lent works to exhibitions that changed annually, while an art school was held in the summer months.

However, as the paintings that were lent were often mediocre, One of the Institution's founding members, Sir George Beaumont, Bt, would eventually play a major role in the National Gallery's foundation by offering a gift of 16 paintings.

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The collection opened in Britain's first purpose-built public gallery, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, in 1814.

The Scottish dealer William Buchanan and another collector, Joseph Count Truchsess, both formed art collections expressly as the basis for a future national collection, but their respective offers (made in the same year, 1803) were also declined.

The MP John Wilkes argued for the government to buy this "invaluable treasure" and suggested that it be housed in "a noble gallery...

to be built in the spacious garden of the British Museum" Nothing came of Wilkes's appeal and 20 years later the collection was bought in its entirety by Catherine the Great; it is now to be found in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

Great Britain, however, did not emulate the continental model, and the British Royal Collection remains in the sovereign's possession today.

In 1777 the British government had the opportunity to buy an art collection of international stature, when the descendants of Sir Robert Walpole put his collection up for sale.In 1823 another major art collection came on the market, which had been assembled by the recently deceased John Julius Angerstein.Angerstein was a Russian-born émigré banker based in London; his collection numbered 38 paintings, including works by Raphael and Hogarth's Marriage à-la-mode series.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 present building, the third to house the National Gallery, was designed by William Wilkins from 1832 to 1838.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 the perceived weaknesses of its design and for its lack of space; the latter problem led to the establishment of the Tate Gallery for British art in 1897.