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From the archive, 23 March 1960: Royal collection open to public

Originally published in the Guardian on 23 March 1960

London seems likely to have a new national and international art gallery in Buckingham Palace by about Christmas 1961. If Parliament agrees -it would seem churlish not to - the Queen is willing to open a small part of Buckingham Palace for displays of the royal collection, the finest private collection of Old Masters in the world.
The idea is that the private chapel of the palace, destroyed by a bomb during the war, should be rebuilt to contain a smaller chapel and a small art gallery. For special occasions the gallery could be used as an extension of the chapel. The cost of the proposed rebuilding is £40,000.
The consequences would be that for the first time her subjects would be able to enter the Queen's home and inspect selections of paintings and other works of art brought into the gallery from the palace and from other royal residences. Parts of Windsor Castle and the gardens of Sandringham and Balmoral are opened to the public at certain times, but nothing of the kind has happened up to now at Buckingham Palace.

The royal collections are generous and the most important paintings are so liberally lent out that few of the greatest items have not been seen in public in the last twenty years. There were 80 "royal" items in the last great Italian Exhibition in Burlington House, where - ten years ago - there was also a memorable show drawn exclusively from the royal collections. The main glories are Canalettos, Venetian masterpieces, Van Dycks, Holbeins, Italian Primitives, Reynoldses, Gainsboroughs and the Lely series of "beauties" and "admirals". They are well distributed among royal residences. Art historians have often speculated about what would have been the situation if Cromwell had not had his famous (or some say infamous) sale of Charles the First's collection, remnants of which are still among the main treasures.
When the new gallery is organised it will, of course, need a curator and a catalogue or series of catalogues. The surveyor of the Queen's pictures is Sir Anthony Blunt, who is also director of the Courtauld Institute. His deputy is Mr Oliver Millar, and between them they have all the knowledge needed to produce the catalogue. It might seem logical for Mr Millar to have day-to-day charge of the Buckingham Palace gallery, for he already does so much of the sort of work that would be involved. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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