After an unsettled existence in several temporary locations, the national collection of portraiture came to reside in these permanent quarters, on the former site of St Martin's workhouse, in 1896.
The philanthropist W H Alexander offered funding for the new purpose-built Gallery. His one condition was that the government provide a site within a mile and a half of the gentlemen's clubs around St James Street. A site to the east of Trafalgar Square was chosen. The issue of how the new Gallery was going to relate to its neighbours was resolved by the architect Ewan Christian's Italian Renaissance design.
Following the extension added by Lord Duveen in 1933, further improvements to the Gallery continued. In 1993 the new Twentieth Century Galleries and Education Centre designed by John Miller & Partners opened. In 1996 Piers Gough of CZWG Architects radically redesigned the Victorian and Early Twentieth Century Galleries. In 1998 a new bookshop and Portrait Cafe were created in the basement by Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones, who are also the architects for the NPG 2000 project, a major new development that includes the Tudor Gallery, IT Gallery, Balcony Gallery, a state-of-the-art lecture theatre and a roof-top restaurant.