England's first classical building, the 17th century Queen's House, in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich will re-open to the public on 18 May 2001 with galleries for the display and interpretation of art.

England's first classical building, the 17th century Queen's House, in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich will re-open to the public on 18 May 2001 with galleries for the display and interpretation of art.

The galleries will house exhibitions, host artists-in-residence and run an education and workshop programme designed to increase access to the National Maritime Museum's unrivalled maritime art collection, to stimulate interest in art and encourage active participation from visitors to Greenwich. The House's architecture, the famous people associated with it and its place in the history of Greenwich will be illustrated in the ground-floor rooms. The first-floor galleries will house A Sea of Faces, an exhibition of naval portraiture, which will be followed in 2002 by a further exhibition of paintings from the Museum's collection.

Commenting on the project, National Maritime Museum Director, Roy Clare, said 'The Queen's House will offer opportunities for people with either a general interest or a particular love of art to immerse themselves in various aspects of it and enjoy increased access to the Museum's wealth of paintings.'

The House will reopen with two new exhibitions:

A Sea of Faces - opening 18 May 2001150 of the Museum's most impressive portraits, many not displayed for over twenty years, will fill the first-floor galleries. The exhibition will cover the period 1620–2000, from Stuart portraits of aristocrats, captains and shipwrights by Van Dyck and Lely, to John Wonnacott's 1998 portrait of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Lewin. The local diarist, Samuel Pepys, will feature in Kneller's portrait of 1688, as will Sir Peter Lely's famous portrait series the 'Flagmen of Lowestoft', alongside images of their Dutch enemy. The 18th-century rooms will include portraits by Gainsborough, Hogarth and the Museum's holding of fifteen portraits by Reynolds, as well as Nathaniel Dance's of Captain Cook and J.F. Rigaud's of young Captain Nelson. The remarkable, full-length portrait of Napoleon in captivity on board the Bellerophon, painted by the 22-year-old (Sir) Charles Eastlake, will be flanked by the various English captains who fought against him. The 20th century will be represented by the powerful imagery of the War Artists.

The exhibition will also include a conservation studio where visitors can observe conservators at work and learn about the techniques used to restore paintings.

Historic Greenwich - opening 18 May 2001This exhibition will illustrate the architectural importance of the House, its history and its key role in the development of what is now the 'Maritime Greenwich' UNESCO World Heritage Site. Historic Greenwich will include two impressive new models reconstructing the House's original appearance and its place in the early 17th-century Greenwich landscape. Paintings displayed will include the Museum's fine collection of early views of Greenwich and original portraits of people associated with the House. These include Queen Anne of Denmark (wife of James I, for whom it was originally built), Charles I and his Queen, Henrietta Maria and the architect, Inigo Jones.

Practical projects throughout the Queen's House:

Art and DesignThe Museum's education department will offer practical sessions linked to the art, design and history modules of the National Curriculum. Booked groups will learn about the Tudors and early explorers, with the help of Tudor portraits and paintings of Drake and the Armada. An interactive gallery will enable children to 'act out' paintings, examine them at close range, and discovering the hidden meanings of pictures and the use of symbolism.

Contemporary ArtThe Museum will commission contemporary artists to produce work for display in the House as part of the New Visions of the Sea initiative. Early commissions include portraiture by Faisal Abdu'allah (supported by London Arts), who will also be the first of a series of artists-in-residence to demonstrate the creative process to school groups and the general public. On a different note, the craft of figurehead carving will also be demonstrated.

The Queen's House and the communityJoint projects, such as the Museum's collaboration with Wimbledon School of Art on new designs inspired by the Stuart court masque, will also generate displays in the House. An annual nationwide art competition is also being considered, with the House displaying the short-listed works.

Visitor InformationOpening Date: 18 May 2001Opening Hours: 10.00–5.00, seven days a weekQueen's House admission: Children (5-16 years) and Senior Citizens free, Adults £1.00.

Visitor information: please call 020 8312 6565

NOTES TO EDITORSThe National Maritime Museum holds the largest collection of art relating to maritime history and culture in the world. (Its collection of portraits is second only to that of London's National Portrait Gallery).

The 17th-century Queen's House, England's first classical building, is a rare surviving example of the work of Inigo Jones, the man who revolutionized English architecture of the period. It was completed in 1635 for Charles I's young French Queen Henrietta Maria, as a private 'house of delights' and entertainment, although many aspects of its early history remain enigmatic.