Displays of works by Monet and El Greco are amongst some of new highlights on loan to the National Gallery that visitors can see in Trafalgar Square for free this Easter.
Alongside these, the critically acclaimed exhibition Inventing Impressionism is also open every day throughout Easter.
In Room 43 is a rare opportunity to see Monet's Water-Lilies together for the first time in 17 years. In 1918, the day after the Armistice was signed, Claude Monet promised a group of paintings to the French nation as a 'monument to peace'. Known as the Water-Lilies, they continue to captivate visitors almost a century later.
The artist lived at Giverny (Normandy) and during his final decades, he almost exclusively painted his garden which was filled with water-lilies. Monet began working on these paintings during the First World War, a time of tragedy for him: the loss of his wife and son, his declining eyesight, the international conflict. Monet's near-abstract pictures, where forms dissolve to the point of disintegration, can be seen as his response to personal and public devastation.
This display highlights the National Gallery's exceptional holdings of Monet's Giverny pictures, plus the loan of The Japanese Bridge (1919-24) from a private collection.
In Room 30 a temporary display marks the exceptional loan of El Greco's magnificent altarpiece, The Crucifixion with Two Donors, from the Musée du Louvre, Paris, alongside which the National Gallery's holdings of El Greco's works have been brought together. An additional painting, The Agony in the Garden, related to the Gallery's own studio variant shown nearby, is on loan from a private collection and exhibited publicly here for the first time in 25 years.
Through the six paintings on display, it is possible to follow El Greco's stylistic evolution and appreciate the full range of works he produced; from small-scale paintings aimed at a learned public (The Adoration of the Name of Jesus) to works intended for private devotion (Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple and The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane) and the great altarpieces destined for religious settings (The Crucifixion with Two Donors).
The departure of Canaletto's A Regatta on the Grand Canal – on the road travelling to Bath, Compton Verney and Sunderland as the second painting in the Masterpiece Tour – has left space in Room 38 for a spectacular view painting by Francesco Guardi, on loan from The Mari Cha Collection Limited. At more than two metres wide, Venice: the Giudecca Canal and the Zattere is one of Guardi's most accomplished works and although the artist painted this view on other occasions, this is without doubt the artist's most ambitious and scenographic representation of the subject. The view adopted by Guardi is unusual: we are looking west, along the north side of the Giudecca Canal, with the Bacino di San Marco behind us, and the island of the Giudecca just visible at the far left. In this poetic depiction of Venice, Guardi has given over most of the vast canvas to the atmospheric depiction of the sky and the luminous water below.
In Room 58 we can now see two loans from one of the most extraordinary group of pictures made in association with a marriage in Lorenzo de' Medici's Florence – some of the most beautiful and important late 15th-century Florentine secular paintings left in private hands. The Argonauts in Colchis by Bartolomeo di Giovanni and The Departure of the Argonauts, by Master of 1487, probably Pietro del Donzello, are both on loan from The Mari Cha Collection Limited. They celebrate Jason and the Argonauts' legendary search for the Golden Fleece. Both paintings were made for the marriage of Lorenzo de' Medici's cousin, Lorenzo Tornabuoni, to Giovanna degli Albizzi, in 1486.
The National Gallery is open daily from 10am to 6pm (until 9pm on Fridays). For more information about these new loans and displays, and to book tickets for Inventing Impressionism, visit www.nationalgallery.org.uk.