The iPad’s ability to bring information to the user in an easy-to-consume form has revolutionized personal tech. While gaming and social media apps top many user’s lists, the iPad also excels as a tool for cultural exploration. There are a number of art appreciation apps that bring great works of art to our fingertips. While many apps (i.e. Overdamped) focus on a particular artist, and others such as Art Authority act as an ad-hoc art survey course, Macsoftex’ National Gallery, London zeroes in on the works housed in the museum after which it is named.
The National Gallery of London focuses on Western European painting from the 13th to the 19th centuries, as does the corresponding iOS app. This approach gives the user a feel for what it would be like to take a trip to the gallery without the pricey transatlantic flight.
National Gallery, London organizes the artists alphabetically according to the century in which they painted from the 1400s through the 1900s. There are works by Renoir, Van Gogh, Turner, Manet, Del Greco, and Delacroix, as well as a solid selection of portraiture and religious art. Twentieth century offerings are rather limited, so this app is not for modernist devotees.
The user can also sort the artists by name, though oddly, they are alphabetized by first, rather than last name, so if you can’t remember Pisarro’s first name, for example (Camille), it’s better to use the app’s search engine. The app contains six of his works, however, including his stunning portrait The Louvre Under Snow.
Users may save an image as a photo, as well as email or publish the work to Facebook. HD versions of the works are available to download through the app as well. Any grouping of paintings (e.g. by century or artist) can also be viewed as a slideshow. Users have the option to star favorite paintings and view them as a group.
Download National Gallery, London from the App Store for $1.99. It is a universal app that will run on the iPhone or iPod touch as well as the iPad.
What I liked: The images all look stunning. The app accommodates both landscape or portrait orientation, so each painting can be viewed as it would hang on a wall. Viewing one museum’s holdings offers a different perspective than other iOS art apps.
What I didn’t like: The UI is underwhelming and the paintings are not organized meaningfully beyond being grouped by century.
To buy or not to buy: The app is a solid value for the number of paintings it delivers, without bells and whistles.