His decision comes as he approaches his 65th birthday this December. The exact date of his retirement will depend on the appointment of his successor.
Under Dr Nicholas Pennys Directorship, the National Gallery
staged the most successful exhibition in its history, Leonardo da Vinci, Painter at t he Court of Milan , as well as major exhibitions on painters including Barocci, Veronese and, this autumn, Rembrandt. In 2013, for the first time ever, annual visitors to the Gallery exceeded 6 million.
Reflecting on his six years as Director, Nicholas said I have enjoyed my years as Director and am grateful to the Trustees, staff and to the Gallerys supporters for helping to ensure that the Gallery has continued to prosper despite a steadily declining grant to flourish both as a great and popular resource and as a home for scholarship, a national gallery admired internationally .
He added Following my retirement I have many plans, but chiefly look forward to spending more time with my family, friends and books.
Mark Getty, Chairman of the National Gallery Trustees, expressed the Boards gratitude to the Director for all he has done for the Gallery, saying Nick has been an extraordinarily successful Director of the National Gallery, steering the nations acquisition of the two great Titian paintings, Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland, and this year securing the acquisition of the Gallerys first major American painting, Men of the Docks by George Bellows . The Board are hugely grateful to him for his energy, vision and commitment to the Gallerys work. We will miss him greatly.
The Board of Trustees will shortly begin its search for a new Director. Under the Museums and Galleries Act of 1992, the Director of the National Gallery is appointed by the Trustees with the approval of the Prime Minister.
Nicholas Penny has agreed to stay in office for the entirety of that recruitment process, in order to affect a smooth handover to his successor.