"We've lost touch with that particular idea over the years, but it's something the National Gallery really understands and it's the central issue which guides me as culture secretary," she said. "I want everyone to have access to our world class art and culture, no matter who they are or where they came from."
The National Gallery was set up almost 200 years ago by Parliament to create a collection of paintings for the use of the public. But for much of the past two centuries, the only way that the public could see the art was in person in London.
The entire collection has been moved only once, to protect it from German bombs rather than to engage with a wider audience. In World War Two, the paintings were transported to temporary sites in Wales before all 2,000 pictures were hidden in a former quarry in Snowdonia for safe keeping.
It was many decades, though, before a National Gallery masterpiece returned to Wales. While the institution did loan works increasingly to others, you were sometimes more likely to see one of the gallery's Rembrandts or Monets in a museum abroad than in a gallery in the UK, despite the fact that UK taxpayers fund and co-own the collection.
In recent decades, the gallery has stepped up its efforts to share its art more widely across the nation. After it bought a self-portrait by acclaimed 17th Century Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi in 2018, the painting went on a tour of the UK, not to museums and galleries but to places where different kinds of people might actually see it.
The 12 masterpieces that are part of the bicentenary plans will be sent to 12 museums and galleries across the four nations of the UK. Two of the works have never been loaned by the National Gallery before. Botticelli's Venus and Mars and the 14th Century Wilton Diptych, one of the greatest pictures ever produced in the UK, will be seen for the first time in National Gallery history outside London.
Art institutions around the world have been trying to address the lack of female artists in their collections. The National Gallery, which holds work from the 1400s to the 1900s, has already been found to have a particular problem, according to a recent study by Cambridge's all-female Murray Edwards College. Only around 1% of the works in the collection are by female artists.
The National Gallery is a historical collection, dating from a time when women artists weren't recognised, although it does regularly showcase the work of contemporary female artists in its galleries. It points out that NG200: National Treasures is one part of a wider plan to get its art out to audiences in the UK and across the world for its anniversary.