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The Tate started life in 1897, when Sir Henry Tate gifted his entire collection of sixty-five paintings to the nation.
Extensions were added at regular intervals throughout the century, but by the year 2000 the Tate’s art collection had grown so large that the vast majority of it was never on show to the public. The decision was then taken to divide the collection up, and the gallery was renamed Tate Britain – focusing solely on British art from the 16th-century onwards.
Most of the remaining paintings were transferred to the Tate Modern, an old converted power station on the Thames. There is a third branch of the Tate in Liverpool’s Albert Docks.
Some of the famous artists on display at the Tate include David Hockney, Francis Bacon, William Blake, William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable and, of course, the great J W Turner, who has his own devoted wing – the Clore Gallery.
Some of the famous paintings include the haunting Ophelia by John Millais, and John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott. You can also see some sculptures by Henry Moore.
Contemporary artists from modern times include the wild-child Tracey Emin, and sculptor Antony Gormley (responsible for the famous Angel of the North).
From early October to December every year, Tate Britain houses the Turner Prize exhibition. Most of the winners are either shockingly bad, or stunningly good – depending on your point of view.
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