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 now a third branch of the Tate in Liverpool’s Albert Docks.
Paintings at the Tate
Some of the famous artists on display at the Tate include David Hockney, Francis Bacon, William Blake, William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable.
The great J W Turner 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).
The Turner Prize exhibition
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.
DaveG – “Its got all the famous british painters here.. Turner, constable, gainsborough. I saw a lot of henry moore as well, and I dont normally do sculptures but I thought these were very good. I dont like the building much though, its a bit too far out of the way. And inside its not as warm as, say, the national gallery. Theres plenty of turners in the national too, and if I had to choose a place to see them then I would probably go there purely because its a better building. But if turner is your thing, and you want to see the full scope of his work then you have to go to the tate. One word of advice: get the boat that goes between the tate modern and tate britain. Get it even if your not going to go inside the modern, because its a nice trip past parliament, big ben and the London eye.”
AliBell – “Its not the first gallery I would recommend (the national is much better), but if you've done the others then you shouldnt definitely try and visit this one. Dont be put off by its somewhat out of the way location. There are some grat paintings in here by the likes of turner, constable and gainsborough. They are all british artists here -- that is why its called tate britain -- so obviously there isnt the range of artists that you will find at the national, but if you like landscapes then you will be more than Satisfied. There are some of the greatest landscape painters of all-time here. If you go then plan some time to take the boat between tate britain and tate modern. That is a lovely boatride that goes past lots of famous places, and is almost worth doing on its own.”
Guest – “Tate britain gallery used to be great. In the last two years it has gone off - big time. No room numbers, no floor plan (on line or as a paper folder). A major inability to display all their big crowd pleaser. Avoid and go to the national gallery or tate modern or wallace collection. Visit only for the big paying exhibitions!!!.”