What Is Tate Britain?

Emily Daw

Tate Britain is one of the original four Tate art museums in England, with the other three being Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives. Located on the Millbank in London, Tate Britain specializes in British art since the early Renaissance period. The original Tate Gallery, which opened to the public in 1897, consisted primarily of the art collection of Sir Henry Tate. In the 1990s the collection was split, with modern British and international art moving to the new Tate Modern museum and the renamed Tate Britain being devoted entirely to British art.

William Blake commonly employed the practice of relief etching in his artwork.
William Blake commonly employed the practice of relief etching in his artwork.

The permanent collection at Tate Britain contains the world's most extensive collection of British art, covering all major movements from 1500 to 2011. Of special interest are displays of portraits from the Elizabethan era and works of the Pre-Raphaelites and contemporary British artists. The works of the Romantic painters William Blake and John Constable also occupy a prominent place in the collection.

Perhaps the most famous display is that of the landscape painter J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851). Turner is considered one of the most important precursors to the French Impressionist painters. He became known as the "Painter of Light" due to his talent for showing the interaction between weather and landscape in his dramatic, dynamic paintings and watercolors.

In 1984, the Tate Britain began a contest known as the Turner Prize in honor of J. M. W. Turner. The works of four shortlisted British artists, all under the age of 50, are put on display annually, with the winner being announced in December. This prize has often been the subject of controversy, with some critics questioning the objectivity of the judges, the quality of the displays, or other matters.

Admission to the Tate Britain's main galleries is free, although there may be charges for admission to special exhibitions. Visitors should be aware that items in the permanent collection are displayed on a rotating basis. A list of current showings can be viewed online.

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