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Tate Britain & Tate Modern

The Tate Gallery was founded in 1897. Prior to that time, there had been no major museum in England devoted to the country's contemporary arts. With this in mind, Henry Tate, a prominent collector of British art, offered to endow such an institution if the government would provide an appropriate site. The government proffered land in Millbank, then the site of London's largest prison, the Millbank Penitentiary, and this was duly pulled down.

Tate also endowed the museum with his own collection of 67 English pictures, which became the core collection of the institution which would bear his name. Among the works in this initial bequest is John Everett Millais' "Ophelia," a Pre-Raphaelite painting of haunting beauty, showing a prostrate Ophelia afloat in a shallow, mossy and flower-strewn marsh. It is still one of the most admired works in the collection. At the time of the foundation, the Tate's operative definition of modern art was anything created by an artist born after 1790. In 1910, however it received an offer to house the great J.M. Turner bequest, consisting of 300 oil paintings and approximately 19,000 watercolors and drawings, which the artist had left to the nation. As Turner was born in 1775, the Museum had to expand its chronological parameters to accommodate this earlier work.

Soon after the Tate was offered Sir Henry Lane's important collection of French Impressionist artwork, and so in 1917 its responsibility was formally redefined to include foreign art along with works by British artists born before, as well as after, 1790.

Today, the Tate's collections are grouped into two principle divisions; the National Collection of Historic British Painting ca. 1545-1880, and the National Collection of Modern Art. The former includes works by Betts, Constable, Dobson, Lely, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Stubbs, Romney, West, Copley, Raeburn, and Lawrence.


Sargent, John Singer (1856-1925)
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885-86. Oil on canvas, 174 x 153.7 cm.
Tate Gallery, London, Great Britain
Tate, London / Art Resource, NY