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Sir Henry Tate

(1819—1899) sugar refiner and benefactor


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(b Chorley, Lancashire, 11 Mar. 1819; d London, 5 Dec. 1899).

British sugar tycoon and art collector. In 1890 he offered the nation his collection, consisting mainly of the work of Victorian contemporaries, on condition that the Government found a suitable site for a gallery. Following great controversy over where it should be located, the Tate Gallery opened at Millbank, overlooking the Thames, in 1897, on a site previously occupied by part of Millbank Prison. The building is an undistinguished classical structure designed by Sidney R. J. Smith, an architect who is otherwise virtually unknown. At the time of its opening, the Tate was not the independent gallery that had been envisaged by its founder. It was subordinate to the National Gallery and was intended only for recent British art (its official title was the National Gallery of British Art, although it was referred to as the Tate Gallery from the beginning and this name was formalized in 1932). It began to be established as a historical collection of British art in 1910 when a group of works by Alfred Stevens was added and a wing was opened to accommodate most of the paintings left in Turner's studio at his death, which had previously been housed (but in the main unexhibited) at the National Gallery. In 1916 the Tate was given the additional responsibility of forming the national collection of modern art. It was not until 1954, however, that it became completely independent of the National Gallery (although transfers are still made between the two institutions). There have been several extensions to the building (some of them paid for by Sir Joseph and Lord Duveen), and in 1987 a new wing—the Clore Gallery (named after Sir Charles Clore (1904–79), a businessman and philanthropist who was one of the Tate's greatest benefactors)—was opened to house works by Turner, including not only the oil paintings already at the Tate, but also watercolours and drawings previously in the British Museum. In 1988 a new branch of the Tate Gallery was opened in Liverpool and in 1993 another one in St Ives. The creation of these two outstations reflected not only a desire to share the Tate's collections with regional audiences, but also the fact that the gallery had outgrown its site in London. In 1994 the Tate Trustees announced a decision to create a new museum to house the gallery's modern material in the decommissioned Bankside Power Station, a huge, starkly magnificent building occupying a prime site on the Thames opposite St Paul's Cathedral. It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and built in 1947–63; the remodelling into a gallery was carried out by the Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. This new gallery opened to the public in 2000 under the name Tate Modern. The original Tate Gallery at Millbank is now known as Tate Britain and has reverted to its original function as the ‘National Gallery of British art’. It has the world's most comprehensive collection of British painting from the mid-16th century onwards, but sculptural coverage does not begin until the 19th century, as the Victoria and Albert Museum holds the national collection of earlier sculpture. Modern British works are found in both Tate Britain and Tate Modern.

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Subjects: Art.


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