Tate Britain Guide, London, England
Tate Britain, on the banks of the Thames south of Parliament Square. Entry Free.
Tate Britain, London’s Best Free Art Gallery
Some think the best art gallery in London is the National Gallery but we amateur art-loverts beg to differ. Our vote goes to this relaxed, free and fascinating gallery, Tate Britain. Note that this is NOT the same as the upstart sibling Tate Modern that we think is one of the worst galleries.
Bugbog spent July visiting many large London galleries and museums and thought the Tate Britain was the most enjoyable.
TB is spacious, relaxed and houses an astonishing variety of British artistic styles from 1500 AD to the present – old, new, traditional, deranged, paintings, sculptures, books and installations, often by recent big-name artists or old masters.
Furthermore, since the Tate is south of Parliament Square and most tourists travel on from the Parliament/Big Ben/Westminster Abbey sector to visit either west (Buckingham Palace), north (Trafalgar Square and the city centre) or east (South Bank, London Eye), very few head upriver where the Tate sits, so it’s blissfully uncrowded.
There are obviously must-sees at the National Gallery and Tate Modern building is worth a visit but for pure chill-out art entertainment we put Tate Britain at number one.
Here are a few Tate Britain displays
A typically calm space and eclectic collection.
A more traditional layout. This room contains The Lady of Shalott, a masterpiece by John William Waterhouse, though we prefer tragic Ophelia, below.
A drowning Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais in 1851.
From the Tate display caption:
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Ophelia falls into a stream while picking flowers. Despairing over her father’s murder by Hamlet, her lover, she allows herself to die. The flowers she holds are symbolic: the poppy means death, daisies innocence and pansies love in vain. This painting was regarded in its day as one of the most accurate and elaborate studies of nature ever made.
The Tate’s #1 painting, Norham Castle, Sunrise by JMW Turner, 1845.
Tate Britain has the largest collection of Turner’s works in the world, 300 paintings and 30, 000 sketches, but one sensational, luminous room was enough for us.
The Prose Life of St Cuthbert, 1200 AD. Artist Unknown.
A very detailed watercolour of the 3rd Earl of Cumberland by Nicholas Hilliard in 1590.
The Nativity. A watercolour feminist work by Dorothy Webster Hawksley in 1924.
This nativity scene is peopled almost entirely by females – including rather bizarrely Pandora in her box at the bottom of the picture and the artist herself in grey drawing the scene – apart from the necessary three Kings, Joseph and an ageing shepherd (? ).
A mixed modern room.
A famous triptych from Francis Bacon: Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.
The Rock Drill, originally by Jacob Epstein in 1915 but reconstructed by Ken Cook and Ann Christopher in 1974.
The strangest art form we stumbled across during our time at the Tate Britain was a labyrinthine series of small rooms with no notice, no guide and no information on the entry door or anywhere for that matter, just a grinning guard telling us to go ahead. It’s an adventure!
The rooms all had two doors (i. e. you come in one and the adventurous leave through the other) and were small, claustrophobic and primitively dressed. Certainly a giggle but – rather like Tracey Emin’s art – we didn’t get the message or see the point. Come to think of it, maybe this was a secretive new installation by Tracey, the queen of nonsense?