1540 - 2013

Meet 500 Years of British Art

Tate Britain

Walk through time with Tate’s curators as they introduce the new displays at Tate Britain, and explore highlights from the world’s greatest collection of British art. 

The BP Walk through British Art offers a circuit of Tate Britain’s collection from its beginnings in 1540 to the present day.

This is the earliest part of Tate's collection, covering the period from the last years of the reign of Henry VIII through the reigns of Elizabeth I and Charles I. Family, dynasty and status portraiture dominate British Art of this early period.

Room: 1540-1650

Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee, Marcus Gheeraerts II, 1594, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Cookmaid with Still Life of Vegetables and Fruit, Sir Nathaniel Bacon, c.1620-5, From the collection of: Tate Britain
The Saltonstall Family, David Des Granges, Around 1636, From the collection of: Tate Britain
A Man in a Black Cap, John Bettes, 1545, From the collection of: Tate Britain
The Cholmondeley Ladies, British School 17th century, Around 1600, From the collection of: Tate Britain

A period of dramatic change, of the restoration of monarchy in 1660, plague, fire, the Revolution of 1688 and the creation of The United Kingdom in 1707.  New genres, such as landscape painting, arrive through the activities of incoming artists from Netherlands and the Low Countries. 

Room: 1650-1730

View of a House and its Estate in Belsize, Middlesex, Jan Siberechts, 1696-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Portrait of a Young Girl, Mary Beale, Around 1681, From the collection of: Tate Britain

In the 1730s Britain emerges as a world power, growing economically, politically and militarily. 

It is also a period of cultural growth for Britain. 

Room: 1730-1765

The Painter and his Pug, William Hogarth, 1745-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Wooded Landscape with a Peasant Resting, Thomas Gainsborough, Around 1747, From the collection of: Tate Britain
O the Roast Beef of Old England ('The Gate of Calais'), William Hogarth, 1748, From the collection of: Tate Britain

This small room in the displays at Tate Britain has a vital significance in British Art as this period marks the foundation of the Royal Academy in 1768. 

Room: 1760-1780

Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1773, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1769, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Pylades and Orestes Brought as Victims before Iphigenia, Benjamin West, 1766, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Sketch for 'The Conjuror', Nathaniel Hone, 1775-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples, Joseph Wright, Around 1776, From the collection of: Tate Britain
An Iron Forge, Joseph Wright, 1772, From the collection of: Tate Britain

The expansion of territory in the Indian subcontinent and 20 years of war with France become a subject matter for art of this period.

Room: 1780-1810

The Battle of Camperdown, Phillip James De Loutherbourg, 1799, From the collection of: Tate Britain

The period of great neoclassical works. Artists such as JMW Turner and Edward Hodges Baily respond to the Napoleonic Wars and the Battle of Waterloo.

Room: 1810-1840

Punch or May Day, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1829-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Caligula's Palace and Bridge, Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1833, From the collection of: Tate Britain

The artworks shown here were produced during the reign of Queen Victoria. The period witnessed the marvels of The Great Exhibitions and was a time when images began to be widely disseminated through reproductive media.

Room: 1840-1890

Nameless and Friendless. "The rich man's wealth is his strong city, etc." - Proverbs, x, 15, Emily Mary Osborn, 1857, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1871, From the collection of: Tate Britain
The Derby Day, William Powell Frith, 1856/1858, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Study for 'The Courtyard of the Coptic Patriarch's House in Cairo', John Frederick Lewis, c.1864, From the collection of: Tate Britain
A Garden, Albert Moore, 1869, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Mr Heatherley's Holiday: An Incident in Studio Life, Samuel Butler, 1874, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Portrait of Mrs Ernest Moon, Sir William Blake Richmond, 1888, From the collection of: Tate Britain
The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke, Richard Dadd, Around 1855, From the collection of: Tate Britain

The work of older artists is exhibited next to that of a new generation. Artists continue to explore themes from 19th century realism, but art is now being adapted to the anxieties and aspirations of the 20th century.

Room: 1890-1910

A Boy at Play, Sir William Goscombe John, Around 1895, From the collection of: Tate Britain
A Favourite Custom, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1909-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
La Hollandaise, Walter Richard Sickert, c.1906, From the collection of: Tate Britain
And the Sea Gave Up the Dead Which Were in It, Lord Leighton Frederic, 1892, From the collection of: Tate Britain

This is the Edwardian era, when art goes through extraordinary change, and emerging modern styles clash with the more traditional.

Room: 1910-1914

Merry-Go-Round, Mark Gertler, 1916, From the collection of: Tate Britain
St Ives, Alfred Wallis, c.1928, From the collection of: Tate Britain

The First World War:  Melancholy and disillusionment are present in the artworks in this room but so is hope for renewal. 

Room: 1914-1915

Torso in Metal from 'The Rock Drill', Sir Jacob Epstein, 1913-01/1914, From the collection of: Tate Britain
The Mud Bath, David Bomberg, 1914-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain

In this decade politically charged works of art are made in the context of deep economic depression.

Room: 1930-1940

The Snack Bar, Edward Burra, 1930-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Three Forms, Dame Barbara Hepworth, 1935-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain

The period is dominated by the Second World War. Pessimism and optimism, scenes of devastation and of utopian idealism are all reflected in art.

Room: 1940-1950

A Land Girl and the Bail Bull, Evelyn Dunbar, 1945-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain

Abstract artists, as well as social realists, engage in the debates about the way forward for modern art during the uncertainty of the post-war period. 

Room: 1950-1960

This mix of Pop and abstract painting and sculpture was all on show in Britain in the 1960s. Conceptual Art, along with performance and video art, arrives by the end of the decade.

Room: 1960-1970

Early One Morning, Sir Anthony Caro, 1962-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain

A turbulent time in British history, both politically and socially. Art of this period defies easy categorisation and artists constantly renegotiate the definition of an 'art object'.  

Room: 1970-1990

Elephant, Bill Woodrow, 1984-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
In the Bush, Gilbert & George, 1972-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain

Young British Artists take the stage in the 1990’s as London becomes a multicultural hub and a new centre for contemporary art. 

Room: 1990-2000

Incubus, Gary Hume, 1991-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Pauline Bunny, Sarah Lucas, 1997-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
No Woman, No Cry, Chris Ofili, 1998, From the collection of: Tate Britain

This room incorporates not only painting and sculpture but also immersive installations. At Tate Britain this display will change frequently, adapting to reflect the wide scope of contemporary art.

Room: 2000-now

Come, Helga, Rebecca Warren, 2006-01-01, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Credits: Story

Creative Director — Jane Burton
Exhibit Producer — Alexey Moskvin
Film Producer — Sofie Roberts
Film Production Team  — Ian Pinder, Maria Kennedy, Federico Urdaneta, Santiago Posada
Curators — Jenny Powell, Melissa Blanchflower, Ruth Kenny, Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, Chris Stephens, Helen Little, Carol Jacobi, Tim Batchelor, Greg Sullivan

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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