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

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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

Room: 1910-1914

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

Room: 1914-1915

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

Room: 1930-1940

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

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

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

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

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

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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