Following my visit to Tate Modern a few weeks ago, I decided to head to Tate Britain in Pimlico. This gallery, which specialises in British art, does hold more attractions for me than Tate Modern does, and has some of my all-time favourite pictures.
The bulk of the permanent collection forms the ‘Walk Through British Art’ which allows the visitor to explore 500 years of art chronologically. I do like this ordered way of doing things. Naturally enough, I started at the beginning.
The early pictures in the collection suffer in my mind from a comparison with the National Portrait Gallery. They’re similar in style but unlike the NPG, they aren’t of anyone famous. One exception is the picture of Elizabeth I, and I was amused by an angular painting of a pair of identical twins holding their babies, apparently born on the same day.
Steven van der Meulen, Steven van Herwijck. Portrait of Elizabeth I, c.1563
Henry Fuseli. Lady Macbeth Seizing the Daggers, ? exhibited 1812
The rooms take you through the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, featuring such artists as Lely, Gainsborough, Hogarth and Constable. Along the way I popped into a room to view John Martin’s incredible apocalyptic canvases.
John Martin. The Destruction of Pompei and Herculaneum, 1822
I came to my favourite room in the gallery, which focuses on nineteenth century and Pre Raphaelite art. I’ve been reading a book about poetical deaths recently, so I was fascinated to see the picture of Chatterton. Millais’ picture of Ophelia, one of my favourites, is also displayed here as well as Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose, which always reminds me of The Family From One End Street.
My favourite room
John Singer Sargent. Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, 1889
As well as familiar favourites, I came across a few unfamiliar pictures which I really loved.
Briton Riviere. Beyond Man’s Footsteps, exhibited 1894
Sir Luke Fildes. The Doctor, exhibited 1891
The next few rooms cover later art, which isn’t generally as interesting to me, although I find Francis Bacon’s picture of a man screaming rather chilling. Also, I quite like a Lowry.
Francis Bacon. Study for a Portrait, 1952
L.S. Lowry. The Pond, 1950
Before leaving I ventured to the back of the gallery to see the Turner Collection and the works of William Blake, both of which have their own spaces.
William Blake. The Ghost of a Flea, c.1819–20
After my visit, my conclusion is that I should go to Tate Britain more often. There are some incredible paintings here, including some of my favourites, and while I can readily view them online, nothing compares to the real thing.
Address: Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm Mon-Sun
Prices: Free (there is a charge for special exhibitions)