Henry Tate, son of a Unitarian clergyman, was born at Chorley, Lancashire in 1819 and entered the grocery trade after a limited education. Prospering, he built up a sugar refining business that subsequently combined with a rival concern to form the firm Tate & Lyle. With increasing wealth, he moved to London in 1874, setting up house at Park Hill, Streatham, and buying pictures for the gallery at his home. Though not unerring in taste, he built up a remarkably comprehensive collection of art by late Victorian masters, such as Millais, Alma-Tadema, Landseer and Stanhope Forbes. A philanthropist who had already made generous donations to hospitals and for educational purposes, he offered his pictures to the nation in 1889. After delays and obstructions, Tate made an additional offer: he would pay £80,000 for the construction of a new gallery if the state would provide the land. Finally, in 1892, the Treasury approved a proposal to make available for a Gallery of British Art the site of Jeremy Bentham’s early nineteenth-century panopticon penitentiary in Millbank, London.
   The location was and remains inconvenient for access by public transport, and, though the views across the river from the classical portico have become more pleasing with passing years, damage to the collections has been caused periodically by flooding from the nearby Thames. The architect was Sidney R.J.Smith, and when the building opened in 1897 it housed, as well as the works given by Tate (who was rewarded with a baronetcy), modern British pictures from the Chantrey and Vernon Collections and from the National Gallery. Officially recognized also as the home of the nation’s collection of modern foreign art since 1916, the Gallery was renamed the Tate Gallery in 1932. Among more significant recent developments has been the opening of the Clore Gallery, where J.M.W.Turner’s pictures are on permanent display, and plans are afoot for expansion into the former Bankside Power Station, on the right bank of the Thames. With the name Tate becoming virtually synonymous with modern painting and sculpture, a Tate Gallery Liverpool opened in Albert Dock in 1988, followed in 1993 by the Tate St Ives, whose striking premises, designed by Eldred Evans and David Shalev, look out to sea from Porthmeor Beach.
   See also: painting; St Ives
   Further reading
    Axton, J. (1995) Gasworks to Gallery: The Story of Tate St Ives, St Ives: Axten & Orchard.
    Wilson, S. (1995) The Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, London: Tate.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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