Tate Britain is the original Tate Gallery, which opened in 1897 on the site of the former Millbank Prison and it features an extensive collection of British art spanning from the 1500s to the present day.

What to see at Tate Britain

The art gallery houses a collection of British art dating from Tudor times to the present day. It is particularly noted for its large collection of works of Joseph Mallord William Turner, who bequeathed his personal collection to the gallery.

The gallery is organised chronologically with more prominent artists having a room to themselves and some artists have multiple rooms, such as Turner who has eight rooms in the Clore Gallery.

Most galleries are located on the main floor (ground level if you enter by the Millbank entrance). This includes rooms organised by era starting in 1540 and working up to the present day as well as rooms highlighting specific artists including Henry Moore, Bernard Cohen, Antony Gormley, Craigie Horsfield, Elizabeth Price and John Constable plus the Turner collections in the Clore Gallery.

The upper floor has two rooms dedicated to William Blake.

Highlights of the gallery include The Cholmondeley Ladies (circa 1600–1610); Giovanna Baccelli (1782) by Thomas Gainsborough; Millais Ophelia (1851–1852 by Sir John Everett; Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885–1886) by John Singer Sargent; Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (circa 1946) by Francis Bacon; No Woman, No Cry (1998) by Chris Ofili; Ghost of a Flea (1819–1820 by William Blake; The Opening of Waterloo Bridge (1832) by John Constable and Peace, Burial at Sea (1842), the Decline and Fall of the Carthaginian Empire (1817) and self portrait (1799) by JMW Turner.

The Cholmondeley Ladies (circa 1600–1610) in the Tate Britain
The Cholmondeley Ladies (circa 1600–1610) in the Tate Britain

Temporary exhibitions at the Tate Britain

Tate Britain also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions. Temporary exhibitions include:

Sargent and Fashion
The Sargent and Fashion exhibition (until 7 July 2024) delves into the interplay between John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) and fashion. Featuring almost 60 of Sargent’s paintings alongside period garments and accessories, this showcase explores how Sargent, a celebrated portraitist, used clothing to convey his sitters’ personality and status. £20.

Women Artists in Britain 1520–1920
Women Artists in Britain 1520–1920 is an exhibition (16 May–13 October 2024), honouring women artists in Britain from the Tudor era to the First World War. The exhibition features over 150 artworks including paintings, drawings, sculptures and textiles by over 50 artists, showcasing well-known figures like Mary Beale, Angelica Kauffman, Elizabeth Butler and Laura Knight, while also highlighting lesser-known talents. Free.

Hope. Struggle. Change. Photographing Britain and the World 1945–79
This exhibition (dates to be announced) showcases documentary photography that depicts the evolution of Britain’s place in the world. £16.

Visiting Tate Britain

Tate Britain is located on Millbank on the River Thames across from Vauxhall. The closest tube stations are Pimlico and Vauxhall (both within a 10-minute walk) and Vauxhall and Victoria railway stations are also within walking distance.

It is around a 15-minute walk from the cluster of attractions around Westminster including Westminster Abbey, Jewel Tower, Churchill War Rooms, the Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben).

There is a programme of free guided tours. These include tours focusing on various topics including the growth of British art, people and places of the 19th century and the paintings of JMW Turner.

The Djanogly Café and Rex Whistler Restaurant are located on the lower floor (ground level if you enter via the Manton entrance). The Djanogly Café is the more casual of the two with a nice selection of cakes, pastries, salads, pies and quiches and coffee that is roasted on-site whilst the Rex Whistler Restaurant, which features Rex Whistler’s mural The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats, is much fancier with table service and an extensive wine list.

Most visitors spend 1–2 hours exploring Tate Britain.

Amenities
  • Wheelchair access
  • Free guided tours
  • Cafe/restaurant
  • Gift shop

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Planning a trip to England? englandrover.com is your independent source of travel information with information about how to get around, what to see and do and where to stay on your next trip to England.

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