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The Collection/The Curator. Henry Tate, 1819-1899.

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Henry tate 1819 1899
Henry Tate, 1819-1899

First benefactor - pays £80,000 towards the cost of building as well - donates 65 paintings including Millais' Ophelia and J.W. Waterhouse's The Lady of ShalottThese 65 paintings, together with works from the National Gallery, formed the nucleus of the British Collection.

The collection
The Collection

Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art.

The collection includes nearly 70,000 artworks by over 3,000 artists and grows every year.


In the financial year to March 2011, for example, the total value of purchases was £3.9 million. Of the £3.9 million, £3.4 million came from charitable funds connected to the Tate and individuals, and £0.5 million from Tate’s general funds.

In 2010–11 Tate also received donations of works of art valued at £4.3 million.

Pablo picasso femme assise pres d une fenetre 1932 sold at sotheby s for 28 6 million
Pablo PicassoFemme AssisePresd'uneFenetre, 1932Sold at Sotheby’s for £28.6 million

Alfred h barr diagram 1936
Alfred H. Barr,Diagram, 1936

Inaugural hang
Inaugural ‘Hang’

When the gallery opened in 2000, the collections were not displayed in chronological order but were rather arranged thematically into four broad groups each allocated a wing on levels 3 and 5 (now levels 2 and 4):




'Still Life/Object/Real Life'

Poetry and dream
‘Poetry and Dream’

The displays in Poetry and Dream show how contemporary art grows from, reconnects with, and can provide fresh insights into the art of the past.

The large room at the heart of the wing is devoted to surrealism, while the surrounding displays look at other artists who, in different ways, have responded to or diverged from surrealism, or explored related themes such as the world of dreams, the unconscious and archetypal myth.

These displays also show how characteristically surrealist techniques such as free association, the use of chance, biomorphic form and bizarre symbolism have been reinvigorated in new contexts and through new media, often at far remove from the intentions of their pioneers.

Salvador DaliMetamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937Purchased from the artist by Edward JamesOn loan to Tate from 1958, acquired in 1979

Rene magritte not to be reproduced 1937
Rene MagritteNot to be Reproduced, 1937

Sir norman reid director 1964 1979
Sir Norman ReidDirector, 1964–1979

A trained painter, Reid strengthened the collection, particularly in the area of early twentieth-century European art, acquiring outstanding works by artists including Brancusi, Mondrian and Dalí. Reid also forged strong personal relationships with artists, which led to a number of important works being donated to Tate, including Rothko’s Seagram murals, and work by Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and Henry Moore.

During his Directorship, the much needed North East Quadrant expansion was completed in 1979, vastly increasing the exhibition space at the Millbank site.

‘Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella’

IsidoreDucasse, known by his pseudonym Comte de Lautréamont, a late 19th-century writer believed to be the precursor of Surrealism.

Giorgio de chirico the uncertainty of the poet 1913
Giorgio de Chirico and an Umbrella’The Uncertainty of the Poet, 1913

Jannis kounellis untitled 1979
Jannis and an Umbrella’KounellisUntitled, 1979

Man ray cadeau 1921 1972
Man Ray, and an Umbrella’Cadeau, 1921/1972

Melanie smith xilitla 2010
Melanie Smith and an Umbrella’Xilitla, 2010

Frieze and an Umbrella’

Purchased with funds provided by the 2011 Outset / Frieze Art Fair Fund to benefit the Tate Collection 2012

Outset fund: £120,000

Frances Morris: ‘You can’t buy on spec’

  • Tate’s Latin-American ambitions

  • Vertical film format

  • Edward James