Saturday, 15 April 2017

Tate Britain - free to explore

Tate Britain is London's art gallery dedicated to British art from 1500 AD. It is completely different to the Tate Modern which is part of the Tate network of galleries. It's located at Millbank in the City of Westminister, not far from the Lambeth Bridge and is the oldest of the art galleries. It's particularly known for the works of  J.M.W Turner who bequeathed all his own work to the nation and is one of the largest museums in the country.
I was there to see some of the earliest artwork from Tudor times and beyond but principally for the Turner works.

Responses to art are very individual and personal. I like to understand what I am seeing and appreciate the technical mastery. I find it very difficult to do that with modern art so I prefer the older works which look like they take a bit more skill than flicking a brush randomly or sticking a square of paper on a piece of card and calling that art.

I can appreciate some sculptures but there were some exhibits I really couldn't see the point of. I really don't understand how a few manequins and some old tatty sheets should be considered worthy of space in an art gallery. Even if it's some sort of statement (lost on me) it doesn't fullfil my two requirements: understanding and technical brilliance. If it's not technically great and better than most people could do why bother putting it in a prestigious art gallery? No doubt I'm an art philistine.

I enjoyed seeing some very famous works such as The Lady of Shalott, painted by John William Waterhouse, inspired by the equally famous poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. In 1888, Waterhouse painted the Lady setting out for Camelot in her boat. There are other paintings in this medieval series elsewhere.

On a cold, rainy day in London this gallery is a great place to spend time. The gift shop is interesting with some good quality stock such as scarves, unbrellas, art books and supplies, prints.

William Turner is considered as probably the greatest (and most famous) British painter. He had several different styles which became more and more impressionist and ephemeral in terms of recognisable detail. He was a witness when in 1834 parliament burned to the ground (except for the historic hall, thank goodness) and quickly made several sketches of the horrific event as it unfolded. He had a passion for shipwrecks and naval battles and landscapes.

He loved to travel. Turner studied at the Louvre in Paris and enjoyed Venice, Italy. The emperor of France Louis Philippe gave him a beautiful snuff box in recognition of his talent. The impressionists, notably Claude Monet, studied his works closely.

As the film Mr Turner shows, the artist became more and more eccentric as he aged and ended up living a double life.
He virtually estranged himself from this 'wife' and daughters but lived as Mr Booth with another woman.

The gallery is open every day and has lots of additional exhibitions. For more information visit


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