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The new National Gallery of British Art, later named Tate Britain after its founder Sir Henry Tate, opened its doors to the public in 1897 on the site of a former prison.

The gallery, which started with only 65 paintings now contains a treasury of British art from the year 1500 to the present day along with some international modern art, though most modern art is now housed at Tate Modern.

My tour will introduce you to the highlights of this wonderful collection including the unique Turner collection, the work of the Romantics, Constable and William Blake, the marvellous portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds and the best of the Pre-Raphaelites. We’ll also visit the 20th-century galleries to see pieces by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

Among the works we’ll see are:

  • “Ophelia” by Sir John Everett Millais. The model for this image from Shakespeare was Elizabeth Siddal, who posed over a four-month period, lying in a bath of water kept warm by lamps underneath. On one occasion the lamps went out and she caught a severe cold. Her father subsequently threatened to sue Millais unless he agreed to pay the doctor’s bills!
  • “Flatford Mill” by John Constable. One of Britain’s best-loved and greatest painters, Constable’s talent at conveying a pastoral scene with breath-taking vision – working outdoors and painting directly from nature – has made his name synonymous with an enduring, classic image of England’s countryside. He began work on Flatford Milla few months before getting married, and he declared it one of the last made of his ‘careless boyhood’.
  • “Peace – Burial at Sea” by JMW Turner. This depicts the funeral of his friend and colleague, Sir David Wilkie, who died on board ship and was buried at sea off Gibraltar.
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