Sir Henry, Bart Tate - Encyclopedia




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SIR HENRY TATE, Bart. (1819-1899), English merchant and founder of the National Gallery of British Art, was born at Chorley, Lancashire, in 1819. His father, a minister of religion, put him into business in Liverpool. He became a prosperous sugar-broker, and about 1874 removed to London, where he greatly increased the operations of his firm and made "Tate's Cube Sugar" known all over the world. He had early in his career begun to devote large sums of money to philanthropic and educational purposes. He gave 42,000 to the Liverpool University College, founded in 1881; and a still larger sum to the Liverpool hospitals. Then, when he came to London, he presented four free public libraries to the parish of Lambeth. His interest in art came with later years. He was at first merely a regular buyer of pictures, for which he built a large private gallery in his house at Streatham. Gradually his gallery came to contain one of the best private collections of modern pictures in England, and the owner naturally began to consider what should be done with it after his death. It had always been his intention to leave it to the nation, but in the way of carrying out this generous desire there stood several obstacles. The National Gallery could not have accepted more than a selection from Tate's pictures, which were not all up to the standard of Trafalgar Square; and even XXVI. 15 when he offered to build a new gallery for them, it was found difficult to secure a suitable site. What Tate offered was to spend 80,000 upon a building if the government would pro- .vide the ground; and in 1892 this offer was accepted. A new gallery, controlled by the Trustees of the National Gallery, was built on the site of Millbank Prison. The gallery was opened on 21st July 1897, and a large addition to it was completed just before the donor died. It contained sixty-five pictures presented by him; nearly all the English pictures from the National Gallery painted within the previous eighty years; the pictures purchased by the Royal Academy under the Chantrey Bequest, which had previously hung in South Kensington Museum; and seventeen large works given to the nation by Mr G. F. Watts, R.A. Mr Tate was created a baronet in the year after the Tate Gallery had been opened. He died at Streatham on the 5th of December 1899.

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