The elegant Tate Gallery, overlooking the Thames, was built through the philanthropy of the sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate.
The building, with its neo-classical portico, dates from 1897 and is on the site of a former prison, the Millbank Penitentiary. The Penitentiary was an attempt to create a model prison based on the ideas of Jeremy Bentham but the grim institution was replaced by the more enlightened Tate Gallery.
Over the years the Tate Gallery amassed a superb collection of British works from the 16th to the 20th century, along with a collection of modern international art.
In 1987 the adjoining Clore Gallery, designed by the British architect James Stirling, was completed to house the Turner Bequest. Since 2000 the Tate's collection has been divided between Tate Britain, housed in the original Tate Gallery, and Tate Modern on the South Bank.
In 2001 a major building project at Tate Britain redeveloped the north-west corner of the building, designed by architects John Miller and Partners. The new galleries for early English paintings have increased the display area, created an additional entrance on Atterbury Street, and added educational and public facilities.
When the Tate Modern gallery opened at Bankside in 2000 the Tate's collection of international modern art from 1900 to the present day was transferred from the Millbank site, leaving extra space. Tate Britain now covers work from 16th century to the present day, with rooms dedicated to artists such Blake, Constable, Spencer and Bacon and contemporary British artists.
Highlights of Tate Britain include works by Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Constable, Stubbs, Blake and the Pre-Raphaelites.
There is overlap between the Tate Britain and Tate Modern on contemporary British work. The Tate Modern displays British artists in an international context but Tate Britain continues to house the Turner Prize exhibition.
As well as the permanent collection Tate Britain also stages regular special exhibitions, for which there is usually an admission charge.
The adjoining Clore Gallery now houses the magnificent Turner Bequest. J.M.W. Turner, 1775 - 1851, left his works to the nation on the condition they were all kept together. In 1910 a suite of rooms at the Tate Gallery was given over to some of his oil paintings but it was not until the Clore Gallery was opened in 1987 that the entire collection, including thousands of studies, was brought together.
There are plans to link Tate Britain by boat, shuttle bus, and pedestrian and bicycle routes to the new Tate Modern on Bankside.
The Tate-to-Tate boat is now in operation from the newly desgned and constructed Tate pier.