The art of compromise: the founding of the National Gallery of British Art, 1890-1892

Amy Woodson-Boulton


This article argues that the press played a key role in defining the Tate Gallery by facilitating a national debate about the siting, nature, and purpose of the proposed National Gallery of British Art. Art critics, politicians, journalists and a variety of newspaper editors weighed in on whether Britain should create a museum of modern art, a museum of national art, or both. The understanding of British art as quintessentially modern at the time of the founding of the Gallery meant that from the beginning the Tate Gallery was founded as both the National Gallery of British Art and a museum of modern art. The changing definition of modern art in the twentieth century, however, created fractures between these two identities that eventually led to the split between Tate Britain and Tate Modern.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Amy Woodson-Boulton

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360