In this weekend's Sunday Times Magazine, celebrities from Sarah Jessica Parker to Damien Hirst chose their favourite Tate works, ahead of Tate Britain's grand reopening next week. In this extract, a few of them reveal what keeps them coming back...

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  • Francis Bacon, 'Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion' circa 1944
    Francis Bacon
    Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion circa 1944
    Oil on board
    support, each: 940 x 737 mm
    frame, each: 1162 x 960 x 80 mm
    Presented by Eric Hall 1953© Tate
  • William Blake, 'Newton' 1795/circa 1805
    William Blake
    Newton 1795/circa 1805
    Colour print finished in ink and watercolour on paper
    support: 460 x 600 mm
    Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1939
  • Chris Ofili, 'No Woman, No Cry' 1998
    Chris Ofili
    No Woman, No Cry 1998
    Acrylic, oil, polyester resin, paper collage, glitter, map pins and elephant dung on canvas
    support: 2438 x 1828 x 51 mm
    Purchased 1999© Courtesy Chris Ofili - Afroco and Victoria Miro Gallery
  • Sir George Clausen, 'The Girl at the Gate' 1889
    Sir George Clausen
    The Girl at the Gate 1889
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1714 x 1384 mm
    frame: 2200 x 1870 x 215 mm
    Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1890© Tate
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Norham Castle, Sunrise' circa 1845
    Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Norham Castle, Sunrise circa 1845
    Oil on canvas
    support: 908 x 1219 mm
    frame: 1060 x 1370 x 70 mm
    Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Damien Hirst

on Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion by Francis Bacon
I can’t describe how influential this painting, and all of Bacon’s work, is to me; it sparked my desire to make art. Bacon said that his excitement at looking at Titian and Velázquez didn’t come from the paintings themselves, but from their ability to unlock valves of sensation, which could return him to life more violently. This is how I feel about Three Studies.

Heston Blumenthal

on Newton by William Blake
Blake divided opinion: he was called a genius, a loony, and during the modernist movement, even a prophet. I’m now part of Britain’s cooking establishment, but I had years of being told that what I was doing wasn’t cooking… The Tate is as important to Britain as Big Ben or Buckingham Palace. I believe it’s one of the most important cultural assets we have.

Dominic Cooper

on No Woman, No Cry by Chris Ofili
I was 14 when Stephen [Lawrence] was killed in April 1993. It was a devastating eye-opener to the evil that existed in my community. It happened at a bus stop very close to my friend’s house… In spite of this, Ofili managed to create something so positive and beautiful: I believe the woman to be Stephen’s mother. This piece is an incredible symbol of strength and her perseverance to find the truth.

Sarah Jessica Parker

on The Girl at the Gate by Sir George Clausen
I have a routine when I arrive in London: I drop my bags off and say to anyone who is with me: ‘Wash your face, brush your teeth, I’ll meet you in the lobby, and we’re going to the Tate!’ The first time I visited, I was gobsmacked by what they had on their walls. Now, even if I’m exhausted, I’ll make a point of going… I respond to pieces that depict what the painter sees, without any pretence of objectivity. 

Maria Miller

on Norham Castle, Sunrise by J.M.W. Turner
Turner’s paintings are so contemplative – they allow your imagination to run riot. This is a painting of Norham Castle in Northumberland, but for me it conjures up nostalgia for my childhood in Bridgend, South Wales, where he painted Transept of Ewenny Priory.

To read the full article, visit The Sunday Times website (subscription required)


I agree with shish65 but then again, don't we all lie and steal in the process of becoming? For example, have you seen 'Blue Jasmine', Woody Allen's new movie? Forever a commenter on society, Allen is profoundly urban in his orientation and in 'Blue Jasmine we quickly find out that the main protagonist is adopted - as is her sister!! Very little of their portraits merge however as they have had separate parents! Woody has made the neurotic his speciality and as Jasmine/Blanchett is constantly trying to out-prove her world, she not only masks her desire but criticises and condemns all and sundry for not being more aspirational. The narrative closes with an extremely dysfunctional Jasmine, talking to and with herself. I doubt very much that Woody Allen would flippantly dismiss the seriousness and horror of schizophrenia. More than most, he doesn't have to be reminded how we all lie and steal in cherry-picking who we portray ourselves to be. So the question ought to be - how original Bacon - or for that matter - Picasso was?

Yes but Bacon is so obviously influenced by Picasso and the Surrealists!