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Charles Aitken
Charles Aitken

© Tate Archive 2003
Charles Aitken
(1911 - 1930)

Previously Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, where he had been dedicated to making art accessible to the ordinary people of London's East End, he was a quiet and modest man who seemed an unlikely candidate for the task of heading the Tate Gallery.

However he achieved a great deal during his Directorship. He expertly steered the Tate through crises like the 1928 flood, and his able administration helped the cash strapped Gallery to gain strength and improve its Collection. He was the first to suggest using the entrance fee to the Gallery to purchase new works of art for the Collection and one of his great achievements was the acquisition of some of William Blake's illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy.

During Aitken's Directorship the Curzon Report laid down recommendations which eventually formed the basis of the main charter of the Tate: that Tate should become the home of two national collections, historic British art and modern foreign painting. The practical effect of this was the transfer of over 200 British pictures from the National Gallery and the need for physical expansion to cater for the added works, four new galleries were opened in 1926. Tate's restaurant, decorated by the young artist Rex Whistler was also opened during Aitken's directorship.

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