Press Release


Following extensive ongoing research to enhance the representation of women artists across British art history, Tate has acquired a rare painting, Portrait of an Unknown Lady 1650-5 by Joan Carlile.
Joan Carlile - Portrait of an Unknown Lady, 1650-5

Joan Carlile Portrait of an Unknown Lady 1650-5

Following extensive ongoing research to enhance the representation of women artists across British art history, Tate has acquired a rare painting, Portrait of an Unknown Lady 1650-5 by Joan Carlile, thought to be the first woman in Britain to work as a professional portrait painter in oil. The portrait is one of only a small number of surviving works known to be by the artist. This new acquisition is the earliest work by a woman artist to enter the collection.

The work is one of a group of major acquisitions of British art for Tate’s collection announced today.

An exceptional work of early British Impressionism by William Stott of Oldham, Le Passeur (The Ferry) 1882 has been acquired with funds provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund and The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation. Stott was a central figure in the early phase of British Impressionism and this work is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of his career. The painting will be displayed at Tate Britain in April 2017 and will then tour to three UK-partner galleries: Gallery Oldham, Aberdeen Art Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery, thanks to funding from the HLF and Art Fund.

Sir Joshua Reynolds’s glamorous, swaggering full-length portrait Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle 1769has been acquired thanks to the acceptance in lieu scheme administered by Arts Council England and has transformed Tate’s holdings of this artist.

British artist Mark Wallinger has generously gifted State Britain 2007 to Tate. The work was created for the Tate Britain Commission series supported by Sotheby’s. It is one of the most politically charged works of recent years and shows a reconstruction of the Parliament Square peace campaign by the late Brian Haw.

Tate has also acquired another work originally devised in response to the Duveen galleries at Tate Britain, War Damaged Musical Instruments 2015 by Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz, shown last year as part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.

Tate has also acquired an outstanding watercolour by James Tissot, who worked in Britain, The Wounded Soldier 1870, depicting a young man wounded in the Franco Prussian war. This work will be on display in Tate Britain’s The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London in autumn 2017 alongside works by other French artists who sought refuge in London during and after the conflict.

Derek Jarman’s Blue 1993 joins Tate’s growing collection of artists’ film. The work, which was completed only a few months before this death, will be shown in spring 2017 to coincide with the Queer British Art exhibition at Tate Britain, which will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.

Further modern and contemporary British acquisitions which have enhanced the collection this year include: one of Peter Lanyon’s most significant paintings, West Penwith 1949; two plaster reliefs by Eduardo Paolozzi from the estate of Eugene and Penelope Rosenberg; Helen Marten’s Guild of Pharmacists 2014; Bob and Roberta Smith’s Letter to Michael Gove 2015; and Antony Gormley’s large installation work The Model Room 2006-12 which comprises 89 sculptural models and twelve drawings.

In 2017, Tate Britain will stage major solo exhibitions for two of the UK’s most celebrated living artists. The most extensive exhibition of David Hockney’s work ever held will open in February 2017, spanning six decades of his career and bringing together iconic paintings with works never before seen in public. This will be followed in September 2017 by a mid-career retrospective of Rachel Whiteread, one of the most respected sculptors working today.

It was also announced today that Cerith Wyn Evans will undertake the Tate Britain Commission 2017 for the Duveen galleries.

Director of Tate Britain, Alex Farquharson said: “We have the greatest collection of British art in the world and it gets better every year. As our latest acquisitions and exhibitions reveal we can look at the most powerful, topical and relevant issues in society from both historic and contemporary perspectives. Tate Britain is where we can tell an unending story of British art both by giving British artists a platform on the world stage and by showing how international artists have played their part in our own art history.”

For press information please contact Ruth Findlay or Duncan Holden in Tate Press Office on 020 7887 8730.
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Image credit: Joan Carlile - Portrait of an Unknown Lady, 1650-5

Joan Carlile
In Graphice, The Excellent Art of Painting, Sir William Sanderson’s 1658 survey of the contemporary artistic scene, he records only four women artists working in oil at that time and Carlile appears first in the list, suggesting that she was then regarded as the most important. The unknown sitter’s pose and elegant white satin appear in two of her other known portraits. This repetition of a composition lends weight to the notion of Carlile as a professional artist. In 1653 her neighbour Brian Duppa noted that ‘the Mistress of the Family intends for London, where she meanes to make use of her skill to som more Advantage then hitherto she hath don’ and in 1654 Carlile is recorded as living in London’s Covent Garden, then the heart of London’s artistic community.

William Stott of Oldham
William Stott of Oldham was a central figure in the early phase of British Impressionism and this work is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of his career. The six-foot long painting depicts two girls watching a ferryman at dusk on the river at Grez-sur-Loing in France where the artist was part of an international artists’ colony and where he established working relationships with artists from across Europe and America. The picture displays a rich mixture of influences and connections, from the rural naturalism of Bastien Lepage to the simple geometry and enigmatic stillness of Burne-Jones.

Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery

Art Fund
Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators. 

Sotheby’s has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744. Sotheby’s became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first international fine art auction house in China (2012). Today, Sotheby’s presents auctions in 10 different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris, and Sotheby’s BidNow program allows visitors to view all auctions live online and place bids from anywhere in the world. Sotheby’s offers collectors the resources of Sotheby’s Financial Services, the world’s only full-service art financing company, as well as private sale opportunities in more than 70 categories, including S|2, the gallery arm of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art department, and two retail businesses, Sotheby’s Diamonds and Sotheby’s Wine. Sotheby’s has a global network of 90 offices in 40 countries and is the oldest company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (BID).

About 14-18 NOW
14-18 NOW is a programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War, as part of the UK’s official centenary commemorations. It aims to engage as many people as possible with the First World War, exploring how the war has impacted on the society we live in now. 14-18 NOW commissions new work by leading contemporary artists from all art forms, inspired by the period 1914-1918.  14-18 NOW is responsible for the UK tour of the iconic poppy sculptures by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper. 14 -18 NOW is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and by additional fundraising.  14-18 NOW has commissioned over 140 artworks to date that have been seen by more than 30 million people.

The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London is part of the EY Tate Arts Partnership
The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London is part of a six year arts partnership between EY and Tate. This will follow on from five exciting ‘EY Exhibitions’, which shed new light on major figures and moments in art history, including The EY Exhibition: Wifredo Lam, now open at Tate Modern. The ongoing arts partnership makes EY one of the largest corporate supporters of Tate, helping it to realise its ambitious arts programme across Tate Modern and Tate Britain and make the art world work better. EY’s support is also being extended through corporate memberships at Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives as well as select Plus Tate galleries around the country.