Art: Tote's Treat

An 1892 Punch cartoon showed a servant of Her Majesty's Treasury waving aside a bearded gentleman with a bundle of pictures. The caption: "Much obliged, but we are a nation of shopkeepers. We don't want any art today, thank you." The snubbed picture-pedlar, as every Punch reader knew, was a Lancashire-born sugar baron named Henry Tate. He had just offered 60 contemporary paintings to Britain's National Gallery—and had been turned down. Five years later, he retaliated millionaire-fashion by building Britain a brand-new gallery and throwing in his collection as a bonus.

The Queen's...

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