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The restaurant

In 1909 a new refreshment area was provided in the basement under Galleries I and II (previously refreshments had been available in a temporary area set aside on the balcony).

This new basement refreshment room was however rather gloomy, and in 1925 Sir Joseph Duveen offered to pay 500 for its decoration. A small committee was formed to select an artist to paint murals for the walls, and the twenty-one year old Rex Whistler, a student at The Slade School of Art, was duly commissioned. His teacher, Slade professor Henry Tonks, was on hand to give advice to the young artist.

Tate restaurant murals
Photograph of Tate restaurant murals

© Tate Archive, 2003
Letter from Helen Whistler to Charles Aitken
Letter from Helen Whistler

to Charles Aitken
Rex Whistler pamphlet
Rex Whistler pamphlet

© Estate of Rex Whistler 2003.
All Rights Reserved, DACS
Within the murals Whistler created a narrative entitled In Pursuit of Rare Meats, the story of a hunting party which travels from a palace, painted in one corner of the room, through various picturesque landscapes and lands (including France, China and Peru!), hunting for unusual delicacies to eat.

His murals were greeted with great enthusiasm following the restaurant's re-opening on 30 November 1927. The grim refreshment room had been transformed into one of the most fashionable venues in London.

The Restaurant and the Flood

Within two months of completion, the restaurant was submerged in eight feet of muddy flood water when the River Thames burst its banks after heavy rains. Luckily, damage was minimal, and the murals can still be seen adorning the restaurant walls today.

Read more about the flood of 1928.

Tate restaurant
© Tate Archive, 2003

Tate restaurant