Rex’s Restaurant

The refurbished Tate Britain reopened this week, including the Rex Whistler restaurant, the walls of which are lined with Rex Whistler’s painting The Pursuit of Rare Meats.

Whistler Tate 1

Here’s a brochure, dating from some point mid-century, which explains the painting. The story was a collaboration with the novelist Edith Olivier.

Whistler Tate 3

An expedition leaves the ducal palace of Epicurania, which includes the Crown Prince Etienne and Princess Claudia, led by the son of an impoverised Polish nobleman on a bicycle (a character depicted as Rex Whistler). They travel through a typically Whistler-ish Arcadian landscape, where his dark humour is often at work: “Meanwhile, a disaster occurs upstream where, due to his excitement at seeing a balloon overhead, a small boy falls into the river and is drowned”.

Whistler Tate 4

The Pursuit of Rare Meats ends with the news that, “A sad result of the expedition was the death of the dowager duchess, who took too keen an interest for her age in sampling the rare meats collected”.


  1. Tish Farrell · November 22, 2013

    Nice post – and in all sorts of ways. Love all the layered references.

    • whistlesinthewind · November 25, 2013

      Interesting how he places himself in his paintings as a gardener (Plas Newydd) or as an impoverished character on a bicycle in among all the grandeur (here). Always the observer…

  2. valeriedavies · November 23, 2013

    How wonderful that you can still enjoy the restaurant ! I remember my grandfather taking me there as a twelve year old in 1950 !!! Very calm and not busy, back then !

    • whistlesinthewind · November 25, 2013

      Would love to hear more about that! I keep wondering what those pillars were like originally – they look a bit plastic and garden-centre fake on the photos. I believe the paintings have been restored but could be wrong. It must be more than a change of tablecloth…

      The cafe in the gallery basement has all been replaced – I quite liked it before, but the new reviews tell us it was like a hospital canteen, apparently. Oh well…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s