The Courtauld opens again after 3 years !

All eyes on the Bar at the Folies-Begere by Edouard Manet

The Courtauld has a fabulous collection of art. It is known for Impressionist and post-impressionist art but there is much more here. The new room layout really shows many of these exhibits at their best.

This 5m wide painting by Cecily Brown was especially commissioned to hang at the top of the stairs. It is called Unmoored from her Reflection.

The art is displayed chronologically starting with the oldest items at the bottom of the building and working up to C20th art at the top.

This makes sense because the as well as being an art gallery the Courtauld is the place in London to study the history of art. In fact, it is one of the top places in the world to do this and many of its alumni are curators in top museums and galleries.

Sam and Lil Courtauld

The Assassination of St Peter Martyr by the fabulous Giovanni Bellini

Samuel Courtauld donated most of the money plus some of his own art collection to found the Courtauld so it is named after him.

His family were Huguenots who arrived in C18th England from La Rochelle, France.  They were silversmiths and some of the silverware they made is on display.

Early C19th the family founded a factory which made silk cloth. The business was successful and in C20th it made huge amounts of money when it turned to producing artificial silk: rayon then nylon. Samuel Courtauld was running the company during its heyday.

Sam married Elizabeth Kelsey, known as Lil, in 1901. She was interested in art and music. They honeymooned in Florence and that is where Sam fell in love with Florentine Renaissance art beauty and spirituality.

At an exhibition of Impressionist art at the National Gallery, London in 1917 Sam saw works he thought had the emotional quality of Renaissance art. 

To him the feeling an artwork aroused was all important, whether the painting was considered a good investment or not did not concern him.

Manet’s Bar at the Folies Bergeres bought in 1926 is probably the most famous painting in the collection. In 2015 Time Out asked critics, curators and gallery owners to vote for the best painting to see in London and this was voted No 1.

Among the other paintings from Courtauld’s private collection are Woman Powdering Herself by Seurat which he bought for Elizabeth and Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandanged Ear.

Other collections on show

The co-founders of the Courtauld Institute as it was called at the time were Arthur Lee and Sir Robert Witt. They donated more traditional art and so the Courtauld has medieval paintings and furniture, drawings, sculpture and photography.

More collections were added for example Roger Fry’s. He had been an artist and art critic who promoted modern art in the early 1900s. He was a member of the Bloomsbury Set and the new display of his collection shows the work of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in the type of room setting those artists would have known.

Courtauld Connects project

The refurbishment project was called Courtauld Connects. The gallery entrance has been remodelled making it accessible for all. Dividing walls that had split up the elegant C18th rooms have been taken down and the rooms lit to show them off to more advantage.

Visitor and teaching facilities have been improved so that the learning branch of the Courtauld connects more closely with its art collection. There is a new Learning Centre which caters for everyone, from families and school children to those studying for a BA, MA or a PHd in art history.

The Courtauld also wants to connect to places where Courtauld Ltd had factories for example: Coventry, Preston, Hull, Wolverhampton and Belfast and Braintree. While the London building was closed its collection was lent to galleries and museums in these palaces and the plan is for the links to those towns to continue.

To visit, book a timed entrance ticket at https://courtauld.ac.uk/. An exhibition of portraits by Van Gogh beginning in February is already on sale and is likely to book up very quickly.

If you would like to do an art tour or an art gallery tours in London CONTACT ME

About the author: Gail Jones

Tourist Guide

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