Courtauld Gallery
Samuel Courtauld Institute Galleries: History, Highlights of Collection.

Seated Nude (1916) Modigliani.
One of the great masterpieces
in the Courtauld Institute Gallery.

British Royal Art Collection
Tate Collection, London
National Gallery of Scotland

Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery, one of the top art museums in Europe, is considered by many curators to be one of the world's greatest small museums, with a unique collection of masterpieces from the Impressionism and Post-Impressionism periods. In total, the Gallery's collection amounts to about 530 paintings as well as over 26,000 drawings and prints. An integral part of the highly acclaimed Courtauld Institute of Art, which specialises in the teaching and study of the history of art, the gallery is located (along with the rest of the Institute) at Somerset House in the Strand, overlooking the Thames.

The Institute was founded in 1931-32 by Samuel Courtauld (1876-1947), together with the diplomat Lord Lee of Fareham and the art historian Sir Robert Witt. Students of the Institute have gone on to become directors of some of the world's best art museums, including: the National Gallery London and the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Cleveland Museum of Art, and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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To help you get the most from
your visit to the Courtauld
Institute Art Gallery, please see:
Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art

Courtauld Institute Gallery: Foundation

Courtauld came from a family which had been involved in artistic patronage for generations, but his own interest in the fine arts grew out of his visit to the famous exhibition of the Hugh Lane collection, at the Tate Gallery, in 1917. Advised by the English painter and critic Roger Fry (1866-1934), he became one of the early admirers of Impressionism, and also Post Impressionism, and built up a significant holding during the 1920s, including masterpieces of modern art by Edouard Manet (1832-83), Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Modigliani (1884-1920). [For another devotee of this type of painting, see the collector Duncan Phillips]. Courtauld installed these works of art at 20 Portman Square - reportedly one of the finest 18th-century London houses designed by the great Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728-92) - and then, in 1932, donated the house and contents to the newly formed Courtauld Institute.

For news of any major exhibitions
of fine arts being held at the
Courtauld Institute Galleries, see:
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For a list of the finest works of
painting and sculpture, by the
world's most famous artists, see:
Greatest Paintings Ever
Oils, watercolours, mixed media
from 1300-present.
Greatest Sculptures Ever
Works in stone, bronze, wood
from 33,000 BCE-present.

The co-founders of the Institute were Lord Lee and Sir Robert Witt, both of whom left significant works of art to the new body. Lee bequeathed his own oil painting collection to the Institute, while Witt left predominantly works of drawing and watercolour painting. However, the bulk of the finance was furnished by Courtauld himself. The Institute remained at 20 Portman Square until 1989, while the Courtauld Galleries moved to a separate location in Woburn Square, in 1958, before rejoining the rest of the Institute at Somerset House in 1989.

Courtauld Institute Gallery: Later Development & Acquisitions

The gallery received additional paintings from Samuel Courtauld in the 1930s and a bequest in 1948. In 1934, it was given Roger Fry's collection of 20th-century art, and after the War Lord Lee's collection of pictures by Old Masters including Adam and Eve (1530) by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) and an oil sketch by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) for his master work, the Deposition altarpiece (1611-14) in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Antwerp. In 1952, it received Sir Robert Witt's important collection of Old Master and British drawings.

Since then, other donations to the Courtauld Institute Gallery have included: the Gambier-Parry bequest (1966), which featured Italian Renaissance art, majolica ceramics, medieval enamel and ivory carvings, together with other decorative art collected by Thomas Gambier-Parry; the Dr. William Wycliffe Spooner bequest (1967) which included a number of English watercolours by J.R. Cozens (1752-99) and Francis Towne (1740-1816); the Sir Stephen Courtauld bequest of thirteen outstanding watercolours by JMW Turner (1775-1851); the Seilern bequest (1978), featuring the Princes Gate Collection of Old Master paintings and drawings assembled by Count Antoine Seilern, including works by Quentin Matsys (c.1465-1530), Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1569), Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), Giambattista Tiepolo (1692-1770) and Rubens, as well as modern artists like Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Renoir (1841-1919), Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980). Most recent donations include the Lilian Browse and Alastair Hunter collections, whose contents have included a number of late 19th-century and 20th-century paintings, sculptures and works on paper.

Highlights of the Permanent Collection

Particularly famous for its assembly of modern art, the collection of the Courtauld Gallery includes the following Impressionist paintings:

Luncheon on the Grass/ Dejeuner sur L'Herbe (1863) by Edouard Manet.
A Box at the Theatre/ La Loge(1874) by Renoir.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1881-2) by Edouard Manet.
La Crau with Peach Trees in Blossom (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh.
Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh.
The Card Players (1893) by Paul Cezanne.
Still Life with Plastic Cupid (1895) by Paul Cezanne.
The Dream/Te Rerioa (1897) by Paul Gauguin.
Nevermore (1897) by Paul Gauguin.
Mont Sainte-Victoire (1902-4) by Paul Cezanne.
The Boats at Martigues (1907) by Raoul Dufy.
Seated Nude (1916) by Modigliani.

See also our article on fine art: How To Appreciate Paintings.

In addition to these painters and to the artists listed further above, the Courtauld gallery also owns paintings by Early Renaissance artists like Fra Angelico (1387-1455), Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516), Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Pietro Perugino (1445-1523); High Renaissance artists like Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-94), as well as later works by Claude Lorrain (1600-82), Peter Lely (1618-80), Francisco Goya (1746-1828), William Beechey (1753-1839), and Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88). Additional modernists represented include: Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901).

Additional Resources

As well as its superb collection of paintings, sculpture and drawings, The Courtauld has two photographic libraries - the Lord Martin Conway library, embracing architectural drawings, sculpture and illuminated manuscripts; and the Robert Witt library, covering paintings, drawings and engravings, with over 2 million reproductions of works by more than 70,000 artists - and a Book Library, which contains one of the UK's largest archives of works on the history of art.

• For more about famous art-buyers and their collections, see: Art Collectors.
• For more information about the world's greatest art museums, see: Homepage.

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