Courtauld Institute of Art in London

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The Courtauld Institute of Art is a self-governing college of the University of London specialising in the study of the history of art. The Courtauld is one of the premier centres for the teaching of art history in the world; it was the only History of Art department in the UK to be awarded a top 5* grade in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, and was ranked second nationally for History of Art in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise and ranked first nationally for History and History of Art in the Guardian's 2011 University Guide.


It was founded in 1932 through the philanthropic efforts of the industrialist and art collector Samuel Courtauld, the diplomat and collector Lord Lee of Fareham, and the art historian Sir Robert Witt. Originally the Courtauld Institute was based in Home House, a Robert Adam-designed townhouse in Portman Square, London. Since 1989 it has been based in the North wing of Somerset House. The Courtauld celebrated its 75th anniversary during the 2007-8 academic year.

The Courtauld Gallery

The art collection at the Institute was begun by its founder, Samuel Courtauld, who presented an extensive collection of mainly French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in 1932, which was enhanced by further gifts in the 1930s and a bequest in 1948. His collection included such masterworks as Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and a version of his Déjeuner sur l'Herbe, Renoir's La Loge, landscapes by Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, a ballet scene by Edgar Degas and a group of eight major works by Cézanne. Other paintings include van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Peach Blossoms in the Crau, Gauguin's Nevermore and Te Rerioa, as well as important works by Seurat, Henri "Douanier" Rousseau, Toulouse-Lautrec and Modigliani. In total, the Gallery contains some 530 paintings and over 26,000 drawings and prints.

Following the death of the eminent art critic Roger Fry in 1934, the Institute received his collection of 20th-century art. Further bequests were added after the Second World War, most notably the collection of Old Master paintings assembled by Lord Lee. This included Cranach's Adam and Eve and a sketch in oils by Peter Paul Rubens for what is arguably his masterpiece, the Deposition altarpiece in Antwerp Cathedral. Sir Robert Witt was also an outstanding benefactor to the Courtauld and bequeathed his important collection of Old Master and British drawings in 1952. In 1966 Mark Gambier-Parry bequeathed the diverse collection of art formed by his grandfather, Thomas Gambier Parry, which ranged from Early Italian Renaissance painting to majolica, medieval enamel and ivory carvings and other unusual art forms. Soon after (in 1967), the bequest of Dr. William Wycliffe Spooner (1882–1967) and his wife Mercie, added strength to the Gallery's collection of English watercolors by contributing works by J.R. Cozens and Francis Towne.<ref name="Murdoch7" />

In 1974 a group of thirteen watercolours by Turner was presented in memory of Sir Stephen Courtauld, famous for restoring Eltham Palace, and the brother of Samuel Courtauld, one of the founders of the Institute. In 1978 the Courtauld received the Princes Gate Collection of Old Master paintings and drawings formed by Count Antoine Seilern. It includes paintings by Bruegel, Quentin Matsys, Van Dyck and Tiepolo and rivals the Samuel Courtauld Collection in splendour, being strongest in the works of Rubens.The bequest also included a group of 19th- and 20th-century works by Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Oskar Kokoschka. More recently the Lilian Browse and Alastair Hunter collections have given the Courtauld more late 19th- and 20th-century paintings, drawings and sculptures.

The Courtauld Gallery is open to the public and housed in The Strand Block of Somerset House, which was the first home for the Royal Academy upon its foundation in 1768. The entrance to 'The Great Room', which housed the annual Summer Exhibition, has the formidable inscription 'Let no stranger to the Muses enter' in Ancient Greek.

The present Head of the Gallery (May 2009) is Dr Ernst Vegelin.

Collection highlights


Dutch School

  • Gogh, Vincent Van - 2 paintings;

English School

  • Beechey, William - 2 paintings;
  • Gainsborough, Thomas - 2 paintings;
  • Lely, Peter - 3 paintings;

Flemish School

  • Dyck, Anthony van - 5 paintings;
  • Bruegel, Pieter - 3 paintings;
  • Massys, Quentin - 2 paintings;
  • Rubens, Peter Paul - 29 paintings;
  • Teniers, David - 10 paintings;

French School

  • Cézanne, Paul - 12 paintings;
  • Degas, Edgar - 6 paintings;
  • Gauguin, Eugène Henri Paul - 3 paintings;
  • Gellée, Claude - 1 painting;
  • Manet, Édouard - 4 paintings;
  • Monet, Claude - 3 paintings;
  • Pissarro, Camille - 4 paintings;
  • Seurat, Georges-Pierre - 9 paintings;
  • Renoir, Pierre Auguste - 4 paintings;
  • Soutine, Chaim - 1 painting;

German School

  • Lucas Cranach the Elder - 1 painting;

Italian School

  • Angelico, Fra - 4 paintings;
  • Bellini, Giovanni - 1 painting;
  • Botticelli, Sandro - 1 painting;
  • Daddi, Bernardo - 2 paintings;
  • Lotto, Lorenzo - 2 paintings;
  • Perugino, Pietro - 1 painting;
  • Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista - 12 paintings;
  • Tintoretto, Jacopo - 2 paintings;

Spanish School

  • Goya, Francisco - 1 painting;

Selected paintings

Other study resources

The Courtauld has two photographic libraries which started as the private collections of two ennobled benefactors: the Conway library, covering architecture, architectural drawings, sculpture and illuminated manuscripts, named after Lord Martin Conway and the Witt library, after Sir Robert Witt, covering paintings, drawings and engravings and containing over 2,000,000 reproductions of works by over 70,000 artists. The Book Library is one of the UK's largest archives of art-historical books, periodicals and exhibition catalogues. There is a Slide Library which also covers films, and an IT suite.

An online image collection provides access to more than 40,000 images, including paintings and drawings from The Courtauld Gallery, and over 35,000 photographs of architecture and sculpture from the Conway Library. The site was developed with the support of the New Opportunities Fund. Two other websites and sell high resolution digital files to scholars, publishers and broadcasters, and photographic prints to a wide public audience.

The Courtauld uses a virtual learning environment to deliver course material to its current students.


Many students of the Courtauld have gone on to become directors of major museums, including John Hayes (National Portrait Gallery, 1974–94), Anne d'Harnoncourt (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1982–2008), Neil MacGregor (National Gallery, 1987–2002; British Museum 2002–), Sir Nicholas Serota (Tate, 1988–), Sir Mark Jones (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2001–), Nicholas Penny (National Gallery, 2008–), Kaywin Feldman (Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2008-), David Franklin (Cleveland Museum of Art, 2010-) and Thomas P. Campbell (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009–). Art historians of note who have trained there include the Renaissance specialist John Shearman, Marxist art historian T. J. Clark and the feminist art historian Griselda Pollock. William J. R. Curtis, architectural historian and author of Modern Architecture Since 1900, is also a notable alumnus. The critics Reyner Banham, Brian Sewell, Andrew Graham-Dixon and Tim Marlow are also graduates of the Courtauld, as are the artists Jeremy Deller (winner of the 2004 Turner Prize) and Jeff Wall. Writers who have studied there include the Booker Prize-winning Anita Brookner, the novelist Iain Sinclair, and the travel writer Michael Jacobs. The horror film star Vincent Price was also an alumnus.


William George Constable1932–1936
T. S. R. Boase1936–1947
Anthony Blunt1947–1974
Peter Lasko1974–1985
Michael Kauffmann1985–1995
Eric Fernie1995–2003
James Cuno2003–2004
Deborah Swallow2004–


External links