“ The Courtauld Institute of Art is a listed organisation of the University of London specialising in the study of the history of art. The Courtauld Institute is one of the world's leading institutions in this field. It was founded in 1932 by 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 Somerset House. „
An afternoon in the Courtauld Gallery is one of the pleasantest ways of passing an hour or two in central London. Very often when you go to art galleries you are overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of paintings and it is easy to get tired wandering around from room to room. The Courtauld Gallery on the other hand is small but full of richness. So fine are the paintings in it that you keep being arrested by individual and recognisable works of art and say to yourself "I didn't know that was here". The Gallery is located in Somerset House. This is at the end of the Strand just by Waterloo Bridge, a few minutes from Trafalgar Square. The admission charge is £4 pounds but it is also free from 10 AM to 2 PM on Mondays. Students are free at all times. If you work or live in London it is worth buying the annual ticket which is only £10 and allows you to go any number of times in the year. The guide book is well worth buying and currently costs £8.95. It contains very fine reproductions of the significant works in the gallery and also much background information. The Gallery contains over 500 paintings and about 26,000 drawings and prints. But for myself it is the Impressionist collection which is the most impressive and it is marvellous to see so many famous paintings by Monet, Degas, van Gogh, Gauguin and Cezanne. Although these immensely valuable paintings are not displayed under the spotlight neither are they displayed in subdued light as in some other galleries which display such valuable works. This means that the full colour can be observed and the impact of the paintings is not reduced in any way. I'll restrict myself to listing just eight paintings which you can see at the Courtauld. 1. Manet - The Bar at the Folie-Bergere. The famous painting, reproduced in countless books and posters. 2. Cezanne - The Montagne Sainte-Victoire. A common theme of Cezanne of a mountain to which he
kept returning in his painting career. The example at the Courtauld is superb with subtle colouring in the foreground emphasising the high peak of the mountain 3. Gauguin - Nevermore. A luscious reclining nude with a wonderfully enigmatic expression on her face. 4. Van Gogh - Peach Trees in Flower. Wonderful brush strokes in sky and on blossom giving a fresh spring-like feel to the scene. 5. Monet - Autumn Effect at Argentuil. A view of the town across water, with typical Monet brush-work. 6. Seurat - Young Woman Powdering Herself. An humerous portrait of a plump girl putting on her make-up. 7. Degas - After the Bath. A typical Degas pastel painting of a woman drying herself after a bath. 8. Manet - Le Dejeuner sur l-herbe. If you don't recognise the title, you'll recognise it when you see it. A striking image a a couple of men in formal clothes and a nude woman having a picnic. In highlighting French 19th century art I realise I am omitting to describe some marvellous treasures of Renaissance Italy, 16th century Northern Europe, several Reubens, and some modern works. The Gallery has a good and reasonably-priced café in the basement. When you finish looking round it is worth going outside and walking across the courtyard of Somerset House towards the River Thames. The courtyard has some very unusual fountains which come out of holes in the paving stones. They are controlled by an automatic process which makes them go up and down at irregular intervals and children love running among them on the summer's day screaming at each other and getting soaking wet. On the day I went, some adults seemed unable to resist this too. There is a walkway just the other side of the arches at the far end of the courtyard and this provides a high-level view of the river and also access to another open air cafe. Last winter the courtyard was flooded and frozen over so that ice skating could take place t
here. It is now been agreed that this will happen this coming winter as well and I'm sure it is worth going along with just take a look at this unique scene.