Courtauld Gallery, London
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The Courtauld Institute
For many years now the Courtauld Institute has boasted by far the most important art gallery of the University of London. The Institute, which was the first in the country to offer Fine Arts degrees, was founded in 1932, but it does have some connection with Victorian times: Samuel Courtauld (1876-1947), who helped to found it and whose name it bears, was of Huguenot extraction, and belonged to a well-known textile family whose fortunes had boomed with the Victorians' fondness for black mourning crape. Moreover, Courtauld himself was especially interested in the French Impressionists, so many of the Institute's most celebrated holdings date from the nineteenth century. Due to Courtauld's continuing generosity, and the gifts and bequests of his co-founder Lord Lee of Fareham, and other people like the Bloomsbury artist Roger Fry, the original collection has greatly expanded, and the process of expansion continues to this day. As well as nineteenth-century favourites like Turner, Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Sisley, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh, the gallery exhibits Old Masters, Post-Impressionists and more recent works, together with sculpture, furniture, silverware (the Courtaulds had originally prospered as silversmiths), and so on. Roger Fry's collection includes an African dancing mask and other artefacts as well as paintings by fellow-Bloomsburyites Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. In 1990, the institute completed its move from Courtauld's own beautiful Adam-designed home in Portman Square to its present premises in Somerset House close to King's College. In gracious eighteenth-century rooms reached from its spiral staircase, it now has a number of major collections arranged in uncluttered displays according to their collectors. One recently-acquired nineteenth-century work, not yet on display, is Turner's Margate Pier (c.1840?), which was once owned by Ruskin (who briefly studied English at King's next-door); it was later presented to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Another much-loved nineteenth-century piece, which is shown off to advantage in the gallery's Wolfson Room, is Monet's Vase of Flowers (c.1881-82) with its apparently artless abundance of wild mallow-blooms. Many, many more could be mentioned.
Coleman, D. C. "Courtauld, Samuel (1876-1947." The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Viewed 2 October 2007.
"Courtauld Receives Gift of Turner Watercolours." (Courtauld site)
"The Flaxman Gallery." (University Colege site)
"Galleries II-IV: Samuel Courtauld Collection." (Courtauld site)
Neal, Morton. "My Favourite Painting." (Courtauld site)
Last modified 9 October 2007