A casual visit to the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House last week brought a reminder of just how fantastic its collection of French Impressionist paintings is. All the great pictures are there – the best works of Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir hang on its walls, all displayed in a matchless historical setting. That’s the treasure house of the Courtauld.
The Courtauld Institute of Art was founded in 1932, when Samuel Cortauld gave the Institute many of its greatest pictures, including Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur L’herbe.
Along with Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players.
Paul Gaugin’s Te Rerioa (The Dream).
And Edgar Degas’s Two Dancers on a Stage.
In 1934 Courtauld donated Manet’s last major painting, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1882.
Many of the great impressionist works in the collection were part of the Courtauld Bequest, given when Samuel Courtauld died in 1948, including La Loge, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, one of most celebrated masterpieces of The Courtauld collection and one of the most important works of the Impressionist movement.
The Courtauld Institute moved to the North Wing of Somerset House in 1989, occupying the premises that William Chambers designed for the Society of Antiques, The Royal Society, and The Royal Academy in 1779, including this fabulous spiral staircase.
And as you walk through the rooms, don’t forget to glance up at the ceilings by Giovanni Battista Cipriani, a founder member of the Royal Academy.
This one has a copy of Joshua Reynolds’ The Theory of Art as its centrepiece.
The Courtauld Gallery is open 10am to 6 pm daily. Admission prices vary depending on the programme of exhibitions.