Courtauld Gallery – A hidden gem

Where would you go in London to see the best selection of Impressionist paintings?

Tate Britain has some, National Gallery has the better selection including many owned by the Tate. But the choicest selection is hung in the Courtauld Gallery in the North wing of Somerset House on the Strand.

Somerset House, London

Coutauld Gallery seen from the central courtyard of Somerset House, London.

Trip Adviser says “The Courtauld Gallery is one of the finest small museums in the world. Its collection stretches from the early Renaissance into the 20th century and is particularly renowned for the unrivalled collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. The Gallery also holds an outstanding collection of drawings and prints and fine example of sculpture and decorative arts.”

Samuel Courtauld was a textile manufacturer with an excellent eye for art. His collection was given to the Courtauld Institute for Art and is open to everyone. The gallery spaces are beautiful 18th Century rooms, once used for the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition before the move to Burlington House, Piccadilly. (Here’s an article about it .)

A special exhibition of Gauguin paintings in summer 2013 again showed what a good eye Courtauld had. Intriguingly one was more in the style of brushstroke used by Van Gogh, than Gauguin’s usual way of painting.

gauguin harvest 1889

A painting by Paul Gauguin made in 1889, using brushstokes in the style of Van Gogh who he had visited in Arles, South of France.

Complementing the paintings was a series of woodcuts. They show Gauguin’s excellent design sense and also his mastery of the medium. One fascinating aspect of the prints is that as well as using chisels to cut images in the wood, Gauguin also used sandpaper or something similar to create softer tints and tones in the image. Not something I have seen other artists use.

A couple more of the paintings in the exhibition are shown below.

gauguin the dream 1897

Gauguin Nevermore 1897

Paul Gauguin, “Nevermore – Tahiti” 1897, Courtauld Gallery London UK

Paul Gauguin, “The Dream” 1897, Courtauld Gallery London, UK

It’s also worth mentioning that there is a lovely cafe in the basement at the Courtauld with an open air patio for use when the weather is good and you don’t have to pay for the gallery to use the cafe.

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Paul Carrack at G-Live

When I turned up at Guildford’s superb new venue G-Live to see Paul Carrack, I couldn’t name any of his compositions or hits. Turns out he’s one of those silent running music giants of the deep. Played with everyone and been everywhere and even wrote a song for the Eagles comeback tour “Hell freezes over”.

As Wikipedia says:
Paul Carrack (born 22 April 1951) is an English singer, songwriter and musician who has recorded as both a solo artist and as a member of several popular bands. The BBC has called Carrack “The Man with the Golden Voice”, and described him as a “national treasure.”[1] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic characterised him as “perhaps the best blue-eyed soul singer the [pub rock] scene produced.”

Carrack rose to prominence in the mid-1970s as the frontman and principal songwriter of Ace, and gained further recognition for his work as a solo artist and for his tenures as a member of Roxy Music, Squeeze and Roger Waters’ backing group, The Bleeding Heart Band, intermittently handling lead vocals on Squeeze and Waters recordings. From the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, he enjoyed perhaps his greatest success as the co-frontman (with Paul Young) and a songwriter for Mike + The Mechanics; following Young’s death in 2000, Carrack served as the band’s sole lead vocalist until his departure in 2004. He maintains an active solo career to the present day.

Carrack sang some of his affiliated bands’ best-known hits, including Ace’s “How Long?”; Squeeze’s “Tempted”; and Mike + The Mechanics’ “Silent Running”, “The Living Years” and “Over My Shoulder”. He also performed lead vocals on tracks from the Roger Waters albums Radio K.A.O.S. and The Wall – Live in Berlin, and achieved a major solo hit with “Don’t Shed a Tear”. Carrack’s songs have been recorded by artists such as the Eagles, Diana Ross, Tom Jones, Michael McDonald and Jools Holland,[3] and he has served as a session and/or touring musician for the likes of Elton John, Ringo Starr, B.B. King, The Pretenders and The Smiths.”

His style of soul music works well in G-Live a 1,000 seater venue that feels more intimate than the numbers suggest.

Check out “How Long” on YouTube

A great evening – don’t miss Paul if one of his tour dates is close by! The dates are on his website –

One word of warning if, like me, you have damaged hearing, you’ll need some ear plugs because the bass player is so loud everyone else has to TURN IT UP to make themselves heard! If you like it that way, go for it.

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Cy Twombly Writings 5

In conversation with Nick Serota, the Director of Tate Britain in London, Cy Twombly gave the following insight into his attitude towards painting.

“I’m not a professional painter, since I don’t go to the studio and work nine to five like a lot of artists. When something hits me, or I see a painting, or when I see something in nature, it gives me a thing and I go for it. But I don’t care if I don’t go for three or four months. You know, when it comes it comes.”

via Cy Twombly Writings 5.

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Cy Twombly – Dulwich Picture Gallery

A small cross section of Cy Twombly’s paintings covering his work from the  1950s right up to his most recent work was recently shown at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. The curator’s twist was to compare and contrast his work with … Continue reading

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A Hidden Treat

Where am I? In a gallery that’s 30 minutes from Waterloo, surrounded by work by Richard Hamilton, Marc Chagall, Elizabeth Frink, Eric Gill, Patrick Caulfield, Edward Burra and many others. Can you guess where yet (sorry Rolf)?

Woking is the unlikely home of the excellent Lightbox Gallery. It was designed by Marks Barfield Architects and opened to the public in 2007. Here’s a link to their website:

Whatever the reason, this attractive gallery has burst into life in 2012 showing collections from two local collectors. The Ingram Collection, held by Surrey University includes a range of work including a few beautiful table-top sculptures. A female figure by Eric Gill is made of sand blasted limestone. Also represented are Lynn Chadwick and Barbara Hepworth. There is also an eclectic mix of two dimensional work with paintings by local and nationally known artists. The highlight is a set of hand-coloured lithographs by Marc Chagall, so spontaneous seeming, but not a brush stroke out of place.

If you haven’t been to the Lightbox, you must go, leaving behind you any preconceptions you might  about Woking.

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Four is more – a Vermeer feast

Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence While I am looking at a Vermeer it is as if the world has stopped and all of the normal daily distractions have been suspended. Before me is calm, clarity and harmony, even if I’m … Continue reading

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Building the Revolution – Soviet Art & Architecture 1915-1935

The Royal Academy has built this exhibition around a collection of photographs taken by Richard Pare. Oddly he is given no credit apart from a small footnote. Taken in 1999 and 2000 the photos show the decayed state of many of the buildings featured.

Despite their current run down appearance what comes across is the giant strides made in Russian architecture and the arts in general, after the Revolution. However, what also comes across is the tragedy that halted this flowering in its tracks under the repression of Stalin.

Much of the architecture shows great innovation and equals much of what was happening in western Europe at approximately the same period. All in all a fascinating window on a lost culture, whose remains are gently rotting away in the shadow of greater problems facing Russia in the 21st Century.

Rubisouth 13-Jan-2012

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