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.


About rubisouth

Artist working in Surrey UK.
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