This small gallery has one of the world’s finest collections of Impressionist paintings.
The Courtauld Institute of Art was established by the textile magnate Samuel Courtauld in 1931 to offer a university degree in art history, the first in England. He also donated his collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, establishing the current art collection.
The Courtauld Institute Gallery opened to the public in 1958 in Woburn Square. Since 1990 the Courtauld Institute of Art, together with its collection, has been housed in the north wing of Sir William Chamber’s splendid Somerset House.
The Gallery’s Fine Rooms, once home to the Royal Academy, were refurbished in 1997 – 98 and now house the Institute’s 16th – 18th century works.
Samuel Courtauld’s collections of Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings have been added to by donations, and include the collection of Count Antoine Seilern, who donated 14th to 20th century paintings. Today, the gallery is still expanding and includes examples of the 20th century British School.
The early galleries contain works by Rubens and early Flemish and Italian artists including Breughel, Bellini, Bottecilli and Tiepolo. Highlights include Cranach’s ‘Adam and Eve’ and Fra Angelico’s ‘Man of Sorrows’.
The main collection contains works by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, and these works are the main attraction of the Courtauld Gallery, with masterpieces by Manet, Renoir, Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Toulouse-Latrec and Gaugin. Famous individual works include Manet’s ‘Bar at the Folies-Bergere’, one of the two versions of ‘Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe’, Van Gogh’s ‘Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear’, Cezanne’s ‘The Card Players’ and Gaugin’s ‘Nevermore’.
Also located at Somerset House are the newly-opened Gilbert Collection and Hermitage Rooms. The central courtyard, with its fountains, transformed into a skating rink in winter, is the site of a series of cultural events.
The River Terrace has a cafe with views over the Thames.