The Courtauld Institute of Art was founded by Samuel Courtauld in 1931, as an adjunct to the University of London.
The idea was to provide the university with a collection equivalent to the famous museums of Oxford and Cambridge – the Ashmolean and Fitzwilliam.
Courtauld started the ball rolling by bequeathing his entire art collection to it upon his death, as did several other notaries – Robert Witt, William Spooner and Viscount Lee of Fareham.
Impressionist, and post-impressionist art
The Courtauld soon gained a notable reputation, and now houses one of Europe’s finest collections of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings with works by Cézanne, Seurat, Gauguin and Monet.
The stand-out pieces are Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear, Monet’s Autumn at Argenteuil, Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère and Botticelli’s Trinity with John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene.
The gallery’s premises were augmented in 1991 when it moved from Portman Square to the refined surroundings of Somerset House.
JRubin – “I've been to all the big galleries like the tate and national but I’ve never really thought about going to the other ones around London. How wrong was i! The courtauld is quite small but the quality of stuff, especially the impressionist is on a par with the best galleries in London. I would go so far to say that their collection of impressionists is even better than the national's.”
JP1964 – “Londoners are spoilt when it comes to art galleries. When the superb national gallery, tate britain and tate modern are free, you might wonder why you need to bother with this one, as the fee is quite steep for the size of the gallery. But if you love art, then you should definitely make the effort to go after you have seen the other ones I listed. For starters, somerset house is a beauty -- one of London's hidden treasures, and well worth a visit on its own -- and the works on display are largely on a par with the ones in the national. And the galleries are not as crowded with tourists, probably put off by the entrance fee, allowing you to gaze on the pictures in peace.”