A world-renowned small art gallery with a collection of famous and important art works from around the world and through the ages, the Courtauld Gallery is a wonderful place to visit to get a compact insight into art history and some of the finest works in a variety of media. Set in Somerset House, the glorious West London mansion, the Courtauld’s location gives it all the more reasons to pay a visit.
Ranked online as one of the top 20 attractions out of nearly 1,000 London sights, the Gallery is popular with visitors as well as those in the art world. Once you’ve visited, it’ll be easy to see why.
The history of the gallery
Somerset House has long been associated with fine art, and the cultural heritage is evident in the splendid décor of the gallery and its rooms and corridors. Somerset House was originally built to house a number of official departments learned societies, amongst which was the Royal Academy of Art. This heritage has been carried on to this day, and the Courtauld is only one part of a wide and on-going programme of cultural and artistic events and exhibitions that take place at Somerset House every year.
In recognition of the academic history, the gallery is a cornerstone of the Courtauld Institute of Art. The Institute is one of the world’s pre-eminent centres for the study of the history of art and its art historians and academics provide support to the curators of the gallery in collating collections for exhibition as well as offering teaching to students.
As with most galleries, the Courtauld has a permanent collection as well as a range of visiting and temporary exhibitions that change on a regular basis. The permanent collection includes paintings by some of the most famous names in art history, including paintings by Van Gogh and Degas and sketches from the portfolios of da Vinci and Michelangelo.
In addition to the paintings on display, the gallery also houses a number of important sculptural artworks. Its collection of pieces in the decorative arts includes Islamic metalwork, Italian renaissance furniture and Spanish ceramics.
The programme at the Courtauld includes a regular change in temporary exhibitions and a series of talks for those interested in the background to the collections and art history in general.
Each Monday and Friday, visitors can enjoy a 15 minute lunchtime talk at 1.15pm which are delivered by researchers and students from the Courtauld Institute and cover a range of topics arising from the work of the gallery. On the first Wednesday of every month, one of the gallery’s curators takes to the podium to give a talk on their recent work.
The current temporary exhibition brings together art and science in a collection that looks at the technology and craft behind the creation of fine filigree glassware. Visitors have the chance to see some beautiful examples of decorative glass ranging from Venetian goblets from the 16th century through to English glasses from the late 18th century and learn about their structure and chemical composition that helps make them the attractive pieces that they are.
Lovers of art will love a visit to the Courtauld Gallery. Its artworks provide plenty to enthral and interest those with a keen eye for beauty while the setting gives visitors a chance to experience the majestic and elegant Somerset House. Entry to the gallery is £6, £5 for concessions, and is open daily from 10am-6pm except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.