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Courtauld Gallery
art gallery of the Courtauld Institute of Art, located in Somerset House, London
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Courtauld Gallery
art gallery of the Courtauld Institute of Art, located in Somerset House, London
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Somerset House, Strand
London
United Kingdom

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The Courtauld Gallery is an oasis just five minutes walk from the full-on bustle of London’s National Gallery at the Trafalgar Square.

It is in Sommerset House on the Thames, a 300 year-old building with a beautiful central courtyard. Parents just love it. The kids get to run through 55 jets of water that shoot straight upward in an exotic dance of unpredictable bursts. Dry off the offspring and there are five good food options, saving you from having to re-enter the vroom vroom of London city-center. The good people on Trip Advisor give the Gallery four and-a-half stars out of five and describe it as, "a real find - a sleeper hit," and "a great haven in a bustling city."

Sommerset has had two lives, first as a palace for assorted royalty, and then as the first purpose-built office block in the world. The Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector (the government’s head honcho) built himself a palace in the 1500's but these being turbulent times, he was overthrown and executed. The crown grabbed the palace and let various royalty and aristocrats live there. The crown wasn’t into maintenance and after many years of neglect, the palace was torn down. In 1775 the fab quadrilateral with courtyard went up and the Stamp and Tax authorities moved in, along with other government departments.

Samuel Courtauld got some influential friends together in the 1930s and grabbed a corner for the Courtauld Institute of Art. That takes a lot of dough but no problem, Sam’s father’s had taken the family’s silver and gold business and built an impressive silk-weaving and crepe empire.

Courtauld is a quiet two-hour museum. Stone stairs, worn from centuries of foot traffic, lead up to three smallish floors of choice art. The ground floor room has gilded religious art from the middle ages and, for travelers of the day, transportable and infinitely delicate ivory alter-pieces. Floor one starts with paintings of rich and darkly colored paintings of Virgin Mary with baby Jesus and various Saints getting hacked to death – yes, the middle ages in Europe. The highlights for me, however, are the absurldy ornate wedding chests. The gorgeous chests carried the dowry of brides from the most high-flying Italian families 700 years ago.

The main show, however, is the Gallery's art from the 1800s and early 1900s – which features, in no particular order, Claude MonetEdouard ManetPaul GauguinHenri de Toulouse-LautrecHenri Matisse, Paul Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh. Yes, the famous Impressionists’ and Post-impressionists. These guys have works in every major museum, but the Courtauld has one of the finest collections anywhere. And there’s no crowd! You can sit on a wooden bench and look as long as you want. On the second floor is also a sweet little hallway with seven tiny chill river scenes by Frenchman Georges Seurat

All this magnificence is now online: 40,000 artworks, alongside another 35,000 photographs of architecture and sculpture from the Conway Library of the Institute.

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery (UK: /ˈkɔːrtld/) is an art museum in Somerset House, on the Strand in central London. It houses the art collection of the Courtauld Institute of Art, a self-governing college of the University of London specialising in the study of the history of art.

The Courtauld collection was formed largely through donations and bequests and includes paintings, drawings, sculptures and other works from medieval to modern times; it is particularly known for its French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.

In total, the collection contains some 530 paintings and over 26,000 drawings and prints. The Head of the Courtauld Gallery is Ernst Vegelin.

The gallery closed on 3rd September 2018 for at least two years during a major redevelopment called Courtauld Connects.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Courtauld Gallery.