- Free entry with National Art Pass.
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Part of the internationally renowned Courtauld Institute of Art, the Courtauld Gallery may not rival the Tate or National Gallery for size, but nevertheless houses one of Britain's finest art collections.
Endowed initially by its founder Samuel Courtauld with a superb collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, the gallery now includes Roger Fry's collection of 20th-century art as well as Lord Lee's Old Masters.
Although the gallery is best known for its 19th- and early 20th-century works, the Courtauld's galleries extend back to the early Renaissance, featuring some 7,000 drawings as well as prints, decorative arts and a fine collection of sculpture.
Based in London's Somerset House, the Courtauld's charm lies in the balance between the quality of its art and the intimacy of the 18th-century setting. With many personal bequests, the gallery also retains much of the spirit of these individual collectors.
At the centre of the collection are Samuel Courtauld's Impressionist and Post-Impressionist pictures, which include such masterpieces as Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Renoir's La Loge and Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear. Shown alongside them are landscapes by Monet and Pissarro, a group of canvases by Cézanne, exotic fantasies by Douanier Rousseau and Gauguin, and Degas ballet scenes. A group of Collioure canvases by Matisse and Derain take the story of French art forward into the early 20th century.
The Gothic, Medieval and Renaissance collections include glittering altarpieces by Bernardo Daddi and Fra Angelico, as well as the Master of Flemalle's Lamentation Triptych – one of the great early Netherlandish paintings. In the Renaissance rooms you'll find a Botticelli altarpiece, Cranach's Adam and Eve, two Bruegel panels and a number of paintings by the Venetian masters Lorenzo Lotto and Tintoretto.
Art Funded works
Made in 1772, a splendid clock with a case of ormolu, glass and enamel was a version by Matthew Boulton of the clock-case made for King George III in 1771. It is one of several made after the initial royal commission, which set a small-scale fashion in motion.
A mosaic portrait of Sir Nicholas Goodison (former Chairman of the Coutauld Institute and the Art Fund) by Tom Phillips is an evocative exercise in contrast, setting the classical formality of its technique against the modern, informal portrait it creates.
Set in the 18th-century elegance of Somerset House, looking out across the river to the South Bank, the Courtauld Gallery is more than just its artworks. The period comfort extends to the Café, housed in the basement of the building and spilling out into a sunny courtyard during the summer, which offers excellent coffee and a simple selection of hot and cold food.
While stocking a wide and colourful selection of crafts, jewellery and textiles inspired by the museum's collections, the Courtauld Gallery Shop is perhaps most worth visiting for its books, which extend from illustrated coffee table volumes to works of art theory and philosophy.