The Courtauld Gallery is just one part of the larger Courtauld Institute of Art, a world-known institute for the study of art and architecture. The Gallery within the institute (and therefore within the stupendous Somerset House) is somehow one of London’s hidden art gems.
Simply put it is one of the best art galleries in London to see Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. And because it is one of the less well-known galleries in the city you get to see them without the massive crowds.
I’ll be honest, the first time I went I wasn’t prepared. I knew it had a good collection, but not as good as it has.
Manet, Degas, Monet, van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne. Room after room of them. Then onward to Modigliani, Matisse, Kandinsky and the Bloomsbury group. German expressionism and modern British art: Auerbach. Kirchner. Matisse. Derain. Dufy. Nicholson. The names are impressive and then you wander in to another room and there is the world famous ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère’ by Édouard Manet. Wonderful.
It’s a little overwhelming to be honest. Especially as this isn’t a modern purpose-built galleries with huge white walls and a gleaming glass entrance. This is within Somerset House, a magnificent 18th century building on the banks of the Thames, so the rooms are smaller and the painting somehow more intimate because of it.
The Courtauld isn’t the biggest or flashiest (probably only 20 rooms) but what it packs in for the money is truly remarkable.