History of the Courtauld Gallery

pen, ink, and watercolor image of students in gallery drawing live models

Established in 1932 as an academic center devoted to the study of art history, The Courtauld Institute of Art is the United Kingdom's most prestigious institution of undergraduate and postgraduate education in this discipline. In planning the Institute in 1927, two of its founders, Sir Robert Witt (a lawyer) and Samuel Courtauld (a textile manufacturer) visited Harvard University's recently created Fogg Art Museum. It was the intention of the three founders — the third being the politician and diplomat Viscount Lee of Fareham — that, as part of its mission, the Courtauld train its students by familiarizing them with original works of art, as well as with reproductive prints and photographs of paintings.

Named after its most generous benefactor, whose house in Portman Square in London, designed by Robert Adam in the mid-1770s, was the Institute's first home, The Courtauld Gallery is perhaps most famous for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. (The Institute and Gallery moved to their current premises at Somerset House in 1989.) The Gallery also boasts a collection of some seven thousand works on paper—more than a third of which are from the British school — ranging from the early Renaissance to the twentieth century. A selection of fifty-eight of The Courtauld Gallery's finest drawings, many of which are making their first visit to New York for this exhibition, offers an introduction to the collection and exemplifies the different purposes and functions that drawing has served during the Renaissance, Baroque, and modern periods.

Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700–1777), The Life Class at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, 1746, pen, black and brown ink, gray wash and watercolor, and traces of graphite, over black chalk, 24 x 21 1/2 inches; Samuel Courtauld Trust: Witt Bequest, 1952


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