This special summer display presents a rich selection of works of art acquired by The Courtauld Gallery
since it moved to Somerset House twenty years ago. The Courtauld Gallery is sometimes described as a collection of collections and has grown historically through the generosity of private individuals who have endowed it with the remarkable collections which they formed. This grand tradition of philanthropy, initiated at the Gallery by Samuel Courtauld in the 1930s, continues to extend and enhance The Courtauld Gallerys world-famous collections.
In 2007 the Gallery was bequeathed a magnificent group of over fifty major British watercolours, including nine works by Turner, assembled by Dorothy Scharf. Alongside such extraordinary acts of philanthropy the Gallery has also grown through gifts of single works of art and, very occasionally, by direct purchases.
The display presents a wide range of works by celebrated masters and lesser-known figures. It includes watercolours by Turner and Constable and others from the Scharf bequest; a portrait of the Baroque sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini; a beautiful drawing by Ingres (once owned by Samuel Courtauld) for his celebrated Grande Odalisque; fine Victorian watercolours by the esteemed Frederick Walker; a rare 18th century pastel by John Russell showing one of the porters of the Royal Academy at Somerset House; sculptures by Degas and Rodin; and two oil sketches by the great Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat. The display also unveils Sir Joshua Reynoldss late masterpiece Cupid and Psyche, which has been undergoing conservation treatment since its acquisition in 2004. Most recently the sculptors Sir Anthony Caro, Phillip King and Richard Long have presented examples of their early work to the Gallery, helping to extend the collections more fully into the second half of the twentieth century.
The display is an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the achievements of the past twenty years and to look forward to the future development of the collections.