Friday, 16 November 2012

Courtauld Gallery and Somerset House

10th November 2012

My second visit to the Courtauld Gallery was made to see the Sir Peter Lely exhibition and to have another look at some Kandinsky and Seurat.  A concession still costs £4.50 as it had earlier in the year and a companion goes in free. (
The Lely exhibition has a selection of Lely pictures before he became a society painter in the Restoration period of King Charles II. The theme is essentially Arcadia and shows the development of Lely’s style.  Many of the themes are classical or biblical and included another Rape of Europa.  (

The Rape of Europa, early 1650s
Peter Lely (1618-80)
Oil on canvas, 123.3 x 135 cm
Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth 

I first became aware of Lely’s portraits when I visited Ham House, near Richmond in Surrey.  His painting of Elizabeth Murray (Countess of Dysart in her own right) has haunting eyes ( and I swore I could recognise the eyes Lely painted from these visits in the late 1970s.

In the summer I had visited the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and noted the portrait of Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale  by Lely.  The Countess of Dysart had married the Duke of Lauderdale (Scottish seat is Thirlestane Castle near Lauder, mentioned in my post on Soutra Aisle: )

I was alerted to the Lely exhibition by a tweet and put it on the list of things to do.  A friend came with me and we noted a few of the pictures we discussed. 

The Finding of Moses
Musee des Beaux. Arts, Rennes

Reuben Presenting Mandrakes to Leah
Courtauld Gallery

The Rape of Europa
Chatsworth House Trust
(shown above)

Nymphs by a Fountain
Dulwich Picture Gallery

A Boy as a Shepherd
Dulwich Picture Gallery
(shown below)

Boy as a Shepherd, c. 1658-60
Peter Lely (1618-80)
Oil on canvas, 91.4 x 69 cm
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Man Playing a Pipe

The Concert
Courtauld Gallery
(shown below)

The Concert, c. 1650
Peter Lely (1618-80)
Oil on canvas, 123.1 x 234 cm
The Courtauld Gallery, London

A Pair of Lovers in a Landscape
Musee des Beaux. Arts, Valenciennes

Portrait of Sir Thomas Thyme
Courtauld Trust

Portrait of a Woman
Courtauld Trust

Cimon and Ifigenia
Mr & Mrs James Birch

There is a catalogue on sale for £25 and I bought 4 postcards. 

After the Lely exhibition we visited a small show of Lucien Freud etchings which had been given to the Courtauld by Auerbach.  I had missed the Lucien Freud exhibition when it was on at the National Portrait Gallery, though I had not shown particular interest in going to it at the time.   

We wandered through the first and second floors and renewed acquaintances with some of the pictures including:

Church Tower (around 1919)
Marianne Werefkin(1860-1938)
Private collection

This reminded me of the church in Murnau by Kandinsky, which I had seen in the Symbolist Landscape exhibition in Edinburgh during the summer. 

Kallmunz, 1903
Private collection

On the Theme of the Last Judgement (1913)
Fridart Foundation

The Red Circle
Private collection

Many thanks to Jenni Lloyd from Sue Bond Public Relations ( for sending me the three photographs shown in this post.  Jenni also very kindly sent me the text of the wall panels.  Thanks also to the staff at the Courtauld Gallery for coming back to me after my visit.
By a stroke of serendipity or even synchronicity the CD review programme on BBC Radio 3 on this day had included a new issue of recorder music.  Details taken from the BBC Radio 3 website are as follows:

Una follia di Napoli
Maurice Steger (direction, recorder)

This comes very close to a concert party and the CD has arrived (Thursday 15th November and sounds terrific.)

My first visit to the Courtauld is noted below.

12th July 2012

The Courtauld Gallery takes up the Strand side (North side) of Somerset House. 

I had seen some of the pictures years ago, though not long after I lost my sight I was taken to the Gilbert Collection which was then housed in Somerset House (South Side). 

Somerset House ( was once the domain of bureaucrats and has been transformed following years of neglect and misuse.  Anthony Trollope refers to clerks who entered employment at Somerset House aged 16 and “retired” as clerks aged 60 (Talking Book Miss Mackenzie).

My previous trip was when I was new to using a cane and I found the steps and courtyard difficult to negotiate.  The whole site had been a large car park and houses an area for performances and a skating rink in the winter. 

I went with a friend to the Courtauld Gallery and the admission concession is £4.50 with the companion going free. 

The building is very attractive inside once you are off the Strand.  If you can, climb the magnificent stairway to the top.  (We took the lift down) and at the top, look down.  With my peripheral vision I could make out a spiral of rectangular shapes with some eccentricity of an ellipse and a very stretched spiral.  Chambers had designed this stairway fitting it in to the available space.  It is not as pretty as the GoMA stairway in Glasgow but impressive nonetheless. 

The rooms are very pleasing with plaster work and ceiling paintings.  The Courtauld is a collection of collections though quite different from the Wallace Collection.  The latter bears the stamp of Sir Richard Wallace, whereas the Courtauld has continued to be developed from the original triumvirate of Courtauld, Lee and Witt.  Samuel Courtauld left his own “personal” collection and the Institute which is part of the University of London has some claims to excellence. 

I was aware that I would find many old friends from art appreciation days and various talks. Reference is often made to the Courtauld usually of the “You will find another one at the Courtauld” variety.

I have listed some of the artworks which were either known to me or had been mentioned in some talk or lecture.    With my peripheral vision I had difficulty in making much out of the Rubens.  It could have been the lighting and the themes as I enjoyed Rubens Het Steen in the National Gallery and the Rainbow in the Wallace.  The glare from the bright natural light combined with room lighting and reflective glass made “viewing” awkward.  My friend thought the same.

We had no problems with the Impressionists and I was able to recognise most of them.  The delightful pair of cassone (marriage chests) are elegantly displayed much as an IKEA flatpack had been disassembled.  All the panels were on view and the pair is unique.  We had discussed the panel of Piero di Cosimo in an ‘Art through Words’ session at the National Gallery.

Having learned so many things at the sessions for visually impaired people at the National Gallery and other galleries, it was fun trying out a gallery with so many genres. 

The items I enjoyed are listed below - though not recognising all of them instantly with the exception of Van Gogh, Cranach, Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Pissarro and the ballet figures of Degas.  I have made a few comments we discussed between ourselves and with some other visitors. 

Georges Seurat
The Bridge at Courbevoie
The Woman Powdering Herself (1888-90)

Paul Gauguin
Nevermore (1897)
Vincent Van Gogh
Peach Trees in Flower

Edouard Manet
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere

La Loge (1874)

Antibes (1888)
White, pink and blue

The Lac d’Annecy
The Card Players

Francesco Guardi
Venice: a view of Realto Bridge (1768)

Alan Ramsay
Portrait of Captain Sir William Peere Williams (1750s)

Pieter Bruegel The Elder
Landscape with the flight into Egypt

Van Dyck
Ecco Homo (1622/3)

Religious and classical themes.  The lighting was not ideal. stuff

Lucas Cranach 1
Adam and Eve (1526)

An amusing incident.  My companion was reading out the caption and on saying that Adam was scratching his head, two women commented that they had not noticed that.  (Ways of Seeing)

Zanobi di Domenico, Jacopo del Sellaio and Biagio di Antonio
Cassone (The Morelli Chest)

These cassone are beautifully laid out with the rear panel on show and the lid raised in order to show off all the paintings. 

Sketches are on show on the very top floor.  This is an exhibition ‘From Mantegna to Matisse’ On occasions the meticulous drawings are clearer than the end result.  The lighting was also suitable for my vision.

The Emperors Charlemagne and Sigismund (1507-10)

Rembrandt van Rijn
Two men in discussion (1641)

Vincent Van Gogh
A Tile Factory (1888)

Pieter Bruegel The Elder
A storm in the River Scheldt with a view of Antwerp

Pieter Janz. Saenredam
The South Ambulatory of St Bavokerk
Haarlem, 1634

Gianlorenzo Bernini
The Louvre, East Fa├žade 1664

John Roberts Cozens
Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome (1780)

A view from Somerset Gardens Looking towards London Bridge (1746-55)

The Post Impressionist section is on show on the top floor and the artists which I liked and have become familiar with are well represented. 

Georges Seurat
Female Nude 1879-81

Kallmunz 1903
Heinrich Campendonk
The Dream 1913
Friend of Kandinsky and belonged to same circle: der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider)

On the theme of the Last Judgement 1913
Improvisation on Mahogany

Max Pechstein
Women by the Sea 1919

Maurice de Vlaminck
Fishermen at Argenteuil 1906

Georges Braque
The Port of L’Estaque 1906

Raoul Dufy
July 14 at Le Havre 1905

Andre Derain
Fishermen at Collioure

Francis Bacon
Study for a portrait of Van Gogh VI 1957

Edvard Munch
Self-portrait 1902

Over the river at Bankside the Tate Modern Gallery has a show of Munch with many self portraits. 

Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich 1871
La Place Lafayette 1883

I had admired Pissarro when the Paris by Night was discussed in ‘Art through Words’.  On that occasion the National Gallery made tactile diagrams with perspective lines.  This helped in fixing the geometry in some Impressionist works.  I had later gone to the Clark exhibition on at Royal Academy which had many Pissarros. 

Tall trees at the Jas de Bouffan around 1883
Farm in Normandy around 1992

Note: The access is a bit tricky once the Somerset House complex has been reached.  The gallery entrance is to the right of the drive way with the gift and book shop on the left hand side.  There are lower floors accessible by lift for lavatories. 

I bought a catalogue of the collection and the following two postcards:

Camille Pissarro : Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich, 1871
Oil on canvas
44.5 x 72.5 cm

Georges Pierre Seurat: Man in a boat, c. 1884
Oil on canvas
15 x 24 cm