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Courtauld Institute of Art

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Courtauld Institute of Art

Courtauld Institute of Art
Established 1932
Type Public
Chancellor HRH The Princess Royal (University of London)
Director Deborah Swallow[1]
Students 400
Location London, England, UK
Campus Urban
Affiliations University of London

The Courtauld Institute of Art UK , commonly referred to as The Courtauld, is a self-governing college of the University of London specialising in the study of the history of art.

The art collection of the Institute is known particularly for its French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and is housed in the Courtauld Gallery. The Institute and the Gallery are both in Somerset House, in the Strand in London.


The Institute was founded in 1932 through the philanthropic efforts of the industrialist and art collector Samuel Courtauld, the diplomat and collector Lord Lee of Fareham, and the art historian Sir Robert Witt. The Courtauld celebrated its 75th anniversary during the 2007–08 academic year.


Originally the Courtauld Institute was based in Home House, a Robert Adam-designed townhouse in London's Portman Square. Since 1989, it has been based in the north wing of Somerset House.


The Strand block of Somerset House, designed by William Chambers from 1775–1780, has housed the Courtauld Institute since 1989.
The Courtauld Institute of Art is a leading centre for the study of the history and conservation of art and architecture. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate teaching to around 450 students each year. Degrees are awarded by the University of London.

The Courtauld was the only History of Art department in the UK to be awarded a top 5* grade in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise,[2] was ranked second nationally for History of Art in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise[3] and ranked first nationally for History and History of Art in The Guardian’s 2011 University Guide.[4] It is known throughout the world as one of the leading specific institutions for the study of fine arts.

Undergraduate study

The only undergraduate course offered by the Courtauld is a BA in the History of Art. This is a full-time course designed to introduce students to all aspects of the study of western art.

Postgraduate study

Several taught courses are offered at postgraduate level: Masters degrees in the History of Art, Curating the Art Museum, the History of Buddhist Art, and the Conservation of Wall Painting are taught alongside Diploma courses in the Conservation of Easel Paintings and the History of Art. Students in the History of Art Master program have to choose a specialization ranging from antiquity to early modern to global contemporary artwork. Special options are taught in small class sizes of 5-10 students, allowing an optimal discussion between faculty members and students.

Study resources

The Courtauld has two photographic libraries which started as the private collections of two ennobled benefactors: the Conway Library, covering architecture, architectural drawings, sculpture and illuminated manuscripts, named after Lord Martin Conway and the Witt Library, after Sir Robert Witt, covering paintings, drawings and engravings and containing over two million reproductions of works by over 70,000 artists.[5] In 2009, it was decided that the Witt Library would not continue to add new material to the collection.[6] The Book Library is one of the UK's largest archives of art history books, periodicals and exhibition catalogues. There is a Slide Library which also covers films, and an IT suite.

An online image collection provides access to more than 40,000 images, including paintings and drawings from the Courtauld Gallery, and over 35,000 photographs of architecture and sculpture from the Conway Library.[7] Two other websites and sell high resolution digital files to scholars, publishers and broadcasters, and photographic prints to a wide public audience.[8][9]

The Courtauld uses a virtual learning environment to deliver course material to its students.[10] Since 2004, the Courtauld has published an annual research journal, immediations, edited by current members of the research student body. Each cover of the journal has been commissioned by a leading contemporary artist.

Courtauld Gallery

The art collection of the Institute is housed in the Courtauld Gallery. The collection was begun by the founder of the Institute, Samuel Courtauld, who presented an extensive collection of mainly French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in 1932. It was enhanced by further gifts in the 1930s and a bequest in 1948, and has since received many significant donations and bequests. The Gallery contains some 530 paintings and over 26,000 drawings and prints.[11]

The Courtauld Gallery is open to the public. Since 1989 it has been housed in the Strand block of Somerset House, which was the first home of the Royal Academy, founded in 1768. In April 2013 the Head of the Courtauld Gallery was Ernst Vegelin.



Courtauld is especially well known for its large number of graduates, often called "the Courtauld Mafia," who have gone on to direct major art museums around the world.[12] However, alumni are prominent in many other areas of the arts and beyond:


As of April 2013, the faculty of the Institute included:


The Directors of the Courtauld Institute have been:

William George Constable 1932–1936
T. S. R. Boase 1936–1947
Anthony Blunt 1947–1974
Peter Lasko 1974–1985
Michael Kauffmann 1985–1995
Eric Fernie 1995–2003
James Cuno 2003–2004
Deborah Swallow 2004–


  1. ^ Professor Deborah Swallow. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  2. ^ Academic Staff, Information for students. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  3. ^ RAE 2008: history of art, architecture and design results. The Guardian, 18 December 2008. Accessed April 2013.
  4. ^ University guide 2011: History and history of art. The Guardian, 8 June 2010. Accessed April 2013.
  5. ^ Image Libraries: Witt Library. The Courtauld Institute of Art, 2009. Accessed April 2013.
  6. ^ Courtauld Institute: Cuts Challenge Witt Library. ArtLyst, 30 March 2010. Accessed April 2013.
  7. ^ Art and architecture. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  8. ^ Courtauld Images. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  9. ^ Courtauld Prints. Courtauld Gallery of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  10. ^ Virtual Learning Environment. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  11. ^ John Murdoch, The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House. London: Thames & Hudson, 1998, p. 7.
  12. ^ Simon, Robin (19 September 2007), "Masters of the Artistic Universe", The Spectator, retrieved 5 August 2014 

External links

  • Courtauld Institute of ArtOfficial website of the
  • "The Courtauld Institute of Art: An Introduction", Courtauld Institute, YouTube video

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