It’s a joy to see some of the jewels of the Courtauld Collection on show at the National Gallery – like stumbling into a party full of ‘old friends’ from the world of Impressionist and Post-impressionist art.

The Courtauld Collection is closing for two years and the glorious collections need temporary homes. Step up the National Gallery, the august gallery which Samuel Courtauld enjoyed and supported in his lifetime, which has offered to house some of the best examples of impressionist and post-impressionist art from the collection.

For anyone who has been to the Courtauld’s glamorous home within Somerset House, these paintings will be very familiar.  This exhibition, occupying three rooms within the National Gallery is all about the French impressionist painters who were at the vanguard of this new, and enduring style of painting. We have favourites such as Manet‘s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère – you can stare at that model’s face for hours while moving around the canvas to see the crowded nightclub and the astounding still life painting in the foreground.

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I liked Degas‘ portrait of his cousin, Elena Carafa – her slightly quizzical and disdainful expression really captures her character and you can imagine the pair chatting while the painting was made.

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It’s always good to see Pissarro‘s paintings close up and The Boulevarde Montmartre at Night is a painterly treat where you can see the rich layers applied to the canvas to create street lights on a busy street in a steady drizzle.

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Samuel Courtauld was a very shrewd collector of art.  He also believed that the arts, and understanding them, was a vital part of not just education but of people’s happiness and the general health of society.  As a successful industrialist and businessman, he navigated his family textile business to heady success – his family, of Huguenot origins, settled in London at the end of the 17th century as part of a community of French silk weavers. Success brought him the opportunity to indulge in serious philanthropy and appreciation of art. He developed a fascination for the work of Cézanne – first seeing a painting by him in 1922 – and resolved to collect his art. I share his delight in these paintings and The Card Players must be one of my favourite paintings. It’s lovely to know that it will be on show in a safe place until January 20th 2019.

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So, it’s good to know that, while the Courtauld is undergoing essential refurbishments, the fabulous collection will be on show elsewhere.  They look very comfortable indeed in their new/temporary home at the National Gallery.

Above: Georges Seurat, Young Woman Powdering Herself; Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Woman Seated in a Garden; Pierre Auguste-Renoir. La Loge; Pierre Bonnard, The Table.

 

Courtauld IMPRESSIONISTS from Manet to Cézanne, The Wohl Galleryies  17th September 2018 – 20th January 2019

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