Wednesday, December 21, 2011

London Retrospective IV: The Courtauld Gallery

London has some of the finest museums in the world, but for the unwary they are not without their perils. The vastness of some, for example, the British Museum, is overwhelming. You enter tormented with the knowledge that unless you have the strength of character to be brutally selective, you will only be able to see a fraction of their treasures before mental and physical fatigue set in. You can end up forgetting what you have been able to take in, but too exhausted even to care.

The Courtauld Gallery in the Strand block of Somerset House is relatively small by the standard of most London museums. It’s a joy to stroll through its elegant rooms, fully engage with its numerous gems and be spared the distracting, energy-draining impediment of sardine-like crowds that frequent most other institutions, even outside of the tourist season.

One of its many strengths is its Impressionist and Post Impressionist collection, some of which are featured here, along with an exquisite portrait by the early German Expressionist artist Paula Modersohn-Becker, on loan from a private collection.

From top:

Staircase from main gallery

From left: Paul Cezanne, Pot of Flowers and Pears, c 1888-90, oil on canvas and Still Life with Plaster Cupid, c 1894, oil on paper laid on board

Former Ante-Room of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquities; painting in the ceiling cove: Biagio Rebecca: panel from The Four Elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water); above mantle: Paul Cezanne: Man with a Pipe, c 1892-96, oil on canvas

Edgar Degas, Dancers, contre-jour

Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Follies Bergere, 1882, oil on canvas (on right: Shane Jones)

Georges Seurat, Young Woman Powdering Herself, c 1888-90, oil on canvas

Georges Seurat, The Bridge at Courbevoie, c 1886-87, oil on canvas

Vincent van Gogh, Peach Trees in Flower, 1889, oil on canvas

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Portrait of a Girl, 1906, oil on board