The Courtauld Gallery Is Closing For Two Years, Catch It While You Can.

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 48 months ago

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The Courtauld Gallery Is Closing For Two Years, Catch It While You Can.

The Courtauld Gallery has one of London's finest collections of art, including a world class selection of Impressionist paintings.

It's the perfect place for art fans to while away an afternoon, but that's soon to (temporarily) end as The Courtauld Gallery closes for at least two years for a massive refurbishment.

As there's just over a month to catch some astounding masterpieces, we've pulled together some of the highlights of the collection that you should grab one last look at.

Trouble in paradise

Let's start at the very beginning, in the Biblical sense, that is. Lucas Cranach's classic painting of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Adam scratches his head contemplating whether to accept the fruit or not, while Satan the snake looks on. Don't do it Adam, it'll be like Brexit, but even messier.

Barmaids & prostitutes

Dealing with customers is the worst and we feel for this barmaid in Manet's painting as she looks lost in a reverie — probably wishing she was anywhere else. This painting plays with perspective by having the barmaid facing the viewer but the reflection behind the bar showing her dealing with a customer. This particular bar, Folies-Bergere, was famed as a place to pick up prostitutes and sometimes the barmaids were also available to clients, perhaps that explains the sadness behind her eyes.

Luscious landscape

One can walk through The Courtauld and instantly recognise any works in Cezanne's distinctive style, and this piece is a fabulous example of that. His technique gives texture to the greenery and superbly captures the sensation of the wind as it whips the leaves at the top of the painting.

A dull performance

You know a performance at the theatre is dull when the audience stops paying attention. In this couple the woman looks out at us while her male companion is looking up, presumably people watching at another box rather than viewing what's on stage. Renoir's effusive style is one we love but he's a divisive painter, as seen by the Renoir Sucks movement launched in America.

A dark dream

A man receives inspiration from a winged spirit while the swirling bodies in the background symbolise the vices — gluttony, envy, lust, avarice and sloth. This dream drawn by the great Michelangelo is the type we'd like to avoid — we prefer it when we score the winning goal at the World Cup. However, the detail in this drawing is superb and it's a rare work by Michelangelo that's on display in the UK.


The famous story of Van Gogh cutting off his own ear is as famous as his paintings. He argued with fellow painter Gauguin, sliced his ear off and handed it to a prostitute. The reason behind this has been hotly debated over the years since he died but this self-portrait captures the aftermath once he'd been patched up.

Not for pubic consumption

Modigliani loved his long faced nudes as seen in his recent show at Tate Modern. Nudes have always been a part of art but for some reason pubic hair used to be a big no-no. So when this painting was originally displayed in 1917 the police closed down the show on the grounds of indecency. It's a strange world where you can see all the breasts you want, but a few hairs cross the line.

Death & resurrection

The Courtauld collection contains some older works including this 15th century triptych showing the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ is mourned in the centre and then rises from death in the right panel. The kneeling man on the left panel was the person who commissioned the work, signalling that he wanted to be seen as a pious man.

Syphilis in Tahiti

Paul Gauguin left his wife and five children behind in France before travelling the world and landing in Tahiti. There he took three brides aged between 13 and 14 and proceeded to infect them and many other local girls with syphilis. He was a talented painter and an utter bastard. This painting titled Nevermore, which suggests it's inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, but the link was never confirmed by Gauguin so it's not clear if the bird symbolises death or not.

These are just a few of our favourites, The Courtald is full of treasures — but there's only one more month to see them.

The Courtauld Gallery closes for refurbishment from 3 September. Entrance is £8 for adults.

All images © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Post-publication note: After this article was published The National Gallery has announced that many of The Courtauld Gallery's masterpieces, including the Renoir and the Manet, will be available to view at The National Gallery from 17 September - 20 January 2019.

Last Updated 31 July 2018