Curto Gallery


A fairly well-known building, which is interesting in itself thanks to the wonderful work of the architect. Well, a bonus to this is the collection of paintings in a special gallery. At the beginning of its existence, the gallery, then still just a palace, belonged to the Duke of Somerset, and then became the property of the royal court.

During this time, the palace was quite changed and overgrown with turbulent history, especially during the civil war. At different times, many followers of the Queen of England lived here, as well as Elizabeth I herself, before her coronation. Also, Oliver Cromwell, the famous architects Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren, worked and died here. At different times in the palace there were political upheavals with conspiracies, political killings and many other significant events in the history of England.

As for the gallery itself, but at the moment there are more than 25,000 exhibits from the 15th to the 20th century, paintings by artists such as Botticelli, Van Dyck, Rubens, the best collection of impressionists throughout the country. Here you can find such rare exhibits as Van Gogh's self-portrait, the great landscapes of Manet and even some paintings by Renoir and Cezanne.

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Curto Gallery is a small art museum located in Somerset House, on Strand. The British Telegraph wrote of him like this: "One of the world's greatest small art museums." There is no contradiction here: the local collection will delight any connoisseur.

The gallery is part of the Curto Institute of the Arts, which, in turn, is part of the University of London as a self-governing college. The institute was founded in 1932 by three prominent people: industrialist and collector Samuel Curto, diplomat and philanthropist Lord Lee Fairham and art critic Sir Robert Witt.

Curto, who made a successful artificial fiber business, was one of the first British collectors to show interest in French impressionists and post-impressionists. In the twenties, he assembled an extensive collection, which included the work of Van Gogh (including the famous "Self-portrait with a bandaged ear"), Mans (including the equally famous "Bar at the Foley Berger"), Cezanne ("Card Players") , Renoir ("Lodge"), as well as Degas, Pizarro, Gauguin, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani. It was they who formed the basis of the gallery of the institute, which Kurto continued to donate works of art throughout the thirties. Dying in 1947, he bequeathed to the gallery his entire collection.

A significant contribution to the collection was made by Lord Lee Fairham, who added here after World War II the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder (“Adam and Eve”), Rubens (oil sketch for the great “Descent from the Cross” of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp). Sir Robert Witt, in turn, bequeathed to the gallery a collection of paintings by old masters, about twenty thousand engravings and more than three thousand drawings. His son John Witt continued the work of his father, giving a huge amount of English watercolors and drawings.

The gallery replenishment process continued throughout the second half of the 20th century: in 1968, the outstanding art critic Pamela Diamand donated her collection of works, in 1966 - Mark Gambier Perry, in 1967 - Dr. William Wycliffe Spooner. Now the local collection has 530 paintings, more than 26 thousand drawings and prints. A special part of the gallery is the collection on display here, which belonged to the English artist Thomas Gambier Perry - it contains paintings of the early Renaissance, reliefs, majolica, enamel, glass.

The gallery is located in the elegant Somerset House, an 18th-century building on the banks of the Thames, in the rooms where the Royal Academy of Arts was once located. The interiors here are magnificent, especially the wide spiral staircase that visitors climb (but there is also an elevator). At the entrance to the second floor there are very beautiful floor lamps in the form of footmen holding lamps.


The Courtauld 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 art collection at the Courtauld was begun by Samuel Courtauld, who in the same year presented an extensive collection of paintings, mainly French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. He made further gifts later in the 1930s and a bequest in 1948.

His collection included Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and a version of the Dejeuner sur l'HerbeRenoir's La loge, landscapes by Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, a ballet scene by Edgar Degas, and a group of eight major works by Cézanne. Other paintings include Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Peach blossoms in the crauGauguin's Nevermore and Te rerioa, and important works by Seurat, Henri "le Douanier" Rousseau, Toulouse-Lautrec and Modigliani.

Further bequests were added after the Second World War, most notably the collection of Old Master paintings assembled by Lord Lee, a founder of the Institute. This included Cranach's Adam and eve and a sketch in oils by Peter Paul Rubens for what is arguably his masterpiece, the Deposition altarpiece in Antwerp Cathedral.

Sir Robert Witt, also a founder of the Courtauld Institute, was an outstanding benefactor and bequeathed his important collection of Old Master and British drawings in 1952. His bequest included 20,000 prints and more than 3000 drawings. His son, Sir John Witt, later gave more English watercolors and drawings to the Gallery.

In 1958 Pamela Diamand, the daughter of Roger Fry (1866–1934), the eminent art critic and founder of the Omega Workshops, donated his collection of 20th-century art including works by Bloomsbury Group artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

In 1966 Mark Gambier-Parry, son of Major Ernest Gambier-Parry, bequeathed the diverse collection of art formed by his grandfather, Thomas Gambier Parry, which ranged from Early Italian Renaissance painting to majolica, medieval enamel and ivory carvings, and other types of art (see section below).

In 1974 a group of thirteen watercolors by Turner was presented in memory of Sir Stephen Courtauld, famous for restoring Eltham Palace, and the brother of Samuel Courtauld, one of the founders of the Institute.

In 1978 the Courtauld received the Princes Gate Collection of Old Master paintings and drawings formed by Count Antoine Seilern. The collection rivals the Samuel Courtauld Collection in importance. It includes paintings by Bernardo Daddi, Robert Campin, Bruegel, Quentin Matsys, Van Dyck and Tiepolo, but is strongest in the works of Rubens. The bequest also included a group of 19th- and 20th-century works by Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Oskar Kokoschka.

More recently the Lillian Browse and Alastair Hunter collections have given the Courtauld more late 19th- and 20th-century paintings, drawings and sculptures.

A collection of more than 50 British watercolors, including eight by Turner, was left to the Gallery by Dorothy Scharf in 2004.

The gallery closed on 3rd September 2018 for at least two years during a major redevelopment costing £ 50M.


From 1958 to 1989 the Courtauld collection was housed in part of the premises of the Warburg Institute in Woburn Square, it was thus separated from the Courtauld Institute, which was in Home House, Portman Square.

Since 1989 it has been housed, together with the Courtauld Institute, in the North or Strand block of Somerset House, in the rooms designed and purpose-built by Sir William Chambers for the learned societies, namely the Royal Academy (of which Chambers was the first Treasurer), the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries.

The Royal Academy occupied them from their completion in 1780 until it moved to the new National Gallery building in Trafalgar Square in 1837. Inscribed over the entrance to the Great Room, in which the annual Royal Academy summer exhibition was held, is the form>

History of creation

The Curto Institute of Art was founded in 1932 at the University of London as an independent college working on its own funds (which it received from philanthropists). Art history and other disciplines related to art were taught there.

There were three founders who created and paid for this college, and all of them were owners of large collections of works of art.

The most impressive collection, consisting of paintings by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, belonged to the industrialist Samuel Curto. After the college opened, he presented him with his collection, created a gallery in the college and opened it to the public. So the canvases of Claude Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Modigliani appeared in the collection. Later, two other philanthropists did the same.

I must say that the gallery of the Courto Institute still doesn’t buy paintings - it was replenished mainly through gifts, quickly grew in this way and since 1989 it has occupied the entire part of the building that was once allocated to the university.

The college also still exists, it still specializes in art history, only students are allowed into its premises, but the gallery of the Courto Institute is open to the public and can be viewed.

Now in the collection of more than 26 thousand exhibits, covering the period between the 15th and 20th centuries. Here you can see paintings by Peter Bruegel the Elder, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Tintoretto, 29 paintings by Rubens, paintings by Van Dyck, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Gainsborough, but most importantly - the best collection of impressionists and post-impressionists in Britain. The famous self-portrait of Van Gogh (the one on which he has his ears cut off), the landscapes of Claude Monet, the ballerina Degas, several paintings by Renoir (including the famous “Theater Box”), 12 paintings by Cezanne, several paintings by Gauguin and much, much more. At the moment, this is one of the best collections of impressionists in the world outside of France.

Be sure to go there if you like impressionism - this is a large and interesting collection. And if you don’t go to the gallery, the place is still very pleasant: an elegant light old building, in the center of the courtyard is a fountain, it’s quiet - in general, it’s a pleasure to sit.

Practical information

The gallery is open daily from 10:00 to 18:00. The weekend is December 25 and 26.

Ticket price: 8 GBP. Children under 18 go free.

Temporary exhibitions are also constantly held, always very good. Ticket price during the year may vary depending on the program of exhibitions and expositions.

Official address: London, WC2R 0RN, Strand, Somerset House, The Courtauld Institute of Art. Finding a gallery is very simple: it opens with a facade and a main entrance to the interesting tourist street Strand. The nearest metro station is Temple, it is very close, walk no longer than 5 minutes.

Around the gallery

The gallery is in an interesting place with many attractions. Across the road from it begins Covent Garden - a theater district with a lot of theaters and preserved historical buildings. A bit further towards City is Holborn, the judicial district where the old Innes have been preserved (historically, this is something like medieval dormitories for lawyers), and one of them, Temple Inn, is located very close by. The gallery faces Strand Street - once it was a Roman road, now there are many historical buildings, theaters and the famous Savoy Hotel.

There are many cafes and restaurants, both in Covent Garden and in Holborn, including not bad ones, but if you want more expensive, but better, then it is better to look in Holborn.