The Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery ★☆☆
The University of London has a spectacular gallery of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings
The Courtauld Institute of Art is a college of the University of London, and its gallery in Somerset House contains a small (530 paintings) but spectacular collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings (Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Modigliani, etc.) as well as a choice handful of Italian and Flemish Old Masters (Botticelli, Lucas Cranach, Rubens, Parmigianino, etc.).
The paintings themselves are very carefully chosen, most of them clearly masterworks (often this kind of small museum cobbled from private collections suffers from name-checking famous artists by acquiring minor paintings by them).
Several are clearly quite personal to the artist:
- Van Gogh's famous self-portrait with his head bandaged, painted just two weeks after he had cut off his ear (December 30, 1888). Note that he actually mutilated his left ear, but since he made this portrait by looking into a mirror, it appears to be his right ear.
- Thomas Gainsborough's portait of his wife, Margaret.
- Peter Paul Rubens's family portrait of his friend, sometimes collaborator, and fellow Flemish master, Jan Brueghel the Elder.
- Renoir's portrait of Ambroise Vollard, a hugely significant French art dealer who was among the first to champion such up-and-comers as Renoir himself—along with then-unknowns Cézanne, Picasso, Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh and many others.