Courtauld Institute of Art

Courtauld Institute of Art
Somerset House, Strand.jpg
Somerset House in the Strand, home of the Institute and Gallery
Established1932 (1932)
Endowment£44.4 million (as of 31 July 2020)[1]
Budget£31.9 million (2019-20)[1]
ChancellorThe Princess Royal
(as Chancellor of the University of London)
DirectorDeborah Swallow
Students545 (2019/20)[2]
Undergraduates230 (2019/20)[2]
Postgraduates315 (2019/20)[2]
United Kingdom

51°30′39″N 0°07′02″W / 51.51083°N 0.11722°W / 51.51083; -0.11722Coordinates: 51°30′39″N 0°07′02″W / 51.51083°N 0.11722°W / 51.51083; -0.11722
AffiliationsUniversity of London
The Courtauld Institute of Art logo.svg

The Courtauld Institute of Art (UK: /ˈkɔːrtld/), commonly referred to as The Courtauld, is a self-governing college of the University of London specialising in the study of the history of art and conservation. It is among the most prestigious specialist colleges for the study of the history of art in the world and is widely known for the disproportionate number of directors of major museums drawn from its small body of alumni.[3][4]

The art collection of the Institute is known particularly for its French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and is housed in the Courtauld Gallery.

The Institute and the Gallery are both based in Somerset House, in the Strand in London. As of 2019, the Institute's teaching and research activities have temporarily relocated to Vernon Square, London, while its Somerset House site undergoes a major regeneration project.


The 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.[5]

Originally the Courtauld Institute was based in Home House, a Robert Adam-designed townhouse in London's Portman Square. The Strand block of Somerset House, designed by William Chambers from 1775–1780, has housed the Courtauld Institute since 1989.[5]

The Courtauld Institute has featured several times on the BBC's arts programme Fake or Fortune.[6] In April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute offered digital "mini festivals" called Open Courtauld Hour.[7]

Academic profile

The Courtauld Institute of Art is the major centre for the study of the history and conservation of art and architecture in the United Kingdom. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate teaching to around 400 students each year.[8] Degrees are awarded by the University of London.

The Courtauld was ranked first in the United Kingdom for History and History of Art in The Guardian 's 2011 University Guide and was confirmed in this rank for research quality in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.[9][10] The Independent has called it "probably the most prestigious specialist college for the study of the history of art in the world."[11]

The Courtauld was ranked, again, first in the United Kingdom for History and History of Art in The Guardian's 2017 University Guide.[12]


According to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, The Courtauld hosts the highest proportion of the UK's world-leading and internationally excellent research out of all higher education institutions with 95% of research rated in the top two categories (4*/3*), 56% of which was rated in the 4* category, tied for highest in the UK with London Business School.[13]

Undergraduate study

The only undergraduate course offered by The Courtauld is a BA in the History of Art. This is a full-time course designed to introduce students to all aspects of the study of art history.[14]

Postgraduate study

Several taught courses are offered at postgraduate level: master's degrees in history of art, curating the art museum, the history of Buddhist art, and the conservation of wall painting are taught alongside diploma courses in the conservation of easel paintings and the history of art.[15] Students in the history of art master's programme have to choose a specialisation ranging from antiquity to early modern to global contemporary artwork. Special options are taught in small class sizes of 5–10 students.

Study resources

The Courtauld has two photographic libraries which started as the private collections of two benefactors: the Conway Library, covering architecture, architectural drawings, sculpture and illuminated manuscripts, named after the Lord Conway of Allington and the Witt Library, after Sir Robert Witt, covering paintings, drawings and engravings and containing over two million reproductions of works by over 70,000 artists.[16][17] In 2009, it was decided that the Witt Library would not continue to add new material to the collection,[18] and in 2017 a mass digitisation project which will make both Witt and Conway items available online commenced as part of Courtauld Connects.[19][17]

The book library is one of the UK's largest holdings of art history books, periodicals and exhibition catalogues.

There is a slide library which also covers films, and an IT suite.[20][21]

An online image collection provides access to more than 40,000 images, including paintings and drawings from the Courtauld Gallery, and over 35,000 photographs of architecture and sculpture from the Conway Library.[22] Two other websites and sell high resolution digital files to scholars, publishers and broadcasters, and photographic prints to a wide public audience.[23][24]

The Courtauld uses a virtual learning environment to deliver course material to its students.[25] Since 2004, The Courtauld has published an annual research journal, Immediations, edited by current members of the research student body. Each cover of the journal has been commissioned by a leading contemporary artist.[26] Additionally, together with the Warburg Institute, the institute publishes The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, an annual publication of about 300 pages.[27]

Courtauld Gallery

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882) by Édouard Manet, in the Courtauld Gallery's collection since 1934

The art collection of the Institute is housed in the Courtauld Gallery. The collection was begun by the founder of the Institute, Samuel Courtauld, who presented an extensive collection of mainly French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in 1932. It was enhanced by further gifts in the 1930s and a bequest in 1948, and has since received many significant donations and bequests. The Gallery contains some 530 paintings and over 26,000 drawings and prints.[28]

The Courtauld Gallery is not presently open to the public, having closed on 3 September 2018 for at least two years for a major redevelopment[29][30] Since 1989 it has been housed in the Strand block of Somerset House, which was the first home of the Royal Academy, founded in 1768. In April 2013 the Head of the Courtauld Gallery was Ernst Vegelin.

Notable people associated with the Courtauld

The Courtauld is well known for its many graduates who have become directors of art museums around the world.[4] These include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the British Museum, London; the Tate, London; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco; the National Gallery of Art, Washington; and the Museo del Prado, Madrid. The number of notable alumni in the fine arts has earned graduates the "Courtauld Mafia" nickname.[31]


As of 2013, the following individuals were part of the research and academic staff:[32][8][needs update]


The Directors of the Courtauld Institute have been:

William George Constable 1932–1936
T. S. R. Boase 1936–1947
Anthony Blunt 1947–1974
Peter Lasko 1974–1985
Michael Kauffmann 1985–1995
Eric Fernie 1995–2003
James Cuno 2003–2004
Deborah Swallow 2004–


  1. ^ a b "Annual Report and Financial Statements for 2019–2020" (PDF). Courtauld Institute of Art. p. 27. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Where do HE students study?". Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  3. ^ Chaplin, Elizabeth (1994). Sociology and Visual Representation. New York: Routledge. pp. 53–56. ISBN 0415073626.
  4. ^ a b Simon, Robin (19 September 2007), "Masters of the Artistic Universe", The Spectator, retrieved 5 August 2014
  5. ^ a b "History". The Courtauld Institute of Art. 2015–2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  6. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/8612890/Master-forgery-17th-century-work-exposed-as-a-fake.html
  7. ^ https://www.arthistorynews.com/articles/5426_Open_Courtauld_Hour
  8. ^ a b Academic Staff, Information for students. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  9. ^ "University guide 2011: History and history of art | Education". theguardian. 7 June 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Results & submissions : REF 2014 : View results and submissions by UOA". Results.ref.ac.uk. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  11. ^ "Courtauld Institute of Art (University of London) – A-Z Unis & Colleges – Getting into University". The Independent. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  12. ^ "University University league tables 2017 – the full rankings". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  13. ^ "University Research Excellence Framework 2014 – the full rankings". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  14. ^ "BA (Hons) History of Art". The Courtauld Institute of Art. 2015–2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  15. ^ "Postgraduate Taught Courses". The Courtauld Institute of Art. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  16. ^ Image Libraries: Witt Library. The Courtauld Institute of Art, 2009. Accessed April 2013.
  17. ^ a b Bilson, Tom (2020). "The Courtauld's Witt and Conway Photographic Libraries: Two approaches to digitisation". Art Libraries Journal. 45 (1): 35–42. doi:10.1017/alj.2019.38. ISSN 0307-4722.
  18. ^ Courtauld Institute: Cuts Challenge Witt Library. ArtLyst, 30 March 2010. Accessed April 2013.
  19. ^ https://connects.courtauld.ac.uk/stories/discoveries-from-our-photographic-archives/
  20. ^ "Courtauld Image Libraries". The Courtauld Institute of Art. 2015–2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  21. ^ "Student IT Services". The Courtauld Institute of Art. 2015–2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  22. ^ Art and architecture. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  23. ^ Courtauld Images. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  24. ^ Courtauld Prints. Courtauld Gallery of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  25. ^ Virtual Learning Environment Archived 9 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  26. ^ "About immediations". The Courtauld Institute of Art. 2015–2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  27. ^ http://warburg.sas.ac.uk/publications/journal/
  28. ^ John Murdoch, The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House. London: Thames & Hudson, 1998, p. 7.
  29. ^ "Gallery Closure". The Courtauld Institute of Art. 2015–2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  30. ^ Brown, Mark (23 November 2017). "Courtauld Gallery to close for two years for £50m revamp". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  31. ^ Simon, Robin (17 September 2007). "Masters of the Artistic Universe". The Spectator.
  32. ^ Research: Academic Staff Archived 3 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.

External links

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