Discover Christmas at The Courtauld Shop

With mistletoe and tinsel in hand, the Courtauld Shop Team have been extensively preparing for the Festive season. We invite you to discover an array of festive and gallery-inspired gifts we have to offer this year. Explore a variety of hand-glazed ceramics, ornaments and trimmings, art prints, jewellery and gourmet treats. Hand-crafted decorations are available from top UK designers such as Je Vous En Prie and Amica. We also have Farrah’s of Harrogate gourmet biscuits, Turkish delights and Schlünder Stollen Fruit Cake.

We are situated in the elegant surroundings of Somerset House in the heart of Covent Garden. Our staff are knowledgeable and are eager to help you find that special gift.

The shop is open from 10:00 to 18:00 and extended hours will coincide with the November Peter Lanyon Late Event.

You can also find us online

Showcase Week Starts Today!

The Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room Presents…

SHOWCASE WEEK: Land to Shore

For one week only the team of postgraduate Print Room Assistants will be presenting a selection of five of our most striking works on paper for public viewing, thereby marking the third presentation of the biannual Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room Showcase Week.  The first two installments highlighted depictions of The Nude and Scaled-Up, while the forthcoming week is dedicated to the study of prints and drawings that deal with the theme of Land to Shore.  The aim of this theme is to focus attention on how artists explore the relationship between land and sea, the extent to which a division is created by the coast or the horizon, and how this is interpreted on paper.  Including drawings and prints from the 1500s to the 1900s by artists from Bruegel to Turner to Kokoschka, this Showcase Week presentation encompasses the impressive breadth of The Courtauld’s collection of works on paper in terms of period, media, geography, and function.

‘Land to Shore’ also complements two exhibitions currently on view in The Courtauld Gallery, both of which focus on different elements of landscape.  The display in the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery, Panorama, explores invented, observed, and mapped panoramas while the Gallery’s major autumn exhibition, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings, highlights the artist’s near-abstract paintings of the coast of his native West Cornwall from the 1950s.

Between 1.30pm and 5pm this week our doors will be open without any appointment necessary, and each work will be on display for one day only.  Our friendly Print Room Assistants are eager to introduce their selected prints and drawings to the public and will be on hand to discuss them and answer questions.

The following works will be the focus of each days session:



Pieter the Elder Bruegel (ca. 1525-1569), A storm in the River Schelde with a view of Antwerp, Circa 1559, Pen, brown ink and graphite, D.1978.PG.11

Two-thirds of this striking drawing are dedicated to a vivid study of the motion of waves during a storm. Beyond the receding waves of the river Schelde the city of Antwerp, one of the North Sea’s premier trading ports, can be seen. The visual dominance of the water dwarfs the city and the ships, underscoring the power of nature.




Melchior Küsel (1626-1683) after Johann Wilhelm Baur (1607 – 1642), Coastal Cityscape with Ships, 1670, Etching, G.1990.WL.3018.79

This imaginary harbour scene by the German artist Johann Wilhelm Baur is based upon Venetian cityscapes. Here the manmade quay that cuts at right angles into the water is emphasised through the monumental buildings built along this artificial shoreline.




Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714 – 1789), Harbour scene, Naples, around 1750, Pen and ink, brown watercolour, graphite, D.1952.RW.1798

Vernet drew the Darsena (harbour) of Naples several times on his many trips there while living in Italy between 1734 and 1753. Here, using only his pen, ink, and brown washes on paper (left bare in places to depict the surface of the water reflecting sky) he captures the intensity of Mediterranean light.




Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), Storm on Margate Sands, around 1835-40, Graphite, watercolour, bodycolour (white and blue) on paper, D.1974.STC.2

J.M.W. Turner produced a number of watercolours depicting the coastal landscape of Margate, a town where he went to school in his childhood and often visited throughout his life. In this vibrant watercolour, Turner focuses on the interplay between land, sea, and sky, as well as light and darkness and atmospheric elements by masterfully combining the use of different media.




In this drawing, Kokoschka achieved rich colouristic effects in the foreground by applying washes in a swift, painterly manner. This vibrancy separates the land from the steel blue sea, rendered in more uniform horizontal strokes.


Don't Miss Next Weeks Showcase Week!


Bruegel’s A Storm in the River Schelde with a view of Antwerp

Next week marks the start of  ‘Land to Shore’, the third Showcase Week hosted by the Prints and Drawings Study Room.  In response to this years Autumn Showcase display Panorama and exhibition Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings the team of Print Room Assistants have selected from The Courtauld Gallery’s rich collection of works on paper, five works that explore the relationship between land and water.

Each day of Showcase Week a different work will be presented by our Print Room Assistants. During the we are inviting visitors to drop by to see the work and learn more about it.  Showcase Week is a fantastic chance for visitors to see works from the collection that aren’t on display and learn more about what the Prints and Drawings Study Room.

We will be starting  Showcase Week with Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s (1564-1637) dramatic study of waves, dominating the distant view of Antwerp in his pen and ink drawing A Storm in the River Schelde with a view of Antwerp. Tomorrow’s print by Melchior Küsel (1626-1683) after Johann Wilhelm Baur (1607-1642) looks at how humans craft landscape in constructing a quay.  Later in the week we will be indulged with works by Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) (Wednesday 28), Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) (Thursday 29), and Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) (Friday 30).

This is going to be an exciting week, exploring how different artists engage with the relationship between land and water through printmaking and drawing.  We look forward to welcoming and sharing these works with you.

Visitors are invited to drop in to see and hear about the selected work each day of Showcase Week between 1.30 and 5.00pm.

Taking to the skies in the name of research.

As we open the doors this week to the Courtauld Gallery’s autumn exhibition Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings. Curator Barnaby Wright shares with us the great lengths curators will go to all in the name of research…

Toby and Barney with Glider

From left: Toby Treves and Barnaby Wright with Glider

Being a curator can take you to some unusual places. I thought I had experienced my fair share of these during my career at The Courtauld Gallery but I was made to think again the other week as I strapped myself into the tiny cockpit of a glider and moments later was catapulted a thousand feet into the skies above Luton. ‘Strange’, my instructor exclaimed as the launch cable released with a loud bang, ‘this dial says we are going up and this one says we are going down.’ It is at moments like this that commitment to one’s career is gently tested.

I had been persuaded to spend a day gliding by Toby Treves, the co-curator of our exhibition, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings.  Taking up gliding had given him new and vivid insights into the remarkable series of paintings Lanyon produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which were based upon his experiences as a glider pilot.  Sitting at the time on a reassuringly earth-bound bench in The Courtauld Gallery, I had agreed to follow suit – after all, our exhibition policy lays great emphasis upon the importance of primary research….

Lanyon’s decision to take up gliding was fuelled by his desire to experience the landscape of his native West Cornwall as completely as possible.  During the 1950s, he produced radical, near-abstract paintings of the tough coastal landscape around the Penwith peninsula.  One day in the summer of 1956 Lanyon was walking across a high cliff top when he looked up,  saw three gliders soaring overhead and realised that this was the experience he needed.  He began gliding seriously in 1959 and went solo for the first time in 1960, clocking up many flying hours over the next few years.  Freed from a land-bound perspective, Lanyon poured his new gliding experiences into his art, producing paintings that offer a thrilling sense of his encounters with the land, sea and air, collapsing the multiple perspectives of his flights into each new composition.  The paintings were also profoundly shaped by Lanyon’s new-found glider pilot’s knowledge of the character of the air – its different movements, textures and forces, as well as the dangers and life-lines that it presents as one navigates through the thermals and up-draughts that are the invisible map essential for the glider to successfully complete a flight.  Lanyon’s gliding paintings stand as a unique achievement of twentieth-century art, reinventing and furthering the tradition of landscape painting in ways that can also be seen to engage deeply with the pressing existentialist concerns of the Post-War world. Sadly this remarkable project was cut short by Lanyon’s unexpected death in August 1964 whilst recovering from injuries sustained in a gliding accident.

I may have had some initial reservations about following Lanyon into the skies, but my day gliding was both enlightening and exhilarating.  It is quite unlike the experience of powered flight, even in a small airplane.  Rather than just enjoying the view of the land below from a stable altitude, in a glider one is fully immersed scanning both land and sky for signs of possible thermals, swooping around to feel them out and then being lifted up, enabling you to soar further afield.  This unique experience of movement in all directions through space is fundamental to Lanyon’s gliding paintings and helps to explain why they are so unlike straightforward aerial views,  so familiar from photographs or from peering out of the window whilst flying over Heathrow.

The Courtauld’s exhibition is the first devoted to Lanyon’s gliding paintings and is an opportunity to see this extraordinary body of work.  It brings together major paintings from public and private collections internationally, some never before exhibited in this country, alongside a small group of his related constructions.


Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings is on display at the Courtauld Gallery from 15 October 2015 until 17 January 2016. For more information visit


Watch Barney in action

Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings Land in the Gallery.

Assistant Registrar George Mogg reveals some installation highlights.

George Peter Lanyon

George Mogg, Assistant Registrar of Collections.

One of the most nerve racking aspects of exhibition installation is hanging an artwork in the presence of a courier. Un-wrapping and revealing the painting when it’s been liberated from its traveling crate is often tense.  In my role as Assistant Registrar, I help to co-ordinate the epic journeys that the paintings will make from all over the world, so I am hyper aware of their vulnerability, and always relieved when they arrive here unscathed.

The daunting aspect of unpacking a work with a courier is compensated by the moment afterwards, when you look at the work together.  In the first instance the courier will be quickly scanning the work to check for any obvious issues or changes which may have occurred in transit, whereas I am enjoying looking at the piece for the first time in the flesh.  I will have looked at a reproduction countless times in the last 6 months, preparing for the exhibition, but nothing compares to seeing it in person.  The first painting that we hang in the exhibition is Airscape, a large unglazed work measuring 125 x 186cm, and as we place it onto foam blocks for condition checking, the unprotected canvas trembles.  The inevitable period of waiting around before hanging allows for a pleasurably informal look at the work with the courier.  She points out to me the threads and fluff that are visible on the surface of the painting – trapped in the paint.  We briefly discuss what a tragedy it would be if these bits of detritus were to fall from the surface – as they would lift with them a layer of the paint.  I realise anew how fragile this work is.  She highlights a hair that is in the bottom right corner of the canvas, part of which is lifted from the surface – the two ends pinned in the paint.  It occurs to me that she probably always checks to see if it’s still in place… and I’m relieved to find that it is.

As we offer the work up to the wall, so that the exhibition co-curator Dr Barnaby Wright can take a look at the position, the canvas lies a few inches away from my face.  I can look at the brush strokes and other marks in the paint’s surface in great detail.  This feels very intimate, and suddenly you feel close to the work and the action of painting.  Perhaps it’s the lack of glazing – but these works do feel fresh from the studio.  I have time to explore the canvas as we experiment with the height of the work, raising and lowering it; Barnaby is aiming to evoke feeling of being immersed in the picture plane.  These are large paintings, and we settle on a centre line of 155cm so that when the viewer stands a meter away, the canvas fills their vision without needing to look up.  This perhaps creates a slightly vertiginous sensation of looking down into a landscape.  It’s a key point in the installation – this decision will determine the height of all the works that we hang, so it’s got to be the right call.

After hanging and pinning the painting we thank the courier for bringing over the work. 1 down, 17 to go…