Lates Archive

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

Belle Époque: Music and Art

Tempe Nell, Public Programmes at The Courtauld Gallery

The period between 1870 and 1914 has been called by some La Belle Époque – or the Beautiful Era – a time when Paris grew as a hive of musical, literary and artistic activity.

French and international composers, artists and writers congregated in the bohemian cafes and dance halls of Montmatre, where they shared creative and political ideas.

I have put together a Belle Époque themed playlist ahead of this week’s Bohemian Paris Late

In this post I am going to look in detail at how composers, artists and performers came into contact with each others’ work through the café culture of Paris in the late 19th century.

I am also going to focus on how the sexuality of women became a major theme across the arts during this time.

Cross-fertilisation in the arts

Collaboration and cross-fertilisation between the arts was rich in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The poet Charles Baudelaire, who provided inspiration and friendship to many fellow creative professionals, called for the arts to portray modern life honestly in his influential essay ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ (1863).

Modern Life is a theme synonymous with the French Realist and Impressionist painters, particularly for the work of Édouard Manet (Bar at the Folies Bergere), but modern life also characterises the lyrics of popular songs of the Café Concerts.

Baudelaire explored the interlinking of the sensory worlds of the arts in his poem ‘Correspondances’ (1857), writing:


“Vast as the dark of night and as the light of day,
Perfumes, sounds, and colours correspond.”

(translation William Aggeler, 1954)


Composers including Erik Satie and Claude Debussy immersed themselves in café life, enjoying their bohemian freedom and eclectic company. Satie wrote for and performed in the nightclub Le Chat Noir, although this was partly out of necessity to make a living (Satie – Gymnopedie (1888) and Gnossienes No. 1 (1890)).

Image representing "Project pour un buste de M. Eric Satie", Eric Satie, Date unknown

Erik Satie, Project pour un buste de M. Erik Satie, Date unknown


Satie also drew, playing with caricature designs for his own bust, which was never realised (see above). Debussy explored sound worlds that adopted the ephemerality and atmospheric qualities we associate with Impressionist art, although he was himself critical of such associations (Debussy – Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894) and Nuages [Clouds] (1899)).

The composer Saints-Saëns painted exquisitely rich imagery through his music ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ (including The Swan, The Fossils and The Aquarium).


Women and objectification in Belle Époque Music and Art

The role of women at the beginning of this period was still very much determined by their relationship to men.

Artists such as Degas, Renoir and Manet repeatedly portray women in various different guises, often betraying their own anxieties about the sexuality of women in the modern world. Female performers, prostitutes and courtesans in particular presented a challenge to men as they crossed the boundaries between private and public life.

Painting Jane Avril in the Entrance to the Moulin Rouge by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, painted around 1892

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Jane Avril in the Entrance to the Moulin Rouge, c.1892


The Moulin Rouge, Chat Noir and Folies-Bergère played host to performances ranging from cabaret to acrobatics and versatile star performers, such as the dancer Jane Avril painted by Toulouse Lautrec (Room 7) enjoyed great celebrity.

Two other performers portrayed by Toulouse-Lautrec were Yvette Guilbert (see below) and Polaire who performed comic and sometimes lewd songs often about the lives of performers, prostitutes and courtesans during Café Concerts.


View of Yvette Guilbert by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, around 1893

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Yvette Guilbert, 1893


Madame Arthur and Le Fiacre were written and performed by Guilbert, the first describing a courtesan with a trail of suitors and the second, a woman’s bumpy ride with a gentleman in a horse-drawn carriage.

Tha-ma-ra-boum-di-e (1891), an American song became a major hit for Polaire at the Folies-Bergère music hall, recounting the story of a young woman’s awakening sexuality. For a little light contrast, the song Frou Frou  humorously explores the dangers of women cycling in trousers (!).

Performers themselves often involved in prostitution, even the young ballet dancers from the Opera as painted famously by Edgar Degas would be preyed on by gentlemen audience members who could pay their way backstage.

Emile Zola’s novel Nana (1880) follows the story of a courtesan and theater performer, whose sexuality and powerful stage performances attract and repulse her audiences and destroy her pursuers. Manet used the title ‘Nana for his portrait of the theater performer and courtesan Henriette Hauser in 1877.

This painting was rejected by the Paris Salon, which remained a formal environment where such themes were unacceptable. Ballets and operas also addressed the sexualisation of women in a public arena, for example in the ballet Coppélia by Léo Delibes (1870) where the fantasy of an automated dancing doll threatens the relationship of a young couple, and in Bizet’s opera Carmen (1874) where the seductive title-figure expresses her sexuality openly.


View of Two Dancers on the Stage by Edgar Degas and painted in 1874

Edgar Degas, Two Dancers on the Stage, 1874


It was not uncommon for female employees cabaret venues to sell their bodies to supplement their wages. In Manet’s painting Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882) he leaves open the possible interpretation that a negotiation of such a transaction is being made between the barmaid and a customer in the mirror reflection on the right.

Themes of prostitution and crime are dealt with more explicitly in the café song A Saint-Lazare by Artistide Bruant in the voice of a prostitute writing to her pimp from prison where she is being treated for a venereal disease. Even female audience members couldn’t escape objectification, for example in Renoir’s La Loge (1874) a gentleman audience-member ignores his companion, possibly his mistress judging by her make-up and bright clothing, and leans back with his binoculars to ogle another attractive woman in the audience who is out of view.


View of A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Edouard Manet painted around 1881-2

Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-2



Bohemian Paris Lates: Music at the Cabarets Artistiques

Dr Charlotte de Mille, Freelance Music Curator at The Courtauld Institute of Art

In tribute to our Bohemian Paris Lates (Thursday 3 July and 14 August, 6-9pm) I have put together a Spotify playlist inspired by music from the era.

‘Do not forget what we owe to the Music-Hall, to the Circus’. 

So Erik Satie admonished the younger generation of composers. Nonetheless, Satie’s own creative output was mainly at the smaller, more intimate ‘cabaret artistique’.

The larger music hall and café-concert venues mixed circus entertainment with a public dance floor, whilst the esoteric design of the cabaret artistique offered a mixture of poetry, chansons, operettas and shadow theatres. 

Cabaret Artistique: The Chat Noir

Cabaret Artistique: The Chat Noir

For this playlist, I’ve concentrated on music written for and played at the cabaret artistiques, the Chat Noir, and the Auberge du Clou.

First introduced to the charismatic owner of the Chat Noir Rudolphe Salis in 1887 as ‘Erik Satie, gymnopédist!’, it was at the Chat Noir that the Gymnopédies, Gnossienes, and Ogives probably had their first hearing.

The three series of pieces for solo piano were advertised in Le Chat Noir journal in 1888, ‘conceived in the mystical-liturgical genre’ by the ‘sphinx-man.’

In contrast to the lavish spectacles of the Moulin Rouge or Folies-Bergère, the Chat Noir’s theatricality was orchestrated through medieval décor, and Satie’s Chanson Medieval is one musical example of this.

But Satie’s pieces for solo piano were often interspersed with movements from Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli. I’ve therefore followed suit in the playlist (watch out!) . Debussy’s Proses lyriques (1893) were dedicated to Vital Hocquet, humorist famous for introducing Erik Satie to Rudolphe Salis at the Chat Noir cabaret in 1887.

Whilst in this context the medievalizing content of “De Rêve” possibly owes a debt to the décor of the Chat Noir, dream, loss, and the passing of time are recurrent themes across all four songs.

Writing for Hyspa and the singer Paulette Darty, Satie produced a number of songs specifically for the Chat Noir. Of the twenty-eight manuscripts, Je te veux (1897 or 1901), Tendrement (1902), La Diva de l’Empire (1904) are perhaps the most well known.

Where Tendrement has been described as a ‘sung waltz’, perhaps written under the influence of Darty’s usual Viennese composer, Rodolphe Berger, La Diva de l’Empire is a classic cakewalk with the syncopated rhythm of rag-time America, introduced to Paris through Sousa marches.

Debussy occasionally played the piano at the cabaret Auberge du Clou, where Satie encouraged him to make use of a cabaret style: the result a song, La Belle au bois dormant (July 1890), to a text by Vincent Hyspa.

At the Chat Noir, the shadow-theatre regularly demanded up to twenty-three instrumentalists and fourteen singers.

In contrast to these extravagant orchestrations, cabarets at both the Chat Noir and Auberge du Clou also provided a nursery for poète-chansonniers (singer-songwriters) such as Yvette Guilbert who would later grace the stage in vaudeville tours de chant of some larger café-concerts such as the Casino de Paris.

Bohemian Paris Lates, Thursday 3 July and 14 August 2014, 6-9pm

Read more about Music in Montmartre  [PDF]

Let's Get Grayson and turn The Courtauld into 'Grayson's Bar'

Let's Get Grayson

We’re REALLY excited that The Courtauld Gallery has been shortlisted for Connect 10, the competition which gives venues the chance to win a top artist for their Museums at Night event.

We’re in with a chance to work with Grayson Perry for our late event and need YOUR help to win!

We’re up against four shortlisted venues and the museum with the most votes will win Grayson!

If we win we have proposed that we will run an event inspired by Manet’s famous painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.

Utilising the theme of a bar we will create interventions and encounters within the gallery. Like Manet’s barmaid, Grayson will be at the centre of a night of merriment and convivial conversation.

At ‘Grayson’s Bar’, Perry could work with the assembled crowd and draw together thoughts about a contemporary version of the painting – creating a collaborative new picture of modern life in London in 2014.


Vote online or pop into the gallery and cast your vote at admissions. The public vote runs from 11am on Tuesday 14 January to 5pm on Tuesday 28 January.