Courtauld Institute of Art

Courtauld Institute of Art
Type Public
Established 1932 (1932)
Chancellor The Princess Royal (University of London)
Director Deborah Swallow
Students 470 (2014/15)[1]
Undergraduates 165 (2014/15)[1]
Postgraduates 305 (2014/15)[1]
Location London, 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
Campus Urban
Affiliations University of London

The Courtauld Institute of Art (UK /ˈkɔərtld/), 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 institutions in the world for these disciplines and is widely known for the disproportionate number of directors of major museums drawn from its small body of alumni.[2][3] 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 in Somerset House, in the Strand in London.


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. 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. The Courtauld celebrated its 75th anniversary during the 2007–08 academic year.


Somerset House in the Strand, home of the Institute and Gallery

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.[4] 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.[5][6] The Independent has called it "probably the most prestigious specialist college for the study of the history of art in the world."[7]

The Courtauld was ranked, again, first in the United Kingdom for History and History of Art in The Guardian’s 2017 University Guide.[8]


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.[9]

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 western art.

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.[10] 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, allowing an optimal discussion between faculty members and 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 Lord Martin Conway 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.[11] In 2009, it was decided that the Witt Library would not continue to add new material to the collection.[12] The book library is one of the UK's largest archives of art history books, periodicals and exhibition catalogues. There is a slide library which also covers films, and an IT suite.

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.[13] Two other websites and sell high resolution digital files to scholars, publishers and broadcasters, and photographic prints to a wide public audience.[14][15]

The Courtauld uses a virtual learning environment to deliver course material to its students.[16] 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.

Main article: Courtauld Gallery

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.[17]

The Courtauld Gallery is open to the public. 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 especially well known for its many graduates who have become directors of art museums around the world.[3] These include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the British Museum, London, and the Museo del Prado, Madrid. However, alumni are prominent in many other areas of the arts and beyond.


The faculty of the Courtauld includes:


The Directors of the Courtauld Institute have been:

William George Constable1932–1936
T. S. R. Boase1936–1947
Anthony Blunt1947–1974
Peter Lasko1974–1985
Michael Kauffmann1985–1995
Eric Fernie1995–2003
James Cuno2003–2004
Deborah Swallow2004–


  1. 1 2 3 "2014/15 Students by HE provider, level, mode and domicile" (XLSX). Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  2. Chaplin, Elizabeth (1994). Sociology and Visual Representation. New York: Routledge. pp. 53–56. ISBN 0415073626.
  3. 1 2 Simon, Robin (19 September 2007), "Masters of the Artistic Universe", The Spectator, retrieved 5 August 2014
  4. Academic Staff, Information for students. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  5. "University guide 2011: History and history of art | Education". 7 June 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  6. "Results & submissions : REF 2014 : View results and submissions by UOA". Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  7. "Courtauld Institute of Art (University of London) – A-Z Unis & Colleges – Getting Into University". The Independent. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  8. "University University league tables 2017 – the full rankings". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  9. "University Research Excellence Framework 2014 – the full rankings". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  10. "Postgraduate Taught Courses". The Courtauld Institute of Art. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  11. Image Libraries: Witt Library. The Courtauld Institute of Art, 2009. Accessed April 2013.
  12. Courtauld Institute: Cuts Challenge Witt Library. ArtLyst, 30 March 2010. Accessed April 2013.
  13. Art and architecture. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  14. Courtauld Images. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  15. Courtauld Prints. Courtauld Gallery of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  16. Virtual Learning Environment. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed April 2013.
  17. John Murdoch, The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House. London: Thames & Hudson, 1998, p. 7.

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