Author Archives: Katherine

Just Announced – Open Courtauld Hour!

Art in Isolation Poster

For those of you missing the Courtauld’s excellent event programme – or those of you that are keen to get involved from the comfort of your own home – Open Courtauld has put together a brilliant package of talks, discussions and performances as part of their Open Courtauld Hour series. This weekly event will take place from wherever you are from Thursday the 30th of April, 20.05 – 21.00. Visit the website to see the full programme and reserve your free tickets:

Week 1 – Art in Isolation: Lockdown has been transformational in how artists, galleries and museums are adapting to an online world to continue showcasing and making art. Join Alixe Bovey (Head of Research at The Courtauld Institute of Art) on Thursday 30th of April, 20.05 – 21.00, in exploring the importance of creative practice and artistic consumption in a time of isolation.Alixe will examine this issue through discussions with Courtauld’s own Barnaby Wright (Deputy Head of The Courtauld Gallery), the National Gallery’s Caroline Campbell (Curator of Italian Paintings) and Underpinning’s Lorraine Smith (Co-founder). The hour will include a one-off poetic reinterpretation of Paul Cezanne’s ‘Montagne Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine’ by award winning poet Shagufta K Iqbal.

Week 2 – Art and Wellbeing: Over recent years, there has been a growing understanding of the power that taking part in the arts can have on health and wellbeing. In our second session on Thursday 7th of May, 20.05 – 21.00, we will investigate the supplementation of arts alongside medicine and care to foster an environment that improves the health of people — within and without a healthcare setting. Join Rebecca Chamberlain (Lecturer in Psychology at Goldsmiths University), Sir Leszek Borysiewicz (Chair of Cancer Research UK and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge), Michaela Ross (Curator, Bethlem Gallery) and Jasmine Cooray (poet and counsellor) in discussions and performances exploring access to the arts in healthcare environments, the power of ‘Slow Art’ within galleries and museums and to be engaged in learning and debate on the subject of mental and physical health and artistic practice.

Week 3 – The Future of Art: In this session on Thursday 14th of May, 20.05 – 21.00, our experts discuss the Courtauld’s ever-changing approach to the online publication of its extensive photographic collection (via the development of an ambitious digitisation project encompassing 3.3 million prints and negatives), the implementation of scientific techniques of conservation and the challenges/opportunities this pandemic may provide those working in the field. In light of the changing landscape of art history, we will be joined by Aviva Burnstock (Professor and Head of the Department of Conservation and Technology at the Courtauld Institute of Art), Theo Gordon (Sackler Postdoctoral Fellow 2019-20 at the Courtauld Institute of Art), Tom Bilson (Head of Digital Media at the Courtauld Institute of Art) and artist and poet Muneera Pilgrim.

Week 4 – Women Artists: Our fourth Open Courtauld Hour will focus on Women Artists, addressing gender imbalance in the art world, expanding on notions of public and private and reinserting women of all backgrounds back into the canon of art history. Hosting the evening will be Katy Hessel of @thegreatwomenartists — an account and podcast series which celebrates women on a daily basis. She will be joined by Jo Applin (The Courtauld Institute of Art) who will chat with Katy more about their podcast episode on Louise Bourgeois, Ketty Gottardo (Martin Halusa Curator of Drawings at the Courtauld Institute of Art) who will be virtually opening up our object study room and allowing the audience to see, close-up, a number of works by Helen Saunders and other academics and curators focusing on women artists. Stuart Hall Foundation Scholarship Jade Montserrat. Jade will be reclaiming women’s narrative through a one-off poetic take on Paul Gauguin’s Te Rerioa.

National Highlights – The Herbert

Over the coming weeks we want to continue to bring our partners together and share some of the brilliant  collections across the UK. We have invited our partners to share a highlight from their own collection pick a favourite art work or object from the Courtauld Gallery – we will then bring all of these works together in an online exhibition. This week Joy Corcec, Communications Officer at Culture Coventry, selects two different paintings chosen because they “depict strong-willed women, who brought about significant change for themselves, and others through their courageous actions, and thus became feminist symbols in their own right.”

John Collier’s ‘Godiva’
John Collier, Godiva, 1898. Image reproduced by permission of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry .

From the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum: John Collier, Godiva, 1898

I have chosen maybe one of the most famous pieces from the Herbert’s collection as my favourite: John Collier’s Godiva, a symbol of Coventry, protest, and female empowerment. The museum holds a large collection of paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures featuring her story.

Godiva’s naked ride through Coventry has inspired painters, sculptors, film makers and song writers. According to Roger of Wendover, a monk at St Albans Abbey in the late 1100s, Godiva begged her husband Earl Leofric to stop a heavy tax on the people of Coventry. Leofric said he would do this if Godiva travelled naked through the city, and so she covered herself with her long hair and rode through the streets.

Most of the Herbert’s artworks date from the Victorian period, when Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem about Godiva made the story very popular. Victorian painters idealised the story and portrayed Godiva as a romantic heroine. Very few attempted to show how the real Godiva might have looked, or a realistic view of Anglo-Saxon Coventry.

From the Courtauld Gallery: Oskar Kokoschka, Triptych – Hades and Persephone, 1950

I have chosen Hades and Persephone by Oskar Kokoschka as it immediately caught my eye, and it depicts one of my favourite mythological legends. Hades, god of the Underworld, fell in love with beautiful Persephone when he saw her picking flowers and carried her off to live with him in the Underworld. This image however depicts Persephone leaving the Underworld behind, while greeting her mother Demeter with open arms.

While looking into the piece itself, I found out that the amazingly vibrant colours and busy scene is part of a much bigger triptych which Kokoschka painted for a ceiling in a South Kensington house. At the centre of the triptych is an explosive image of the biblical Apocalypse, with the punishment of Prometheus on the right, and Persephone escaping from Hades on the left. Kokoschka abandons perspective and proportion in this painting, which makes it much more impactful than any baroque versions of the same scene.

See Kokoschka’s work on the Courtauld Gallery website: Hades and Persephone

5 interesting things about … Rayon

Dresses by Courtaulds

Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing some of the fantastic research and expertise at the heart of the National Partners Programme with short articles introducing fun facts about key elements of the history we share with our partners – this week we take a look at rayon.

During the 1920s and 1930s, rayon was a wonder product that allowed Samuel Courtauld, chairman of Courtaulds Ltd, to amass the fortune he would later spend on the Courtauld art collection. The story of Rayon production is also a key part of the history of many communities across the UK and throughout of the programme we have been working with volunteers to capture the memories of those who made rayon and other cellulose fibres for Courtaulds Ltd.

1. It’s made of wood!

Although lots of chemicals are used to make rayon it isn’t a synthetic fibre because the core ingredient is natural cellulose which comes from wood pulp. Cellulose is harvested from the wood before being chemically converted and processed into a viscose liquid (which is why rayon is also called viscose), and spun into different solid fibres.

2. It used to be explosive!

In 1832 Henri Braconnot first discovered a process to break down cellulose using nitric acid but this created an unstable explosive chemical. The viscose process used to make rayon was refined by English chemist Charles Edward Cross in 1894 and Courtaulds Ltd bought the patents and licenses to this process for £25,000 in 1904.

3. It is the sister of cellophane!

Clear plastic wrapping and colourful textile rayon might not seem to have much in common but they both start life as viscose produced from wood pulp. So, it is unsurprising that Courtaulds Ltd also had a stake in British Cellophane Ltd which had plants at Bridgwater and Barrow-in-Furness.

4. It contributed to the war effort!

Viscose fibres are very versatile and can be made into a wide range of very useful products. In WW1 Courtaulds ‘artificial silk’ rayon was used in the production of parachutes and their research lab was involved in developing new fabrics that were better than the German ones. By WW2 industrial strength high-tenacity rayon was being used in the production of tyres and strong utility fabric was being used for everything from clothing to wrapping for heavy gun charges.

5. It hails from Coventry!

Courtaulds Ltd opened the first purpose built rayon factory in Coventry in 1905 soon after they had purchased the patents to the viscose process. This was the first of many factories in the UK and abroad, and viscose fibres continued to be the primary product of the company until the mid-20th Century.

Latest News from the Learning Programme

Our Heritage and Learning Officer, Alice Hellard, brings us up to speed on some of the most recent workshops with schools in Coventry and Braintree.


Student drawing in Coventry

Coventry workshops with Alexandra Blum
In January and February 2020 artist Alexandra Blum led action packed day-long workshops in Coventry with Year 10 students at Finham Park School and Year 12 & 13 students at Sidney Stringer Academy and Ernesford Grange Community Academy. Finham Park students enjoyed the rare privilege of drawing Coventry cityscapes from the 11th floor of Coventry ArtSpace, while the second workshop enabled students to use Sidney Stringer’s own roof garden to closely observe and record aspects of their panoramic views of the city. The students really impressed us with their willingness and determination to experiment with Alex’s unusual approach to perspective, and they made some fantastic drawings!


Students making woodcut prints

Gauguin woodcuts at Braintree Museum
In March 2020 we hosted a group of 30 conscientious Year 10 students from Tabor Academy at Braintree Museum, who were keen to encounter the rare woodcut prints by artist Paul Gauguin on display alongside the Courtaulds: Origins, Innovations and Family exhibition. Taking Gauguin’s Noa Noa suite as their inspiration, students considered mythology and representation, mark making and technique, before designing, cutting and printing their own colourful woodcuts. The day ended with students curating their own mini exhibitions on the theme of feminism in art with artist Nadine Mahoney.

I have never seen the group so focused. We wouldn’t have been able to run the woodcut activity in one day back at school – students wouldn’t have been able to concentrate for such a long period of time!

Covid-19 Closures and Cancellations

We are very sorry to announce that due to Covid-19 closures our exhibitions at the Harris (The Artful Line) and Braintree Museum (Courtaulds: Origins, Innovations and Family) are closed until further notice. We have also suspended all events and our volunteers and schools programmes.

We are very disappointed not to be able to share our fantastic exhibitions and projects with the public at our partner venues, but we are currently exploring ways to put even more content to you online and on social media to bring our work directly to you. This should begin next week so do keep an eye on our website and the social media of our partners.

In the meantime, you can find out more about the Courtauld Gallery’s collection by taking an online tour or listen to expert art historians on the Courtauld Institute YouTube channel (please follow the links below). We will bring you news on how to engage with our partners’ collections shortly.

Courtauld Gallery Tour 

Courtauld Institute YouTube


Planning underway for collaboration with Ulster Museum

Noted being taken in a meeting

Last week, we were thrilled to host Anna Liesching, Curator of Art at Ulster Museum, to discuss future partnerships between the Courtauld and National Museums Northern Ireland, and to take a look at some of the many activities currently happening in and around the gallery. 

The week was packed with research and in depth meetings with curators, registrars, public programmes, and the research forum team, to plan our Autumn 2020 exhibition – details to be announced soon! – but we still found time to explore, including looking at some of the highlights of our works on paper collection during a visit to the store rooms and joining one of the MA classes of the Courtauld Institute to find out about the ongoing conservation work to Botticelli’s Holy Trinity at the National Gallery (find out more about the project here:

We have lots more planned for our partnership in Northern Ireland, as well as the exhibition later this year we will be collaborating with NMNI to engage volunteers and schools in exploring the heritage of fashion and textiles in their area. Keep an eye on our news page to find out more. 

A busy half-term at Braintree’s Courtauld Exhibition

Visitor viewing Gauguin prints

Our partnership exhibition with Braintree Museum has got off to a tremendous start and last week welcomed over 200 half-term visitors to take part in activities related to the Courtauld family.

The exhibition Courtaulds: Origin, Innovation, Family looks at the history of the Courtauld family and their textile company from the founding of the first mill in 1816. Visitors can explore artefacts that illuminate the Courtauld family’s history – including a suffragette poster designed by Catherine Courtauld, from the Women’s Library, London; the remains from Augustin Courtauld’s Arctic flag from the Scott Polar Institute, alongside loans from the Courtauld Family’s Private Collection.

A highlight of the exhibition is a display of four prints by Paul Gauguin on loan from the Courtauld Gallery. The rare woodblock prints, from the Noa Noa series, were purchased by Samuel Courtauld in 1924, and depict imaginary scenes influenced by Gauguin’s time in Tahiti. By the end of the 1920s Courtauld held the most important collection of works by Gauguin in Britain, including 10 prints, five paintings and one sculpture.

There is also an opportunity to hear the memories of former employees of the Courtauld factories recorded by a fantastic group of local volunteers, alongside examples of the fabrics and clothes they produced, and archive material relating to the company.

The exhibition is open until 30th May 2020 and special events, such as curator’s tours, talks and hands-on crafts, will run regularly. Find out more on Braintree Museum’s website:

The Artful Line opens in Preston

Visitors looking at the Artful Line exhibition

On Friday we were thrilled to open our new exhibition in collaboration with the Harris in Preston. The Artful Line: Drawings from the Harris and the Courtauld is a celebration of drawing in all its forms, exploring how and why we draw. As well as previously unseen drawings from the Harris collections, the show features four loans from the Courtauld collection and three new pieces commissioned from local artists who take inspiration from the local industrial heritage of Courtauld textiles.

There is also the opportunity for visitors to have a go at different drawing techniques, and even have their own work shown on a screen in the exhibition. The exhibition runs until May and will have special events throughout that time, for example workshops with local artists, talks and tours with curators and drop in activities for families at half term.

The exhibition coincides with the 40th anniversary of the closure of the Courtaulds factory at Red Scar, this was commemorated in the exhibition on Sunday with an open day for former employees to see the drawings and share their memories of working for the company.

Find out more about the exhibition and events on the website:

The Bloomsbury Effect on ARTimbarc

Bus with Bloomsbury Effect Poster on side

In collaboration with our partners at Wolverhampton Art Gallery we have produced an audio guide to accompany our loans to the Bloomsbury Effect display, on show until 16th February 2020. The display features work by Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry and C.R.W. Nevinson and explores the tensions between tradition and modernity in artistic practice in the early 20th Century. The audio commentary offers insight from curators and archivists about the loans from the Courtauld Collection, the history of Courtaulds in Wolverhampton and the history of the Wolverhampton Society of Artists, as well as some of the key pieces produced by the society.

To listen to the recordings and find out more about the exhibition visit

Two new exhibitions announced for Spring 2020

Braintree Museum staff looking at Gauguin Prints

We are thrilled to be working with our partners on two exhibitions due to run through the spring of 2020. Both exhibitions are the result of long-term collaborations, that have included months of planning, research and visits to our collection. They are a fantastic opportunity for us to share great works from the Courtauld collection with our partners across the UK and to look at these works in new contexts.

From 1st February Braintree Museum will be focusing on the history of the Courtauld family and the textile business in Courtaulds: Origins, Innovation, Family. Alongside some fascinating artefacts, including a suffragette poster designed by Catherine Courtauld and the remains from Augustin Courtauld’s Arctic flag, will be a display devoted to the art collection of Samuel Courtauld centered around four Gauguin prints from the Courtauld Gallery. The original woodblock prints from Gauguin’s Noa Noa series were purchased by Samuel Courtauld shortly after they were printed by Gauguin’s youngest son in 1925.

New stories of past Courtauld company employees and family members recorded by volunteers as part of the Courtauld National programme will be woven into the exhibition alongside newly uncovered documents, images and testimonies.

In Preston, the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library will explore drawing in all its forms in The Artful Line: Drawings from the Harris Collection and The Courtauld Gallery, which opens on 15th February. Featuring works from the 17th century to the present day, the exhibition includes drawings by Angelica Kauffman, William Blake, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Frank Auerbach and Deanna Petherbridge. Each drawing offers a unique insight into the mind of the artist and the process of making art.

The latest in a series of projects with the Harris to celebrate our links through the Courtaulds textile factory, this exhibition marks the 40th anniversary of the closure of the factory in Preston. Inspired by the site, the history of the company and the people who worked there, local artists Gavin Renshaw, Kathryn Poole and Anita George have made new work for the exhibition.

To find out more about the exhibitions please visit our partner websites:

Braintree Museum:

The Harris: