The Courtauld Gallery has one of the best Impressionist collections in the world, including great works by Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet, Van Gogh, Manet … the list goes on. If you’ve never been, then you’re definitely missing out.
But despite all these great paintings, the majority of the Courtauld collection is made up of prints and so they are often the focus of the temporary exhibitions that the Courtauld puts on. The current exhibition covers the history of their print collection from the 16th century to their latest additions by Lucien Freud.
The difficulty with prints is they are always seen as the lesser cousins of paintings and therefore have to fight to be noticed. The Courtauld has been successful in this endeavour, including the exquisite Mantegna to Matisse and the insightful Durer exhibition, but can they repeat this success again?
The difficulty with not providing a narrative, other than a chronological one, is the prints must stand out on their own and this is where they struggle. The prints by Bruegel and Canaletto are extraordinarily detailed but give me on of their paintings over a print any day.
As for the modern artists, these are the most disappointing, works by Chris Ofili and Lucien Freud are average at best.
With the exception of a few works by Old Masters, this exhibition left us unfulfilled, but it did give us a chance to visit the permanent collection once again. Despite having seen it multiple times, it’s still a marvellous set of paintings.
Breugel to Freud: Prints from the Courtauld Gallery is on until 21 September. Tickets are £6 for adults, and includes admission to the permanent collection.