The National Gallery is well-known for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. A comparable collection is that of the Courtauld Institute of Art, founded in the 1930s as an academic institution devoted to research and teaching in the field of art and named after its main financial backer, industrialist and collector Samuel Courtauld (1876-1947). The Institute's collection is usually on display at the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House in central London, but, since the gallery closed for renovations and enlargement in September 2018 and won't reopen for a period of around two years, it is lucky that the National Gallery has put on this comparatively small but hugely enjoyable exhibition (ends 20/01/2019) mixing works from the Courtauld with paintings from the National Gallery's own collection.
The exhibition focuses on well-known Impressionist and Post-Impressionist figures active mainly in France, so in a way this is well-known territory, but the selection of works here is really very, very nice. From Édouard Manet's 1882 A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and Edgar Degas's miraculous 1872 Woman at a Window, the exhibition traces a course through the usual suspects including Camille Pissarro's night views of Paris, Georges Seurat's iconic 1882 Bathers at Asnières (plus other remarkable works), a few fine Van Goghs, a remarkable selection of Monets, Cézannes and Gauguins (very interesting to compare the treatment of still lives in these last two, and don't miss Cézanne's 1880/81 self-portrait from the National Gallery alongside his famous Card Players from the Courtauld), and, last but not least, a couple of intriguing examples of Pierre Bonnard's output, including his radiant 1925 The Table.
It is a very nice touch that the exit to the exhibition leads straight into the National Gallery's permanent Impressionist and Post-Impressionist rooms, so that the visitor may seamlessly continue exploring this fascinating period in art history.
Fantastic treat for the festive season. Catch it if you can.