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Permanent Collection

In the series Picture This – Writers Talks by The Guardian, writers reflect on their favourite works in the Courtauld Gallery.

Recorded as part of Picture This at Somerset House – Writers’ talks in The Courtauld Gallery. Initiated by Ruth Padel.

Philip Pullman on Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Philip Pullman photographic portrait

A photograph of the painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. A woman stands forlornly at a bar filled with champagne and beer bottles, her reflection, and that of the dance-hall, is caught in the mirror behind her.

Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883), A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882, Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Julia Neuberger on Pissarro’s Lordship Lane Station

Camille Pissarro, Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich, 1871, oil on canvas, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) © The Courtauld

Colm Tóibín on Cézanne’s Route Tournante

Paul Cézanne, Turning Road (Route Tournante), circa 1905, oil on canvas, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) © The Courtauld


Gillian Beer on Vanessa Bell’s A Conversation

A Conversation

Vanessa Bell(1879 – 1961), A Conversation, 1913 – 1916, The Samuel Courtauld Trust\1961 Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

Gallery exhibitions

Established in 1913 by the painter and influential art critic Roger Fry, the Omega Workshops were an experimental design collective, whose members included Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and other artists of the Bloomsbury Group.

Omega Workshops (attributed to Duncan Grant) Design, 1913-15, The Courtauld Gallery © Estate of Duncan Grant. All rights reserved, DACS 2009.

Omega Workshops (attributed to Duncan Grant) Design, 1913-15, The Courtauld Gallery © Estate of Duncan Grant. All rights reserved, DACS 2009.

Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshop 1913-19 (18 June – 20 September 2009) unites The Courtauld’s uniquely important collection of Omega working drawings with the finest examples of the Workshops’ printed fabrics, Cubist-inspired rugs and splendidly painted textiles, as well as ceramics and furniture to explore the Omega Workshops’ radical approach to modern design.

Winfred Gill (1891–1981) is the unsung heroine of the Omega Workshops. As well as producing designs for the Omega, she also played a key role in running the workshops. After the Jubilee reunion of the Omega Workshops in the 1960’s, Winifred Gill began corresponding by letter with Duncan Grant, who was also a significant member of the group. The letters covered many things from Gill’s memories of the artists involved in the workshops to the experience of living through the First World War and how it affected everything they undertook.

At the time of writing the letters, Winifred Gill was living with her niece, Dr Margaret Bennett, in an East London general practice. True to many close family members they share a very similar voice. Dr Bennett recounts that patients telephoning the surgery would often mistake Gill for her, much to the patients frustration and their amusement.

Below are recordings taken from two of the letters written by Winifred Gill to Duncan Grant and read out by Dr Bennett, to whom we are very grateful. The recordings were made in the house the letters were written.

Listen to an Introduction to the letters between Winifred Gill and Duncan Grant, as told by Gill’s niece…

  1. 1 Letters from Winifred Gill to Duncan Grant – Intro
  2. 2 Gill letter to Grant no. 5, August 29 1966
  3. 3 Gill letter to Grant no. 6, September 12, 1966

The Dream (Il Sogno)

Michelangelo Buonoarroti The Dream, c.1533 © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

The exhibition Michelangelo’s Dream (18 February – 16 May 2010) contained not only drawings but also the manuscripts of some of his most important letters and poems. The poems, recorded for the exhibition and available here as podcasts, were composed for the Roman nobleman Tommaso de’ Cavalieri and deal with spiritual longing and passionate desire. Michelangelo’s sonnets and madrigals are perhaps less well known than his sculpture and painting but were considered of great worth by humanist intellectuals in his time.

Introductions narrated by Jim Harris. The poems are then read in English translation, and the original Italian.

  1. 1 Introduction
  2. 2 If One Chaste Love…
  3. 3 If Desire of the Immortal…
  4. 4 You Know That I Know…
  5. 5 Not Even by Raising My Thoughts…
  6. 6 To Burn Fiercly for Immense Beauty…

Ornament by Design (23 April – 12 June 2016) examines the interplay between ornament and architecture in drawing. It traces the manifold ways in which the subtle, seductive lines of ornament can transform the surface of buildings and things into objects of desire.  The display presents a range of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French drawings: architectural elevations and sections, designs for ceilings and garden ornaments, capriccios and studies for specific motifs such ornamental brackets and frames.

Listen to our audio series to learn more about the works on display.
Listen to scholar, Carl Magnusson talk about Books and Theory, essentially exploring the historical discourses surrounding ornament and its relation to architecture, as well as the process of artistic invention…

Listen to co-curator Camila Pietrabissa talk about Museology, where she describes the organisation of, and museological choices behind, the exhibition…

Listen to Artist and architect, Miraj Ahmed’s discussion of Ceiling Studies, where she speaks about the function of ornament in architecture and the different suggestions that a drawing can make…

Listen to Artist and scholar Deanna Petherbridge speak about Masks and Swags, namely the role of the human form, the serpentine curve and the danger of an unadorned corner…

Discover the remarkable story of Pablo Picasso’s breakthrough year as an artist –1901. It was the year that the ambitious nineteen-year-old launched his career in Paris with an exhibition that would set him on course to become one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Companion, 1901 The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow © Succession Picasso / DACS 2012

Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Companion, 1901 The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow © Succession Picasso / DACS 2012

Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 (14 February – 27 May 2013) reunited major paintings from his debut exhibition with the influential dealer Ambroise Vollard.


Listen to an introduction to the exhibition from our curator, Barnaby Wright…


Listen to a Q and A with Barnaby Wright about the ideas behind the exhibition…



Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence: The Courtauld Wedding Chests (12 February – 17 May 2009) is focused around two of The Courtauld’s great treasures:  the pair of chests ordered in 1472 by the Florentine Lorenzo Morelli to celebrate his marriage with Vaggia Nerli. These are the only pair of cassoni to be still displayed with their painted backboards (spalliere).The unusual survival of both the chests and their commissioning documents enables a full examination of this remarkable commission.

Chest and spalliera with the arms of Vaggia Nerli and Lorenzo Morelli (The Nerli Chest)

Biagio d’ Antonio (1446-1516), Zanobi di Domenico, Chest and spalliera with the arms of Vaggia Nerli and Lorenzo Morelli (The Nerli Chest), 1472, The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

In an age of limited literacy, the finely painted and beguiling panels set into the wedding chests were visual storybooks with the power to transport their viewers into a new world, which imaginatively combined past and present. The tales they depicted were drawn from a large pool of familiar stories – the literature and history of ancient Greece and Rome, the Old Testament, and the poetry of Boccaccio and Petrarch.

These stories were intended to divert and give pleasure to the husband and wife and they often contained a strong moral message. The stories chosen for the chests emphasised ideal virtues such as bravery, constancy, obedience and prudence; models which members of a patrician family might strive to emulate.

Listen to podcasts from the exhibition below, narrated by Jim Harris.

  1. 1 Vasari on Cassoni Painters
  2. 2 The Continence of Scipio
  3. 3 The Tale of Ginerva Bernabo and Ambrogiuolo
  4. 4 The Treacherous Schoolmasters of Falerii
  5. 5 Camillus chases the Gauls from Rome

MA Curating

Museums in a Post-Truth World
Thursday 16 March 2017

In today’s heated post-truth political climate, objective facts have become less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

How should museums react, as places of respite or centres for debate?  Should museums take on activist roles in contemporary society, or should they remain neutral? In what ways might they be uniquely positioned to contribute to discussions about authority, expertise and truth?

Organised by Martin Caiger-Smith and MA Curating students.

Jane and Louise Wilson: Unfolding the Aryan Papers
Exhibiting Research XII, 2 July 2015

Artists’ film screening followed by discussion between artists Jane and Louise Wilson and film scholar Erika Balsom. This event was organised in conjunction with the MA Curating the Art Museum exhibition The Second Hand: Reworked Art Over Time, on view at The Courtauld Gallery, June 18 – July 19 2015. The Second Hand is an exhibition of historical and contemporary works, all of which involve one artist actively engaging with the work of another.

Museums & Soft Power
Exhibiting Research XI, 24 June 2015

The American academic Joseph Nye, in 2004, defined ‘soft power’ as ‘the influence and attractiveness a nation acquires when others are drawn to its culture and ideas’. The practice of cultural diplomacy is now the subject of debate as never before, and museums, their collections, representatives and reputations, are at the centre of this. The proliferation of collaborative projects worldwide – not least the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, scheduled for the end of this year – throws a series of urgent issues into focus. If museums have ‘soft power’, how should this power be exercised, and for whom? How do art and politics intertwine? In international initiatives, can cultural diplomacy be reciprocal? Who stands to benefit, and where do the risks lie?

This debate is part of the ongoing Exhibiting Research series, organised by The Courtauld Institute of Art’s MA Programme Curating the Art Museum in collaboration with the Research Forum.

Imagining Islands: Artists and Escape (20 June – 21 July 2013) responded to The Courtauld Gallery’s Summer Showcase, Collecting Gauguin: Samuel Courtauld in the ‘20s, and draws on works from The Courtauld Gallery and the Arts Council Collection.

In 1891, the artist Paul Gauguin travelled from Paris to the Pacific island of Tahiti in pursuit of a haven away from Western civilisation. Artists have long been drawn to the elusive ideals and tantalising fantasies that islands embody.

This trans-historical exhibition explores artists’ fascination with other worlds, real and imagined, and the perennial search for utopia, considering the concept of the island in poetic, evocative, and experimental ways.

Hear from student Sophie Partarrieu who put together this podcast about the exhibition process and installation.

  1. 1 The Installation
  2. 2 The Experience
  3. 3 Making the Exhibition
  4. 4 Oskar Kokoschka’s Dreaming Youths
  5. 5 Favourite Works


What makes religious imagery powerful and enduring? How do historical and contemporary artworks engage the viewer in questions of belief?

This exhibition explores these questions by confronting historical Christian art with contemporary art that continues to engage with the same visual tradition. The works were selected from two very different collections. Those from The Courtauld Gallery were originally created as devotional objects. They were understood to be imbued with sacred power and to inspire empathy with the suffering and compassion of the Virgin Mary and Christ.

BLOOD TEARS FAITH DOUBT, Historical and Contemporary Encounters (17 June to 18 July 2010) was curated by students on The Courtauld Institute of Art’s MA Curating the Art Museum programme. It brought together works from The Courtauld Gallery and the Arts Council Collection to explore themes of suffering, compassion, devotion and belief.

Listen to the podcast series below.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Artist Focus: Mark Fairnington
  3. 3. Artist Focus: Adam Chodzko

Talks at The Courtauld

Lunchtime talks are delivered by students and researchers at The Courtauld Institute of Art on works in the collection. The talks take place in front of the objects in the gallery and are informal and interesting ways of looking closely at the works in our collection.

Join Freya Mead in Room 11 of The Courtauld Gallery for an informal lunchtime talk about Dawn, Camden Town by Walter Sickert in the recording below.

The curator Dr Minna Moore Ede discusses the making of Soundscapes, an exhibition at the National Gallery, in conversation with Dr Irene Noy, Thursday 19 November, 2015.

This audio documentation of the event was kindly recorded and edited by the sound artist John Kannenberg.


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