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Douglas Newby
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The Courtauld Update

Whenever I go to London I try to stop by The Courtauld Institute of Art. It was the first London museum I visited years ago on my initial visit to London. The Courtauld resonated with me for many reasons. I love the architecture. Sir William Chambers in 1775 designed the building that replaced the original 1552 home of the Duke of Somerset. The paintings were predominately lit by natural sunlight in a salon-like setting of dark wood floors, enormous ceilings and tall windows. In the first room on one wall was A Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Edouard Manet. I had first seen this Manet painting when it was on loan at the Chicago Art Institute for a blockbuster exhibition. Ropes were placed eight feet away from the painting enclosed in glass. People were standing three deep. On my first visit to The Courtauld, when I approached an almost empty room, I asked the guard how close could I get to the painting. The guard replied, “Oh, about six inches.” How can you not love a museum that has a fabulous ceremonial staircase, a living room/salon setting for a lovely Manet that one can view at an unhurried pace from any distance. On my last visit right before the pandemic, The Courtauld was shut down for renovation. This trip was my first return. The building and approach is still magical. It brought back memories of seeing then Prince Charles just a few feet away getting into his Jaguar as he departed the museum. The interior of the renovated museum is now opened up with art lighting and light wood floors. Paintings share spaces with several other paintings on the extended walls. The renovation was necessary. It now has a much better event space for fundraisers, private dinners, events and parties. The galleries are better lit and feel more up to date. However, it reminds me of why homeowners go back to their original home and wonder why it has been changed. On this visit, Chinese nationals for their London university art class, asked me to write my feelings on a photocopy of the painting. I wrote “highlighted and hidden.” *The Courtauld Update
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