The COURTAULD Collection

Drawings & Prints

Detail of Study of a Flying Angel by Pinturicchio (Bernadino di Betto)Detail of Helena Fourment by Peter Paul RubensDetails of Forest of Radnor, with the Black Mountains in the Distance by Francis Towne

The Courtauld Institute of Art houses one of the most significant collections of works on paper in Britain, with approximately 7,000 drawings and watercolours and 20,000 prints ranging from the late Middle Ages to the 20th century avant-garde.

It includes a number of internationally renowned masterpieces by artists such as Dürer, Michelangelo, Rubens, Rembrandt, Cézanne and Turner as well as providing a broad account of major national schools and periods.

Executed on paper, drawings and prints are highly sensitive to light, and as a result they cannot be on permanent public display. However, selections from the collection are shown regularly in a dedicated space in Room 12 in  The Courtauld Gallery.

The collection can also be viewed by appointment in the Drawings & Prints Study Room.

Work of the Week

In the weeks leading up to Christmas 2013, we are offering Gallery visitors the opportunity, one morning per week, to view a print or drawing from the collection in the intimate setting of our Print Study Room.

Each work will be selected from the Gallery’s collection about 7,000 drawings and 24,000 prints by one of our postgraduate student assistants, who will be available to welcome visitors and answer questions about the work.

Please visit us on the following mornings to see the Work of the Week:

Wednesday 27 November, 10-12.30

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, A Magician surrounded by a group of young boys, 18th century

This enigmatic scene shows a bearded man wearing a turban; his identity is unclear, but he is often described as a magician, a figure who recurs frequently in Tiepolo’s intimate drawings and etchings of mysterious subjects.

Fgures are grouped around the magician, who points down to the lower centre of the sheet. Rapid lines of pen and wash emphasise his powerful gesture. Fluent pen strokes capture the figures that huddle together, looking down to where the hand points. The arrangement of the figures recalls that of an etching in Tiepolo’s series of etchings, Scherzi di Fantasia, and may be an early sketch for this work.


Monday 2 December, 10.30-1.30

Charles-Louis Clérisseau, Basilica of Maxentius

Sketchy lines and rough watercolour patches promote this drawing as a quick but seemingly faithful view of the Basilica, a marvel of engineering work built by the emperors Maxentius and Constantine in ancient Rome.


However, the drawing is an architectural invention, a capriccio: there has never been a niche on the front of the building, nor have there been bas-reliefs under the arches, or the small temple on the left.


Clérisseau lived in Rome for almost twenty years from 1749 to 1767, first as a student of architecture at the French Academy, then as an independent drawing tutor famous for his knowledge of Roman antiquities. In the words of the eminent French collector Pierre Jean Mariette, «he has always been occupied at making drawings of ruins from imagination for the British, from which he makes good money».


Monday 9 December, 10.30-1.30

Constantin Guys, Two women with muffs, around 1864

Donning sumptuous muffs and voluminous coats, two ladies take a wintertime stroll, their slanting shadows suggesting the late afternoon. Rendered hastily with rich, inky blacks and blues, the drawing is a sketchy depiction of a passing moment.

Deux femmes aux manchons is typical of Constantin Guys’ work. Heralded by Charles Baudelaire as the painter of modern life par excellence, Guys employed the fleeting and the everyday as his subject matter.

Working quickly and prolifically, he depicted the various figures, fashions, and scenes of modernity as they played out in the street.

Here, in a manner akin to nineteenth-century fashion plates, Guys carefully depicts the women’s costumes, including their various trimmings (bows, veils, muffs, etc.) and registering the flounce of a skirt and subsequent flash of an ankle.

Guys traveled widely, but his portrayals of Paris, and particularly of Parisian women, are his most renowned. A sort of flâneur, Guys soaked up what Baudelaire calls the “fantastic reality of life.”

Monday 16 December, 10.30-1.30

Maerten van Heemskerck, The Temple of Diana at Ephesus, 1570

The Temple of Diana, completed around 550 B.C., was considered to be one of the wonders of the ancient world because of its vast proportions. In this very detailed drawing, van Heemskerck depicts both the construction of the Temple at left, and the already finished structure at right.

He uses dense, careful hatching to model the musculature of the figures in the foreground, imbuing them with a sculptural quality. The man holding the map on the left may represent Dinocrates, the building’s architect.

The drawing includes many elements that van Heemskerck would have observed during his travels in Italy three decades before. It is therefore a vision or a dream of ancient past, not a historically precise investigation.

Online Feature:

Walter Crane's Illustrations

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