Ambrose McEnvoy (1875-1927). Portrait of Miss Jeanne Courtauld
Ambrose McEnvoy (1875-1927). Portrait of Miss Jeanne Courtauld. Oil on canvas, Estate of the late Jeanne Courtauld, detail

Miss Jeanne Courtauld died on July 23rd, shortly before her 94th birthday. She was an ardent friend, strong supporter and generous benefactor to the Courtauld. A niece of Samuel Courtauld, Jeanne became Chairman of the Home House Society, the predecessor body of the Samuel Courtauld Trust in 1957. For thirty years she worked in close harmony with three Directors of the Institute: Anthony Blunt, Peter Lasko and Michael Kauffmann; relationships which prospered from mutual respect. One of her last acts as Chairman was to persuade her fellow Trustees to agree to the loan of the French Impressionists to Japan, Australia, and most particularly to America, to help raise funds for the move to Somerset House — and how successful that tour was!

Jeanne had wide interests, very much preferring the country to the town. She enjoyed fishing in Scotland and hunting in Sussex, side-saddle. She owned a small string of racehorses, some of which she had bred. Her garden was both a passion and an escape from life’s pressures, and she shared it with others, being local organiser for the National Gardens Scheme. She took pride in her French Huguenot ancestry and the Courtauld silversmiths of the 18th century. Without children of her own, she was good with young people, showing a surprising tolerance of youthful [mis]behaviour. She was fun to be with for those fortunate to get inside the cloak of reticence of this essentially private person.

Above all, Jeanne loved painting, the "love of her life", as described by one friend. She studied under Rodney Burn for three years as his first pupil — and much later shared a master-and-pupil exhibition with him. She then spent four years at the Royal Academy schools. In official documents, she described herself as 'artist’. She was best known for her landscapes in oils, often of her beloved Sussex countryside, in the classical impressionist school. Whilst her colours tended to be 'subdued’, she was praised for her tonal treatment.

The Courtauld is indebted to Jeanne Courtauld for her gift of thirteen Turner watercolours, of special interest and distinction, and of the little Seurat Man in a boat. Also, she has bequeathed a number of works of art, including Reynolds’ Cupid and Psyche, "a wonderfully theatrical work", according to one critic, which was first hung at Somerset House. Above all, though, we owe to Jeanne her loving contribution and commitment to the work of the Trust and the Institute. Her practical experience, combined with a knowledgeable and sensitive artistic appreciation, made that contribution of exceptional value and earned her the distinction of being made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute.