This has already been a remarkable year for the Courtauld, rich in innovative research and fruitful collaborations. You will see in this Spring issue of Courtauld Institute of Art News just some of the many projects realised. They include two important exhibitions. The Road to Byzantium: Luxury Arts of Antiquity at the Hermitage Rooms, just opened, has been heralded as a great success:

“As seems proper for a research institution, it sets out to question as much as to instruct. So don’t prepare for a trudge along well beaten tracks. The curators, selecting a path through a period that is intricate and elaboratre – as ‘Byzantine’ indeed as it is spectacular – set out to challenge convention and test alternative viewpoints.” (The Times).

Conceived by Robin Cormack, and co-curated by Anthony Eastmond and Peter Stewart, with Hermitage curators, Anna Trofimova and Vera Zalesskaya, the exhibition is a wonderful demonstration of the intellectual and public value of our collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum.

All Spirit and Fire, our other current exhibition, conceived by Getty curator, Jon L. Seydl, first presented as an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and further developed here, is the fruit of our partnership with the J. Paul Getty Trust, which continues to flourish. We were delighted to welcome to the Courtauld in early March, a team of Getty colleagues, led by Michael Brand, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Research of course undepins our activities, whether for publications such as Christopher Green’s Picasso: Architecture and Vertigo, or Aileen Ribeiro’s Fashion and Fiction: Dress in Art and Literature in Stuart England, both just published by Yale University Press, exhibitions, such as Joanna Woodall’s Self Portraits from Renaissance to Contemporary at the National Portrait Gallery, and Christopher Christopher Green’s Rousseau: Jungles in Paris at Tate Modern, and Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939 at the V&A, and Caroline Campbell’s Bellini and the East at the National Gallery; television programmes, such as Joseph Koerner’s current three part series on the Northern Renaissance on BBC Four; or teaching, as the two outstanding professorial inaugural lectures by Paul Crossley and John Lowden so vividly demonstrated. For a detailed report on the activities of the Research Forum, whose new accommodation will be formally inaugurated early this summer, please refer to Pat Rubin’s article.

I am happy to report the Institute’s success in this year’s Quality Assurance Agency’s assessment of the standard of educational provision for our students. Students will always remain at the heart of all that we do, and we aim to improve the facilities and all that we offer them – of which funding support is of ever increasing importance. We are therefore immensely grateful to all those who are supporting us in this endeavour through our scholarships and bursaries. 

We all owe great thanks to Julian Agnew who has retired as Chair after over thirty years involvement with the Friends of the Courtauld Institute of Art. The Friends were founded by his father Geoffrey in 1969 with a particular remit to support the Witt, Conway and book libraries. Julian was involved from an early stage; as Treasurer he played a key role in the Friends’ finances, setting up an endowment fund, supporting Tim Llewellyn during his Chairmanship, and leading the organization.

The Friends of the Courtauld Institute of Art welcome Lucia Halpern as their new Chair, and we wish her well at this exciting time in their history, as membership increases rapidly, and a diverse array of events is planned. If you are not already a Friend, do consider joining. Our American Friends and the Somerset House Art History Foundation also have a new executive director, Helen Lee, and the beginnings of an American Young Alumni Network takes shape in New York. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the outgoing Director, Barbara Ventresco. We are most grateful for all her dedicated work for the Somerset House Art History Foundation and for the Courtauld.

In the last few months we have been greatly saddened by the loss of Lilian Browse, John Hayes and Giles Worsley. Giles will be sorely missed by all those who knew him. Lilian Browse played a key role in the Institute’s history, and we remain extremely grateful to her for the bequest of her collection. John Hayes too will continue to play a role
in our development – we are most grateful for his generosity in bequeathing funds to support students.

I hope that as many of you as possible will come and see our exhibitions this year – not only those noted above, but also the summer exhibition of Kokoschka’s Prometheus Triptych – and that you will enjoy reading about them and all that we have been doing in this newsletter.

Dr Deborah Swallow – Director