This next year will be marked by the formation of our Research Forum, a dynamic programme of lectures, conferences, and seminars that will comprise the heart of our life as a community of scholars and postgraduate students. Funded generously by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Forum programme for this year will include conferences on Gothic art, lectures on Rubens’s oil sketches and on the work of the American video artist, Bill Viola (the two lecture series have been organized in collaboration with the National Gallery); the ongoing research and work-in-progress seminars of our academic sections, and a new seminar series "Intellectual Formation," involving distinguished senior scholars, Hubert Damisch, Svetlana Alpers, Hans Belting, and Oleg Grabar. They will lead us through a discussion of the formative texts, individuals, and experiences that have informed their work over the decades of their careers. Future programmes will include visiting scholars and fellows.

The Rubens lectures have been organized to coincide with our first exhibition in the Hermitage Rooms. It comprises oil sketches and drawings from our collection and the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg and marks the new alliance between the Courtauld and Hermitage. The exhibition was organized by Alexei Larionov and Natalia Gritsay, Curators at the Hermitage and Joanna Woodall, the Institute’s Deputy Director and Ernst Vegelin, Senior Curator of the Courtauld Gallery. A fully illustrated scholarly catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

With so much to celebrate and look forward to, we pause to remember the passing during the last few months of three Honorary Fellows, Professor Peter Lasko, Professor John Shearman and Miss Jeanne Courtauld. Professor Peter Lasko, the person most responsible for making the case for and planning our move to Somerset House, died in May. A serious scholar and renowned academic administrator, Professor Lasko’s many contributions were acknowledged at our graduation ceremony in July. Professor John Shearman died suddenly in August. Perhaps the most influential art historian of the Italian renaissance to have ever been associated with the Courtauld, Professor Shearman took his BA and PhD degrees from the Institute and taught here for two decades, before leaving for professorships at Princeton and Harvard. It was at the latter that I came to know and admire John. His commitment to scholarship and students was renowned, and he set a standard for archival and scientific work in the study of 16th-century Florentine and Roman painting that will never be surpassed.

Sadly, I did not know Miss Jeanne Coutauld, but I miss Professors Lasko and Shearman, all the more because we valued their counsel as we moved to independent college status and looked forward to their participation in the intellectual and social life of our Research Forum.

With hopes of seeing you often at our lectures and in our halls, I am wishing you the best for the start of the academic year.