The coming 75th anniversary, presaged in the Gallery by Dorothy Scharf’s wonderful gift of watercolours, provides an opportune moment to reflect briefly on the question of acquisitions and collections development. The Scharf bequest is an example of a ‘passive acquisition’, but what of direct interventions in the market? The Samuel Courtauld Trust, owner of the collections, does very occasionally acquire works in this fashion, and the list of items purchased in the last 20 years includes such cherished additions to the collection as Seurat’s oil sketch Boats Near the Riverbank and Ingres’s irresistible pencil study for La Grande Odalisque. Both of these exemplary works once belonged to Samuel Courtauld and the gradual reconstitution of his collection and those of the other founders of the Institute remains a primary ambition of our acquisitions policy. Opportunities to acquire such works are rare and can only be contemplated with the support of funding bodies, such as The Art Fund, which have become essential in leveraging acquisitions budgets across the country.

The collection held by the Gallery has also grown in other ways. Of particular importance is the government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme under which the Gallery was recently allocated a marvellous Degas bronze from the estate of Lillian Browse. However, managed and strategic acquisitions are necessarily more challenging, and here working with supporters of the Courtauld is essential.

The vision with which the collections were established, namely their proximity to teaching and research, remains vital in assessing potential acquisitions. Perhaps more deserving of emphasis is the Gallery’s great asset of combining works of art from the same periods or styles in different media. Developing the holdings of Impressionist prints and drawings to complement our outstanding paintings is therefore a realistic aspiration, as are additions to the select group of early drawings. It is in the field of prints and drawings that the chronological range of the collection might most readily be extended.

Complementarity is no less important in the decorative arts collection where, for example, our group of ivories would be powerfully enhanced by one or two select additions. The loans from the Fridart Foundation have amply demonstrated the value of more fully extending the collection of paintings into the twentieth century, particularly with Fauve and German Expressionist works. Doing so at a level of quality commensurate with the existing collections depends inevitably on private support. The Dorothy Scharf bequest provides reassurance that such philanthropy, through which the Courtauld family of collections has multiplied so happily over the past 75 years, should be celebrated as more an historical phenomenon.

Dr. Ernst Vegelin – Head of the Courtauld Institute Gallery

“What the Courtauld does best... focusing on artists who aren’t household names but who richly deserve exhibitions of this calibre.” The Daily Telegraph was just one of many national papers to sing the praises of Guercino: Mind to Paper, on display from February to May 2007.

This critical and popular success would not have been possible without the financial support of the Friends of the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Guercino Supporters Circle: Agnew’s, Jean-Luc Baroni, Christie’s, Colnaghi – Katrin Bellinger, Columbia Foundation, Day & Faber, Kate de Rothschild, Simon C. Dickinson Ltd, Hazlitt Gooden & Fox, Italian Cultural Institute, The Matthiesen Foundation, Flavia Ormond Fine Arts and Thomas Williams Fine Art Ltd.

With this support, the Courtauld has once again been a welcome remedy for ‘blockbusteritis’.

Katy Hadwick – Marketing and Communications Manager, Courtauld Institute Gallery