Gallery blog

#PrintMonth: Looking at Claude Lorrain

10 April 2014 by Elizabeth


Elizabeth Jacklin, Print Cataloguer for the Esmée Fairbairn cataloguing project

The French artist Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) is famed for his paintings and drawings of the Italian landscape, but his etchings are less well-known. I find The Herd at the Watering-place a particularly fascinating example.

Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), The Herd at the Watering-place

Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), The Herd at the Watering-place

Claude made a relatively small number of etchings, around 40 in total. However, he was interested enough to have a printing press of his own, and took an experimental approach to the technique.

To make an etching, the artist works with a metal plate that has been prepared by covering it with a thin layer of a waxy ground. This ground can be very freely drawn into using an etching needle.

When the plate is placed in an acid bath, the acid ‘bites’ into the drawn lines where the ground has been penetrated. The incised lines then hold the ink when printed.

Etching is a chemical process and isn’t always easy to control – any areas in which the etching ground is accidentally damaged will be exposed to the acid and will print black.

The large margin of this print is full of such unintended marks and is in itself a very unusual feature – it has been suggested that the design was made on the back of another plate featuring a larger design. I like the way it frames the image.

I admire Claude’s etchings for their spontaneity and experimentation; this print feels full of life.

The scene itself shows a herdsman standing by while his cattle drink from a river, the water reflecting their heads. On the right a goat has caught the attention of some of the oxen.

Claude Lorrain herd at the watering place_crop

This etching was catalogued as part of a project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

You can see it on display in the gallery along with some of the other prints catalogued during the project from 14 May – 20 July 2014.

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Seurat’s Secret Self-Portrait

28 March 2014 by Hannah


The only known self-portrait of Georges Seurat has been discovered more than 130 years after he concealed it in one of his last paintings, Young woman powdering herself (around 1888-1890)

Seurat 'Young woman powdering herself_490px

Recent technical examination has revealed that a bust-length self-portrait of Seurat at his easel initially featured in the upper left-hand corner of the painting.


The voluptuous sitter in this work was Seurat’s twenty-year-old mistress Madeleine Knobloch.

A long-standing myth surrounding this work stated that in the mirror on the wall was a self-portrait of Seurat in the act of painting Madeleine.

However, a friend, who was unaware of the intimate relationship between the painter and his model, said that it looked comical and Seurat decided to paint over his self-portrait before the painting went on view.

Burnstock Serres fig 3_490pxwide

Thanks to advance in imaging technology, it is now possible to see the layers of paint under the surface and prove that the story is true.

Burnstock Serres_490pxwide

You can read the full report on ‘Seurat’s Hidden Self-Portrait’ by Aviva Burnstock and Karen Serres in the current issue of the Burlington Magazine.

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The Ultimate Courtauld Quiz

24 March 2014 by Hannah


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Which Courtauld Artwork Are You?

24 March 2014 by Hannah


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#MuseumWeek at The Courtauld Gallery

22 March 2014 by Hannah


Next week we are joining museums and galleries from across the UK and Europe on Twitter for the first ever #MuseumWeek.



Monday 24 March #DayInTheLife

Karen Serres, our Curator of Paintings takes you through you through a #DayInTheLife - peak into conservation, pop into the store and prepare an exhibition!


Tuesday 25 March

Get ready to answer our fiendishly difficult questions and try out our quizzes for #MuseumMastermind day:

Which Courtauld Artwork Are You?

The Ultimate Courtauld Quiz

Share your result for either quiz on Twitter between 9.30am and 5pm (GMT) on Tuesday 25 March 2014 and you could be in with the chance to win a Courtauld goody bag.

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Wednesday 26 March

Share your favourite museum memory experience #MuseumMemories.


Thursday 27 March

We take you #BehindTheArt and share the story of  Somerset House, and give you a peak at some of the secret spaces behind the scenes.


Friday 28 March

What would you like to #AsktheCurator? Barnaby Wright, Curator of 20th Century Art and exhibitions including Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 will be on hand to answer your questions.


Saturday 29 March

We’ll share our favourite #MuseumSelfies


Sunday 30 March

We challenge you to #GetCreative in 140 characters.

Follow @CourtauldGall and the #MuseumWeek hashtag to get involved.

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