Tag Archives: museum

20: Admire impressionist masterpieces for free at the Courtault Institute

Alongside world-class museums including the National Gallery, the British Museum or the Tate Modern, London is host to less popular museums that also display outstanding works of art. In the Courtault gallery, housed by the sumptuous Somerset House on the Strand, you won’t queue to get your ticket, nor will you struggle to get a glimpse at the paintings, as it is hardly ever crowded (as you can see on the pictures…). The building itself, with its elegant rooms and monumental staircase, is a jewel box for an equally understated collection:

room of the Courtault Institute 1

The ground floor features interesting works from the Middle Ages, but the Courtault is undoubtedly renown for the impressionist paintings of the 1st floor. Manet’s “A bar at the Folies-Bergère”, famous for its mirror reflection of the scene and the mysterious air of the waitress, is the star of the collection, followed by other masterpieces by Monet or Renoir. The much-admired Cézanne’s “Card players” and an nth view of Mount Sainte-Victoire are displayed alongside Gauguin’s paintings of Tahitian girls.

Manet's "a bar at the folies-bergères"

The top floor gathers aerial sculptures of dancers by Degas, and a collection of paintings from the 21st century, including fauvist works.

Degas' room at the Courtault Institute

The collection is completed with several Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and drawings from masters such as Da Vinci or Canaletto.

room of the Courtault Institute 3

The best part of it being that you can enter the Courtault Gallery for free every Monday before 2pm, or at any time if you’re a student. Now there’s no excuse to miss this opportunity!

Nearest Tube Station: Temple

Link to the Courtault Institute Website

13: Check out the Natural History Museum’s dinosaurs (with or without kids)

If (like me) you pretend to be a grown-up even though dinosaurs still fascinate you, if you’re a natural sciences geek, or even a Darwinist, you will certainly feel at home in the Natural History Museum.

The Natural History Museum is located in South Kensington, minutes away from the V&A, and like in every other national museum in London its entrance is free. The architecture of the building itself is both imposing and intriguing (although I won’t guarantee that it is of good taste). Before entering, check out the pterodactyl gargoyles on the front of the museum:

natural history museum gargoyle

The principal attraction of this huge museum (walking around it takes a couple of hours) is without contest the life-size dinosaurs reproduction. The diplodocus displayed in the main hall is particularly massive:

hall of the natural history museum

Then, the numerous rooms, filled with stuffed animals, introduce the visitor to the different forms of life on earth, see and air. The marine room with its blue whale reproduction is particularly worth a look. The stuffed elephant is also one of my favourites.

stuffed elephant, natural history museum

This museum also shows extinct species (there’s even a stuffed dodo!) and weird things that, I think, are meant to educate the audience, but end up being quite disgusting, such as this bird dissection.

bird dissection, natural history museum

Nearest Tube: South Kensington

011: Visit the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries at the V&A

the central courtyard

Just when I was thinking that a museum about the middle Ages was really missing in London, the V&A announced the opening of its new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. These brand new galleries opened on the 2nd of December – but I already wonder how the Victoria and Albert could pretend to be a comprehensive design museum without them.

Casket representing the assassination of Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170

To me, they totally fit in the V&A, and are like the rest of the museum: a motley collection of more or less fascinating and/ or beautiful objects. The new galleries feature artefacts representing the art and culture of Europe from the end of the Roman Empire to the modern times. They include statues, tapestries, altarpieces, ceramics, fountains, bits of church furniture, books…

Stained glass representing the temptation of the Christ by Satan

All these luxury objects – most of them are in enamel or gilded silver, while the tapestries and ceramics display rich colours – convey a feeling of wealth and sophistication, far from the general impression that medieval ages were a time of darkness. Although the overall is unequal and not always very didactic, there’s really something for everyone.

A notebook belonging to Da Vinci. The curators will turn the pages from time to time, to avoid deterioration

Nearest tube station: South Kensington