The Courtauld Gallery has announced the inauguration of its new space, the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery, which is to open this month. Designed by Witherford Watson Mann Architects, winners of the 2013 Stirling Prize, the new Drawings Gallery will be The Courtauld’s first dedicated space for the display of drawings. Which will number some 7,000 works and feature artists such as Dürer, Michelangelo and Rembrandt, The Courtauld’s collection of drawings is one of the most important in the United Kingdom. The Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery provides a dedicated space at the heart of the Gallery to transform public awareness and enjoyment of this collection.
The creation of the new gallery dedicated to drawing has been made possible by a generous gift of $750,000 US dollars from the American philanthropist Gilbert Butler and his wife Ildiko, in whose honour the space will be named. They have been joined in funding the new Gallery by an international group of collectors and drawings enthusiasts.
The new exhibition in this space entitled ‘Unseen’ from 15 January to 29 March 2015, will draw attention to the range and depth of the collection by focusing on works which have not been exhibited at The Courtauld in the last 20 years, often by lesser-known artists. The selection of some 20 works ranges across the centuries from Two men in conversation, a striking 15th century Renaissance drawing from the school of Francesco Squarcione, to Africa, a work from 1962 by Larry Rivers, the godfather of Pop Art.
Highlights of this new exhibition include Rubens’s sensuous Female nude and Fuseli’s uncanny watercolour showing a woman seen from behind, as if floating. The selection includes a variety of types of drawings, from a sheet of studies of female heads by Michel Corneille II, painter to the French king Louis XIV, to Jacopo Ligozzi’s Annunciation, which is highlighted in gold. Antoine Caron’s drawing of a Carousel of British and Irish knights, shows chivalric entertainment at the French court in the sixteenth century.
There are also examples of early caricature displayed in Pier Francesco Mola’s humorous Study of three ecclesiastics, while the importance of amateur draughtsmen is demonstrated in Valentin Klotz’s accomplished View of the city of Grave after a siege, 1675. Study of a blind man, dated 1760, is a rare surviving drawing by the American-born portrait painter John Greenwood; and a fine example of a so-called ‘shelter drawing’ by the great sculptor Henry Moore showing Londoners in an Underground tunnel during the bombing of the city in World War II.
The Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery will host an annual programme of displays. Further projects planned for 2015 will focus on Renaissance drawings as well as the remarkable drawn self-portraits of Jonathan Richardson the Elder. In addition to showcasing the collection, the programme will serve as a platform for research and experimentation, encouraging the development of new approaches in the study of drawings.
Dr. Ernst Vegelin van Claerbergen, Head of The Courtauld Gallery stated to the press:”The new gallery promises to be a revelation in every respect. It will not only add an important extra dimension to visitors’ experience of The Courtauld, but it will also give us a new platform to showcase our great drawings collection in a dynamic and creative way. We are enormously grateful to Gilbert Butler and our other generous supporters for giving London this important new space for drawings.”
Stephen Witherford, Director of Witherford Watson Mann also commented: “This is a really challenging project for us, to provide a setting for the Courtauld’s outstanding collection of drawings, just off William Chambers’ historic Royal Academy stair. To connect the room into the public circuit and to make it a calm background for the works demands doing many small things well.”