Braintree Museum Presents:

Courtaulds: Origins, Innovations & Family, 1816-1982

Saturday 1st February – Saturday 30 May 2020

Paul Gauguin, Manao Tupapau (The Spirit of the Dead Watches), 1893-94, The Courtauld Gallery, London (The Samuel Courtauld Trust).

 

  • Rare original prints by Paul Gauguin among the highlights of the Braintree Museum’s exhibition documenting the life and legacy of the Courtauld family
  • The home of Courtaulds textile business in Braintree will present the story of this extraordinary and influential family
  • From pioneering new technology in the textile industry to creating one of the world’s greatest collections of Impressionist art, Samuel Courtauld was a formative figure who began his career in the heart of Essex in the early 19th century

 

Braintree Museum is proud to present a major new exhibition, in partnership with The Courtauld Gallery, London, which explores the Courtauld family’s extraordinary history – revealing the story of their pioneering development of artificial silk created in their first factory in the heart of Braintree, Essex; the influence of the family and their ongoing local and global legacy.

The textile magnate Samuel Courtauld was the founder of the original Courtaulds Ltd. family textile business in Braintree, which became a successful international company, and allowed Samuel Courtauld to invest in his passion for collecting Impressionist art in the early 19th century. Courtauld was a dedicated advocate for the study of art history, and went on to establish The Courtauld in 1932, with Sir Robert Witt and Viscount Lee of Fareham, as an institute dedicated to the teaching and public dissemination of art history and conservation. Today, The Courtauld continues his founding vision and is one of the world’s leading centres for the study and public enjoyment of art.

The Courtauld Gallery is home to his celebrated collection which included works by Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin among many more. The Gallery is currently closed until Spring 2021 and during this period, The Courtauld has established exhibition and museum partnerships both nationally and internationally to provide unique opportunities for more audiences to engage with its collection.

The Braintree Museum will explore how the family’s legacy to the nation went beyond just their textile heritage, unveiling stories of members of the Courtauld family who went on to become war heroes, local politicians, suffragettes, World War One doctors and Arctic explorers. Visitors can explore artefacts that illuminate the Courtauld family’s history – including a suffragette poster designed by Catherine Courtauld, from the Women’s Library, London; the remains from Augustin Courtauld’s Arctic flag from the Scott Polar Institute, all complimented with loans from the Courtauld Family’s Private Collection shown alongside the Museum’s artefacts for the first time.

A particularly rare presentation of original woodblock prints by the artist Paul Gauguin, on loan from The Courtauld, will also be on display – offering a unique glimpse into the early work of a formative impressionist artist who was championed by Courtauld; coinciding with a major survey of Gauguin’s career at The National Gallery in London.

New stories of past Courtauld company employees and family members recorded by Museum volunteers will be woven into the exhibition alongside newly uncovered documents, images and testimonies.

Sheila Charrington, Chairman of Braintree District Museum Trust, said: “I am delighted with the generosity of support from Braintree District Council, Braintree Museum Volunteers, The Courtauld, The Courtauld family, Essex Record Office, Friends of Braintree Museum, Halstead Museum, Halstead 21st Century Society, Scott Polar Research Institute and Women’s Library, without whom the exhibition would not have been possible. There are so many fascinating stories behind the famous Courtauld name that will come to life in the exhibition and have triggered long-term relationships with our partner organisations.”

The Museum will be hosting a range of events to coincide with the exhibition. There will be talks, walks and The Braintree Textile Fair will be adding on an additional day which will have a Courtauld focus. All events will be published in Braintree Museum’s What’s On from January 2020 and on its website and social media.

 

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Press contact:

Polly Redman, Braintree Museum – 01376 328868 (ext. 13) / Polly.Redman@bdmt.org.uk

Fiona Russell, Sutton PR -fiona@suttoncomms.com | 44 (0) 20 7183 3577

 

History and Influence of Courtaulds

Samuel Courtauld opened his first mill in Bocking in 1816 and created innovative, unique, black mourning crepe with his brother George. Wearing black crepe was made fashionable by Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert. The company expanded rapidly opening mills in Braintree and Halstead, marking the beginning of the family’s strong influence and legacy across the District. The company continued to go from strength to strength with the development of artificial silk in the early twentieth century by Henry Tetley, who secured the patent on rayon, allowing further growth and the opening of even more factories across Britain and the creation of the American Viscose Company. The Courtauld family were incredibly generous patrons throughout the District with a rich legacy of surviving civic buildings including Braintree Town Hall, Bocking Institute, Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens and the Halstead Almshouses.

Paul Gauguin and the Noa Noa Wood Engraving Prints

Gauguin’s art was amongst the first pieces collected by Samuel Courtauld IV. From the start, Gauguin seems to have appealed strongly and instinctually to Samuel: a friend reported that ‘the sensuous colours of Gauguin steal a march on Sam’. The set of four to be displayed at the Museum were part of Gauguin’s first foray into woodcut printing and were collected by Samuel not long after they were printed in 1925. They form a portfolio by Gauguin’s youngest son, Pola. To create these prints Gauguin used boxwood which he incised with a variety of metal tools. He did however, use some ‘unconventional’ tools such as needles and razor blades to create subtle areas of light and shadow.

 

About Braintree Museum

Braintree District Museum conserves and celebrates the history of Braintree and its surrounding areas, focusing on the District’s industrial and cultural achievements and its many notable personalities. For more information, visit braintreemuseum.co.uk and follow us @museumbraintree on Twitter and Facebook @museumbraintree.

About The Courtauld

The Courtauld is the world’s leading centre for the study of art history, conservation and curating. An independent college of the University of London, The Courtauld offers degree programmes from the BA to the PhD. Its alumni, a dynamic community of specialists, are leaders and innovators in the arts, culture and business worlds nationally and internationally, helping to shape the global agenda for the arts.

The Courtauld Gallery is home to a celebrated collection of major works of art from the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century. It is most famous for its unrivalled collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, with masterpieces by artists ranging from Manet, Monet and Renoir to Cézanne, Van Gogh and Modigliani.

Many of these works were acquired by the pioneering collector and philanthropist Samuel Courtauld in the 1920s and 1930s, when he was chairman of the textile firm Courtaulds Ltd. He went on to establish The Courtauld in 1932, with Sir Robert Witt and Viscount Lee of Fareham, as an institute dedicated to the teaching and public dissemination of art history and conservation. Today, The Courtauld continues his founding vision and is one of the world’s leading centres for the study and public enjoyment of art.

As part of an ambitious transformation project that will make The Courtauld’s world-class artworks, research and teaching accessible to even more people, the gallery is closed until Spring 2021. During this period, The Courtauld has established exhibition and museum partnerships both nationally and internationally to provide unique opportunities for more audiences to engage with its collection. Our teaching has also temporarily relocated from Somerset House to Vernon Square until c.2022/3.  Find out more at courtauld.ac.uk