All wrapped up, nowhere to go

The Courtauld Gallery closes tomorrow for refurbishment: some works will be lent, others stored. Vanessa Thorpe reports

One bite from the apple and the artless Adam and Eve are suddenly shamed into searching for a way to cover up their bodies. It is a biblical scene that was favoured by many of the Old Masters, yet no image of the Garden of Eden is more familiar than Lucas Cranach's 470-year-old depiction, complete with its exotic menagerie. But if you have not yet viewed the painting at its London home you have missed your chance, because yesterday Cranach's famous nudes were covered with more than their usual fig leaves and hidden away for at least a year.

The picture is one of around 400 works that are going into storage while the Courtauld Gallery, housed in the north wing of Somerset House on The Strand, is refurbished. It will be closed from tomorrow. Some of the most prestigious paintings will go on loan to other galleries during the pounds 2.5m building work, but more than half the collection will be out of circulation until next autumn at the earliest. In addition to the Cranach, a renowned 1778 Gainsborough portrait of the artist's wife on her 50th birthday and a popular Tintoretto, The Adoration of the Shepherds, will also be wrapped up and stowed in warehouses while the gallery's decorative plasterwork is restored and the lighting improved.

Often the poor, forgotten relation, the Courtauld hopes to reopen in a blaze of brilliance, enabling it to rival Europe's major galleries and live up to the grandeur of its home of seven years beneath Sir William Chambers' allegorical sculptures of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance in the building often cited as one of the finest in London.

"It would be impossible to keep the pictures on the site during the work because it would not be a safe environment," said a gallery spokeswoman. "We feel we have taken up all the opportunities to lend out and we are pleased that a lot of our best known works will be on display elsewhere." The Courtauld's recent lottery grant will pay for the restoration work and an air-conditioning system, while the prints and drawings gallery and the cafe will be re-organised.

The gallery's collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings will be sent to Japan where it will tour three venues. Cezanne's moody Lac d'Annecy (1896) will be one of the stars of the trip. Other noted works in this section of the collection include Manet's ubiquitous A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, and oils by Degas, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir.

Twenty-nine other paintings, including a Van Gogh portrait, will go to the National Gallery and 13 will go to the Dulwich Picture Gallery. One Rubens, The Bounty of King James Triumphing over Avarice, will spend a year at the London Tate.

The temporary closure of the Courtauld can be seen as a small step backwards in the campaign to openall of Somerset House to the public. Formerly used to keep the registrar-general's birth, death and marriage records, the neo-Palladian building on the Thames is still occupied by the Lord Chancellor's Department and staff from the Inland Revenue. Ministers first promised to open it up to the public in 1971.

The gallery moved into the north wing seven years ago, along with its sister, the Courtauld Institute. Both are part of London University and the art collection was bequeathed by the industrialist Samuel Courtauld.

Eventually the whole site is to become a grand arts venue, thanks to a lottery grant. The pounds 75m Arthur Gilbert silverware collection - the biggest art bequest made to the nation - will move to another wing within the next two years. The central quadrangle, now a car park, may be used for open-air concerts and the 860ft river-front terrace will be opened to the public.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam