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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
News
i100
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club that later became synonymous with Hillsborough has dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor