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Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision @ The Courtauld Gallery

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by Erin (subscribe)
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Explore the early works of the renowned portrait artist
The Courtauld Gallery is located at Somerset House in central London overlooking the Thames River. This beautiful neo-classical building (formerly home of the Royal Academy of Art) is a collective of some of the greatest artistic, cultural, musical, and educational organisations in London, including the Big Society Network, the National Youth Orchestra, the Royal Society of Literature, Britain Thinks, and many other leading entities.

Somerset House with exhibit of Fernando Casasempere - Out of Sync.

The Courtauld Gallery is part of this 'creative hub' composed of thinkers and artists from all backgrounds. The Gallery continually showcases distinct collections in an intimate space unlike any other art institution in London. One of the current exhibitions at the Courtauld Gallery highlights Peter Lely, a lesser known artist from 17th century England.

Courtauld Staircase. Photo by Mike Peel.

Peter Lely was the leading portrait artist for the court of Charles I, then Oliver Cromwell, and finally Charles II after the English Restoration. Lely's remarkable talent kept him safe throughout all the years of turmoil and transition during the English Civil War and he remained a permanent fixture at court through the years of drastically changing leadership.

Portrait of Cromwell. National Museum Wales.

Despite this pedigree and contemporary renown, Lely's works have been forgotten in recent years. The Courtauld exhibit aims to bring them back to the public's consciousness. Lely's most famous paintings are from his later career as a court portrait artist and these naturally include royal portraits, as well as a series of 10 portraits known as the Windsor Beauties from the court of Charles II.

Portrait Of Diana, Countess Of Ailesbury.

The exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery is dedicated to Lely's early work, before his fame as a portrait artist, and is the first exhibit to explore these lesser known works. These early paintings depict idyllic landscapes, pastoral life, and other Arcadian scenes. As stated by the official website, 'this is a chance to see some of the most beautiful and seductive paintings made in 17th century England'.

Nymphs by a Fountain. Courtesy of the Courtauld Gallery.

Apart from the Lely exhibition, the Gallery is well-known for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and extensive collection of sculptures and drawings.
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Why? Learn about a lesser known artist in an elegant gallery setting.
When: October 11, 2012 to January 13, 2013; 10am to 6pm
Phone: 020 7848 2526 (24 hour recorded information)
Where: Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Cost: 6 for Adults (Free admission on Mondays, 10am to 2pm)
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