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Humans of the Courtauld

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Join Lissie as she gets to know our incredible Courtauld community...

July

SARA QUATTROCCHI FEBLES

“I can say that I finally feel ready for the next challenge.”

After a year of dedication, creativity, and hard work, Sara is about to step down from her role as editor in chief of The Courtauldian. We personally would like to thank Sara for all she’s done, for leading us and motivating us, and for producing some of The Courtauldian’s best issues that there have been. Lissie Mackintosh sits down with Sara before she hands over her role in October, to ask about her favourite parts of the job, her advice for next year's editors, and her future plans.

What has been your favourite part of your role as Editor?

Definitely getting to know different people. From members of the team to people that have reached out, and to students that wanted to get involved. I think many people don’t realize that The Courtauldian is a platform made available for Courtauld students to display their work and express their thoughts, which is why, out of all of these interactions, the best ones were the emails in which people expressed their interest in writing or creating art for the newspaper. 

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in The Courtauldian over the past year?

I guess the most obvious one is the website. It went through a huge update (thanks to our Deputy Editor, Isobelle White) which I think has helped it become more user-friendly. Another change that I especially enjoy is the addition of regular segments such as this one (Humans of The Courtauld) and the Artwork of the Month. 

 

Tell me a bit about your journey to the Courtauld.

Well, what can I say? If I have to be honest, it is thanks to my mom’s extensive research that I’m here. She was the one that went through the lists and lists of universities and would talk to me about these on a daily basis during my senior year of high school. I was so unclear and unsure about what I wanted to do. Funnily enough, I was debating if I should study economics in Milan or art history in London. Obviously, I chose the latter in the end and I can say that I definitely don't regret the choice. 


How do you feel about recent updates regarding next year’s plan?

I’m glad seminars and small classes will be live because personally, I think those are what make The Courtauld The Courtauld. I think the updates are what I expected and they haven’t really affected my plans for next year. I know I’m going back to London anyways because I definitely can’t stay here in Taipei with my parents as my visa expires in October. I’m just hoping that my third year can be somewhat normal. 

 

If you could give one message to future editors of the Courtauldian, what would it be? 

Ask for help when you need it. Definitely. There were so many times when I felt like I had to do everything myself, especially in the first term. In fact, because of this, I was quite stressed and anxious for most of the term. Editors, you have to remember that you have a team of 20 people to work with and that you can and should ask them for help.

 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Wow, 10 years. That means I’ll be 30. I can’t really say that I see myself anywhere, more than anything I imagine myself in different places. Some days I tell myself I would like to settle in La Palma, my home in the Canary Islands, and set up one of those small bed & breakfasts near the coast. Other days I tell myself I would like to live right in the center of bustling Madrid, maybe in Malasaña or Lavapiés. And other days I imagine myself as one of those digital nomads, moving around Asia, maybe living in China for a bit and then exploring the southeast. Honestly, it varies, especially now when things are so uncertain and all one can do is dream. 

What’s your favourite thing about the Courtauld?

This might sound cheesy but being part of The Courtauldian this past year, hands down. While it has been such a huge source of my stress, it has taught me so much in so many different ways. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives and I can say that I finally feel ready for the next challenge, once I finish my time in October.  

June

CHARLOTTE OSBORNE

“I've loved seeing the student body come together over the past year."

Charlotte Osborne has been our incredible Student Union President this year, dedicated to listening to our requests, worries and putting on some great student events-- the pub quizzes definitely being a highlight. She’s about to step down from her intense term as president, but not before revealing her favourite spot in London, her love of The Courtauld café’s snack selection, and her thoughts on the year ahead.

What has been your role as SU president this year? 

My role this year has been quite different to previous years! I've represented the students during some tumultuous times, with two UCU strikes and a global pandemic. I've really enjoyed my term though, especially creating a programme of wellbeing events and piloting the student-alumni mentoring scheme! I need a lie down. 

 

What did you do before you took on the role? 

I studied BA History of Art at The Courtauld. 

 

What’s next for you?

COVID-19 has put a bit of a spanner in the works in terms of my plans, so for the next few months I'll probably be eating chocolate in bed under the guise of applying for jobs.

 

What’s been your favourite part of the president role?

My favourite part has been seeing the student body come together! The students have had a difficult year, so it was great to see such solidarity when they were demanding back their fees and when we were campaigning for the No Detriment Policy.

 

How do you think the Courtauld are handling things considering current circumstances?

These past few months have been very difficult for students and staff, but I think everyone has worked hard to navigate this situation as best as they can (diplomatic enough?). It was good to see The Courtauld adopt the Students' Union's suggestions about structural racism, fee reimbursement, and COVID-19 mitigation. 

 

Where’s your favourite place in London? 

I wish I could give you a cooler answer, but it's definitely 'Gosh! Comics' in Soho.

 

Gosh! Comics, Soho (Photo: somethingdifferent.london)

What’s your favourite thing about The Courtauld? 

I've been away for so long I've almost forgotten (but I can't stop thinking about the snack selection in the cafe...).

 

April

MARK STOCKER

“It all started when I searched for art history jokes online.’ I could do better than that’, I humbly said to myself, and the rest is history...”

Honorary Courtauld student, Mark Stocker, did his PhD in the 80’s, and went on to do great things, the greatest arguably being his writings of ‘200+ Art History Jokes’. He talks about his plans Post-Covid, his career in the Art World, and his previous involvements in the case of Anthony Blunt!

When did you attend the Courtauld and what did you study?

I was supervised at the Courtauld  when it was still in Portman Square between 1981 and 1985 with a break of a year when I had a temporary lectureship in New Zealand. My PhD was on the sculptor Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, favourite of Queen Victoria, a great portraitist in his time and a man I know I would have liked immensely.

My supervisor was the late, great Ben Read, who was then Deputy Witt Librarian. I was a main editor of the huge book posthumously dedicated to him, Sculpting Art History (2018), hope there’s a copy in the Courtauld Library! But if you look for me in the Institute records, you won’t find my name, not a sausage. Let me explain: I got a three-year PhD studentship from the University of Hull, and in those more carefree days, you  could be supervised outside your institution. Ben agreed to take me on, which he did gratis, and over that period we met for supervisions, seeing me through to completion just before I took off early in 1986 – permanently, as it turned out – for New Zealand. My visits to the Courtauld proceeded like this: after I’d see Ben, I’d go upstairs to the Conway and Philip Ward-Jackson, who remains a close friend, would ask me ‘What have you been talking about with  Ben?’  So I ended up with two Courtauld supervisors. As smart as any of the faculty, I reckon!

 

Have you been back to the Courtauld since you graduated?

Quite a few times till maybe about ten years ago.  My job at Te Papa (the national Museum of New Zealand), which I left last year, meant that I necessarily had more restricted time – but now I’m a free agent and once things improve, as they must, post Coronavirus, I plan to spend summers in Britain and do more research in my country of origin. I’ve never given a lecture or paper there, I have in plenty of other places. Never too late!

 

You wrote a document called 200 + Art History Jokes. Can you tell us more about it and where the ideas came from?

Essentially my head. It all started when I searched for art history jokes online.  There were a couple but they were feeble.  I could do better than that, I humbly said to myself, and the rest is history.

When looking for where the humour comes from, I think I owe quite a lot to the acerbic humour of the Guardian ‘Comment is free’ blog. A recent rather brutal one (though it was in the Indy) that I liked was about a worried Tory who asked ‘Suppose Dominic Raab caught the Coronavirus?  Who would be running the country?’ ‘Stay cool, he won’t, it doesn’t normally jump species!’

 

What’s your favourite joke that you wrote?

I’m fed up with some of them but a popular and fairly obvious one is this:

 

What did the art historian say when he was told he’d won the Lotto?
‘Terrific!  Is it an Annunciation?’

 

What have you done since leaving the Courtauld?

I’ve been an academic – for 29 years all up in the paid workforce. And then, when the writing was sadly on the wall for the subject at my Uni, I got a job as the historical art curator at New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa, where I worked until 2019. 

I’ve published fairly prolifically on a wide range of themes, mostly sculpture and numismatics, but some printmaking too, 18th to 20th centuries, though I’ve just done a piece on Hollar’s butterflies and bugs for Print Quarterly. Last publication count was 225, excluding shorter book and exhibition reviews. Ten books, including four edited books between 2014 and 2018. At Te Papa I had a hand in curating four or five exhibitions, mostly comparative tiddlers, they didn’t use me enough. My latest publication is on Burne-Jones’s 1871 Italy sketchbook in the April Burlington Magazine. My current research project is for a book on the 1971 UK decimal coinage, which has been commissioned by the Royal Mint.  Just been editing New Zealand’s best-known artist Dick Frizzell’s forthcoming book, Me, According to the History of Art – great title isn’t it?

 

You started at the Courtauld just after Anthony Blunt’s tenure in office had ended, what was that like?

I was never an insider, as I say. My first time or two I felt a bit nervous about entering its portals – there was a formidable receptionist in those days. But we were chatting perfectly amicably before too long. My main reasons for going there were to use the Conway resources and to meet with Philip and Ben on matters related to my research. I got a unique education that way. The Courtauld lecturer I knew best was the late John House. He was a fanatical Spurs fan (Ben was a passionate Arsenal fan, recipe there for aggro!) and so I told him how I was amused by some graffiti I had seen which read ‘Hoddle is God’. John replied ‘What’s so funny about that?’ He was touched by the faith, you see!

Let me tell you my Anthony Blunt story. When he was outed by Margaret Thatcher and stripped of his knighthood 40 years ago, I wrote a letter that was published in The Guardian. At the time I was doing my MA at UEA. I said the knighthood stripping was petty and mean, that we shouldn’t forget the good work he did as an art historian, and though I didn’t say so at the time, I was appalled at how his homosexuality was used against him. We’re used to it now but the popular media were appalling, so righteous, so cruel. I pleaded ‘let him enjoy a graceful old age’. Then Bernard Levin quoted my letter in his column in The Times and called it ‘exculpatory twaddle’. A lot has happened since then – Blunt emerges rather nastily in Miranda Carter’s biography, chilly, manipulative – look what he did to Anita Brookner. Thinking about it, the man was bloody arrogant to betray Britain in the 1930s and beyond: a flawed - yes – but fragile democracy in a world of horrible dictators, with his beloved USSR as evil as any. But oh no, Anthony knew better than his fellow British what was best for them. Hmm…  At the end of the day, I wrote what I did at the time, and don’t regret it. Blunt remains a great art historian even if I am far more of a Kenneth Clark fan!

To read some more of Mark's jokes, follow us on Instagram at @thecourtauldian.

May

ZEYNEP KOKSAL

“I am truly very excited to build a team for next year and produce an engaging, entertaining and educational publication that can be accessed by all members of the Courtauld community”

The Courtauldian is thrilled to announce that First Year Courtauld student Zeynep Koksal is about to take on the exciting new role as editor of the Courtauldian for the 2020/21 academic year. We get to know Zeynep, as Lissie Mackintosh sits down with her and finds out about her plans for the newspaper, her love for Turkey and its cultural history, and what she’s been up to during lockdown.

 How did you feel when you found out you had become the new editor of The Courtauldian?

I was very honoured and pleased that I had been given the opportunity to lead the creation of one of the most inspiring aspects of the Courtauld. I have been interested in journalism for years now and gaining this editorial experience will inspire me to improve myself in this area. I am truly very excited to build a team for next year and produce an engaging, entertaining and educational publication that can be accessed by all members of the Courtauld community. I do have to admit though that I also felt some distress, as I know how big the role is and how much of a responsibility it is. Therefore, I am currently preparing and training myself to build a strong sense of organisation and leadership in order to run things smoothly next year.  

What do you plan to do with the role?

To be honest, I am very happy with The Courtauldian’s current place: students are motivated to contribute with very creative ideas, the illustrations and graphics are incredible and the content is well rounded. However, I believe that the publication is lacking the contributions of other members of the community such as staff or graduate students. My aim is to simply raise more awareness for The Courtauldian. I want it to become a shared platform where both staff and students can come together to express their opinions, achievements and writings.

 

What are you studying at the Courtauld and what inspired you to study this?

I’m doing a BA in History of Art and I’ve just finished my first year. Although I have not had the opportunity to scrutinise in a single artistic area, as a Turkish student myself, I have always been interested in Non-Western Art, so going forward, I would like to explore this more. I grew up in an artistically and historically rich country with monuments from the Roman Empire, Byzantium, and the Ottoman Empire. I was always concerned with how little I knew about these monuments and their history. Because of this, my greatest ambition has been to learn more about my surroundings in Istanbul. The rich ornamentation and bright colours of all decorative Ottoman objects still remain an unknown field for me, which is what I would like to explore more at the Courtauld. 

 

How have you found the quarantine lockdown?

Quarantine lockdown has been a roller-coaster journey for me: I started off very unaware of the situation, thinking that it would only last two weeks. After two weeks, I went through a period of disappointment and difficulty in finding any motivation to get out of my bed and do something productive. At the end of my first month, I finally came to the realisation that this period of staying at home is the best time to find new hobbies, read, learn more and be productive. So I started an online course, working out and painting. I arrived in Istanbul on March 12, before the strict quarantine rules. After spending a couple weeks in the city, the government announced that they would be closing off the city borders within Turkey to prevent people from travelling within the country. After this news, my family and I immediately went to the south of Turkey where we have a small family house in the middle of a forest. I have been very lucky to be able to spend a month out in nature where I can go for walks, do some gardening and just stay outdoors. As much as I have been enjoying the last month or so, I am looking forward to being able to socialise again. 

 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

As an international student myself, 10 years from now seems very difficult to predict. My dream would be to have completed a graduate degree and to have found a job in London related to art (maybe at a museum, gallery, auction house,...). Difficulties arise when trying to predict 10 years from now as I am also considering completing a PhD with the hope of following an academic career. Regardless, after gaining enough experience, I hope to return back to Istanbul where I can start my own business focusing on introducing the hidden assets of Turkey to its citizens.

 

What have you done since leaving the Courtauld?

My favourite thing about the Courtauld has to be the incredibly rich resources it has. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to benefit from the Courtauld Gallery and the Somerset House archive.

 

March

NANCY COLLINGE

"As for the unwarranted attention from middle-aged men on Twitter-- that’s a little less glam."

Nancy Collinge. Student Union President Candidate, Pub Enthusiast and University Challenge Maestro. Nancy’s ready to graduate, but not first without sharing her thoughts on the glamour of the Holiday Inn Express, the current uni situation and throwing food out of the Duchy House windows- Lissie Mackintosh finds out more.

What are you planning on doing after you graduate?

If things go to plan, I’ll be doing Chosborne’s job and I’ll be reigning SU President/Despot. I’ve loved my time at the Courtauld as a student and believe that I could enact some positive change regarding health, well-being, and inclusivity if I were elected. In the next few years, I’m really keen to do a master's in either creative writing or film studies; I’m just taking some time to figure out what I want to do and where I want to do it.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give a fresher?

I’ve got three if that’s okay. Don’t shit where you eat (can I say that?). Text your parents every day. And don’t chuck food out of the Duchy House kitchen windows.

 

Rate your 3rd year out of 10?

Probably had the most fun of my life and got really well acquainted with the pub with my friends but Miss Rona’s really thrown a sizeable spanner in the works, hasn’t she? It’s a 7/10 for me.

Do you think uni is handling things well?

I think there’s always improvements to be made in regard to the communication students receive on all issues, and I think there could be more to be done in terms of well-being outreach. This is a really stressful time for all students, particularly those doing one-year courses and my friends in third year. I’m not sure we feel 100% supported by our institution. Maybe instead of us having to update our tutors on our whereabouts, they could just ask? Would that be so difficult? I do appreciate this is an unprecedented situation but it kind of does just feel we’ve been pushed out on a ledge and forced to fend for ourselves a bit, right?

Nancy on University Challenge, 2019-20 (Photo: Tumblr)

What was it like being on University Challenge?

Completely hilarious. There’s nothing like turning up to the ITV green room hungover from drinking all the alcohol available in the local Cafe Rouge the night before and then being faced with a group of 20 different Oxbridge students testing each other on the names and locations of the Baltic States. I made some good friends from other universities as well as the Courtauld and spent a few very chic nights in the Holiday Inn Express so I can’t complain. As for the unwarranted attention from middle-aged men on Twitter-- that’s a little less glam.

What’s your favourite thing about the Courtauld?

Its proximity to the pub.

February

SIEUN LEE

"The people here are definitely my favourite part”

At only 20 years old, Sieun Lee has co-founded a curatorial collective, moved abroad from her family, and has mastered the art of the lazy Sunday- arguably the most impressive. Lissie Mackintosh sits down with Sieun and finds out more.

How have you found your experience as an international student at the Courtauld?

I think as an international student you really get to experience the British culture being around so many people from the UK. While I have my fellow international student friends, there isn’t as much of a separation between us and the UK students here, which is great to really get the most out of being in London.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement at the moment is probably starting Now Curation and having put together five exhibitions. It is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in terms of time management, stress management, and working together with other people. It is also definitely the biggest self-initiated challenge I’ve ever done. 

 

That sounds so exciting and impressive. Why did you start Now Curation?

Co-founder Thea and I started Now Curation because we wanted to make the most out of being in London. We saw there were many artist-curated group shows and small exhibitions put together by students, so as two students who had the time and were interested in curation, we didn’t really see why we couldn’t just put an exhibition on ourselves. Also, we were both new to living in London so we thought it would be a proactive way to meet artists and other students that share the same interests.

Poster of NowCuration's most recent show (Courtesy of @nowcuration)

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I have a hard time imagining where I will be in 3 months, so all I can hope for in 10 years is that I am happy and not regretting my choices 10 years ago.

What does your ideal Sunday look like?

My ideal Sunday would be waking up late, napping in the day and then sleeping really early! I just want to sleep the whole day!

Something we ask everyone- what is your favourite thing about the Courtauld?

The people here are my favourite part of being at the Courtauld. The students and professors are definitely the best part of the Courtauld!

January

SUSAN HORSFIELD

"I've seen the Courtauld evolve and change in an incredible way."

Everyone’s favourite receptionist and possibly the most comforting face on campus, Lissie Mackintosh sits down with the woman without whom (let’s face it) the Courtauld would be in bits.

When did you join the Courtauld?

Ages ago, too long. I can hardly remember. I came quite shortly after I left art college, which has meant I’ve seen the Courtauld change for the better. I’ve really seen the Courtauld evolve and change in an incredible way, and the Research Forum, in particular, is such an amazing department. In my opinion, it’s helped make the Courtauld ‘cool’.

Being here so long, you must have seen so many people- staff and students, come and go. How has this felt?

It’s a strange one with the students because it’s a relatively small institution, so I get to know them well and many of them are still my friends today. When you build a relationship and then people move on, yeah, it is definitely sad and I miss people. At the same time, it’s so exciting constantly meeting new batches of students and see the student body become more diverse.

Having seen so many new students come in, what’s one piece of advice you would give a Courtauld fresher?

It’s really quite simple, perhaps it sounds too simple: be in the moment and enjoy it. Relish every second and make friends.

Do you prefer Vernon Square or Somerset House?

You can’t compare the architecture of the two, so no problem there. But for me, it feels conducive here and it has been really interesting to be in a building that solely focuses on the faculty and the students. It’s a very sociable building and it really is fantastic. The building is also so connected in terms of the map of London, it’s amazing. 

What’s the funniest delivery you’ve ever signed for?

I wish I had an interesting response for this, but luckily, there hasn’t been anything too weird… Touch wood!

What’s your favourite thing about the Courtauld?​

The level and depth of expertise we have in this building. It makes me proud to be here. We have some names here, for sure. 

December

FRANKIE JENNER

Meet Frankie Jenner, a second-year with funk, humor and one of the most down to earth personalities you’ll meet. Energetic and effortlessly cool, Frankie shares her thoughts on the art world and lets us into her 10-year plan (Spoiler: It includes salt beef sandwiches).

Why did you choose to study at the Courtauld?

It was a very last-minute decision of mine to even study history of art. Of course, there was its reputation. But ultimately, the Courtauld seemed mysterious and ‘exclusive’ and this excited me. Looking back, I think this is one of the things I dislike most about it now. It really is its own little bubble, often impenetrable by the outside world.

Do you ever feel pressured to go into a career in the arts?

The Courtauld prepares you for a career in the arts, there is no doubt about it. It often feels as if there is no life outside the art world; the endless emails about Christie's events and reputable gallery internships. Careers and Research Forum talks present it as the only viable option, a one-way road to success and prosperity. I think the pressure comes more from me wanting to break out of this systematic pattern that many seem to follow.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Having found the world’s best salt beef sandwich.

Do you have a secret escape in London?

121 Fenchurch Street (not the Sky Garden). A roof terrace in the midst of this concrete jungle, nestled between the skyscrapers. It offers a cradle of calm- high enough off the ground for the sounds below to fizzle out, but still close enough to the surrounding buildings to form a web of comfort.

The view from the Roof Terrace at 121 Fenchurch Street (Photo by Frankie Jenner)

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Coming to the Courtauld from a less privileged background, compared to a lot of its students, has been challenging in many ways. I was told to never be ashamed of where I come from and to never be ashamed of my life experiences compared to others. My roots are what make me and without them, I wouldn’t be me.

What’s been the happiest moment in your life so far?

I used to play football and went on a sports tour to America. I scored the winning goal against the Bronx in New York. I’ve never felt so cool.

November

CAROLE NATAF

Meet Carole Nataf, the Courtauld’s very own 'Plein-Air' painter who is making waves in the art world, presenting her work in various galleries in London and generally killing it as a budding art historian.

Tell me about your artistic story.

I never really went to art school; one day I just started drawing and I never stopped. My cousin taught me how to use oil paints when I was 12, which was great fun. I hesitated over whether to study art as an academic practice, so I went to a summer course at Parsons, but I didn’t like having a professor tell me how to design things. I started working in tech, but I never stopped painting. It was only when people started asking me how they could access my art that I started exhibiting with different groups and selling my work online. I love painting portraits, landscapes, and still-life. I love to paint from life, so you can often see me wandering around London with an easel strapped to my front!

(Image courtesy of @carole.nataf.art)

Who’s inspired you along the way?

It sounds cliché, but I’ve always felt inspired by the Impressionists. I like the textures and how they focussed on creating paintings based on what they see.

Why did you decide to study at the Courtauld? What has it done for your journey, artistically and personally?

Well, for years working in tech I felt very frustrated that I wasn’t honouring my love for art. Joining the Courtauld helped me develop the skills I would need to work in a museum, and it developed my love for research and the history of art. I love being able to use my artistic background to understand further how paintings were made, in terms of technique especially.

What’s your favourite thing about the Courtauld?

The quality of the knowledge here. Everyone you meet here is passionate about something, anything. We’re all interested in different areas of art, and it means that the discussions with students here are incredible. When we all start talking to each other, we can learn so much because of the breadth of knowledge floating around.

(Image courtesy of @carole.nataf.art)

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

Make, make, make. Create as much as you can. It’s the best way to learn. Sometimes you’ll only have half an hour to do it a day, but you have to make the time. And don’t be afraid to show people your work; the most important thing is to get your work out of your mind and share your ideas. Exhibiting my work has helped me focus less on how they look and has freed me from being too obsessed about how people would perceive them. It allowed me to give my works a life of their own.

Carole’s works are available to purchase on Etsy, and you can follow her instagram to see more of her works at @carole.nataf.art

lissie mackintosh

Events Editor

Lissie Mackintosh is the events co-editor for the Courtauldian. An accidental advocate for trash TV and over-priced coffee, she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and packs a punch with her writing. Lissie has previously written for Tatler and is recently interested in the study of political art and photographic responses to historical events. She hopes one day to be working at Vogue, despite the fact that she thinks spending all her money on clothes is a good idea. Always up for a laugh and a good event, Lissie has got you covered with the best and most unmissable events of the year.

We'd love to hear from you!

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Penton Rise,

London

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