Nathaniel Charles Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild, OM, GBE, CVO (29 April 1936 – 26 February 2024)

28 Feb 2024

It is with huge sadness that The Courtauld reports the death of Lord Rothschild, the internationally renowned British peer, investment banker and member of the Rothschild family, who was a committed and influential supporter of The Courtauld and a member of its Governing Board from 19 June 2002 to 12 July 2007.


Lord Rothschild made a huge contribution to British public life, and was extremely active in a variety of charitable and philanthropic areas including the arts sector – a major passion in his life. His significance is reflected in the world-wide range of messages and obituaries responding to the news of his death, which conveys the importance of his cumulative impact both in the UK and internationally.

Lord Rothschild and Princess Anne smiling and talking together, with Deborah Swallow visible in the background, at The Courtauld Gallery in 2018.
Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal and Lord Rothschild at the Courtauld Gallery, 2017 © Jim Winslet

Lord Rothschild was a true friend of The Courtauld and part of its life and community for over half a century. At the millennium, he played a key role in our move towards our becoming a self-governing specialist college of the University of London. He generously hosted workshops at Waddesdon Manor, bringing together senior staff and academics, alumni and distinguished international colleagues to discuss ways in which such a goal could be achieved. The cornerstone of our move to independence was the need to create a permanent endowment for The Courtauld, and it was with Lord Rothschild’s help and advice and his unparalled network of connections that The Courtauld succeeded in securing endowment gifts from the Getty Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, the Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, and the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund (now Arcadia). He also helped to secure further revenue gifts for The Courtauld’s first years from the Getty Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation and the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, to allow The Courtauld to build up its crucial endowment fund. Lord Rothschild not only used his great network to help secure major gifts for The Courtauld, but he was tremendously generous himself, supporting scholarships, capital projects and exhibitions over many years.

Lord Rothschild’s great skill lay in his entrepreneurial ability to see the significance of wider networks of collaboration. As Chairman of the National Gallery (1985-1991; 1992-1998) and of the Heritage Lottery Fund (1994-1998), he was extremely well informed about all that was happening throughout the country and internationally. Just before The Courtauld’s independence, he had played a key role in establishing the viability of Somerset House as a cultural venue by bringing the Gilbert Collection to London from the USA and persuading the Hermitage museum to set up a home in London at Somerset House.  With support from the Edmond J. Safra Foundation – which had already funded the redevelopment of the fountain courtyard and subsequently funded a new lighting scheme – and additional philanthropic gifts,  The Courtauld ran the Hermitage Rooms programme from 2002-2007. This programme enriched the experience of The Courtauld’s curators and academic staff, and extended the scope of its displays to include exhibitions on Islamic art, under the leadership of former Marit Rausing Director Professor James Cuno, and Byzantine art, curated by Professor Antony Eastmond and Dr Peter Stewart. These were crucial foundation markers in the gradual globalisation of The Courtauld’s reach.

Lord Rothschild continued to be a key friend and supporter of The Courtauld throughout his life, attending events and enjoying its exhibitions, and making introductions. He helped facilitate many generous donations including a series of scholarship gifts from Mrs Jayne Wrightsman. Most recently, The Rothschild Foundation’s support, under his chairmanship, has included a major gift to the current exhibition The Griffin Catalyst Exhibition: Frank Auerbach. The Charcoal Heads. Over many decades, he remained deeply interested in all that was happening at The Courtauld, and in the purposes and future of this institution. He was a unique personality, and his significance of his impact across the UK is difficult to exaggerate. He will always be remembered and hugely missed by all those who knew him.

We send our deepest sympathies to his family, his friends and all those who worked closely with him in the many organisations with which he was engaged.