Karen Serres - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Karen Serres

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Dr Karen Serres

Curator of Paintings

Karen Serres received her training in art history and museum studies at the Ecole du Louvre (1997) and the Sorbonne (1998) in Paris. She completed her MA (1999) and PhD (2004) at The Courtauld, where her research focused on French and Italian Baroque painting.

She was then appointed Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, working on French and Italian painting and sculpture. She later became the Robert H. Smith Research Curator in the Sculpture Department of that institution. In 2009, she was named the Nina and Lee Griggs Associate Curator of European Art at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut. She returned to the Courtauld as Schroder Foundation Curator of Paintings in September 2012.

Current and recent exhibitions and projects

For the past three years, Karen has been involved in the Courtauld Connects project. One of its facets is to ensure that the collection of The Courtauld remains accessible during the closure of the Gallery for refurbishment (autumn 2018 to autumn 2021). As such, she co-curated the exhibitions The Courtauld Collection, A Vision for Impressionism at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris (2019) and Masterpieces of Impressionism. The Courtauld Collection (three venues in Japan, 2019-20). These projects, as well as the Courtauld National scheme that shares the collection with partner museums across the UK, drew on new research on the collector and philanthropist Samuel Courtauld, as well as on the works of art themselves.


Prior to the Gallery’s closure for refurbishment, she curated the exhibitions Soutine’s Portraits: Waiters, Cooks and Bellhops (2017-18); Bruegel in Black and White. Three Grisailles Reunited (2016); Bridget Riley. Learning from Seurat (2015-16); Unfinished… Works from The Courtauld Collection (2015) and Collecting Gauguin. Samuel Courtauld in the ‘20s (2013).

The Courtauld’s collection of paintings before 1900 is the object of an ongoing, long-term research project, with the aim of producing an online scholarly catalogue.

Research interests

  • Italian and French Baroque art
  • Renaissance bronzes
  • Impressionism
  • Technical art history
  • History of taste and collecting of painting and sculpture
  • Frames and framing practices


Recent publications

The Courtauld Collection. A Vision for Impressionism, exh. cat. Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, 2019 (editor and author of essay ‘Samuel Courtauld, Champion of Impressionism’ and several entries)

‘Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Grisailles’, in E. Oberthaler, A. Hoppe-Harnoncourt, S. Penot, R. Spronk and M. Sellink eds,  Bruegel. The Hand of the Master. Essays in Context, Kunsthistorisches Museum in association with Hannibal Publishing, 2019, pp. 82-95 (co-written with Aviva Burnstock)

‘Henrietta Maria, Charles I and the Italian Baroque’ and several entries, in D. Shawe-Taylor and P. Rumberg eds, Charles I: King and Collector, exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London

Book review of ‘On Display. Henrietta Maria and the Materials of Magnificence at the Stuart Court’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 160, no. 1389, Dec. 2018, pp. 162-63

Soutine’s Portraits: Waiters, Cooks and Bellhops, exh. cat. The Courtauld Gallery, London, 2017 (co-editor and author of essay ‘Modern Workers. Soutine’s Sitters in Context’ and several entries)

‘Duveen’s Italian Framemaker, Ferruccio Vannoni’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 159, no. 1370, May 2017, pp. 366-74

Bruegel in Black and White. Three Grisailles Reunited, exh. cat. The Courtauld Gallery, London, 2016

Bridget Riley. Learning from Seurat, exh. cat. The Courtauld Gallery, London, 2016 (editor and essay ‘Riley and Seurat. An Introduction’ co-written with Barnaby Wright)

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