Old, New and Now. LONDON’S ROYAL ACADEMY TURNS 250

Marina Vaizey, Tom Birchenough

Article: 
INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA
Magazine issue: 
#4 2018 (61)

The anniversaries of celebrated cultural institutions are Janus-like: they look backwards to history to commemorate and celebrate - and forwards towards modernisation and change. Marking its 250 th "birthday” this year, London’s Royal Academy of Arts has made a huge and optimistic affirmation of its future, and thus of the role of art in the society which it inhabits. Its private supporters have backed an enormous fundraising campaign, with some £84 million raised to support a physical expansion of the Academy’s premises which underlines a much enhanced engagement with both professional practitioners and the general public.

The Age of Enlightenment saw the founding of all kinds of public institutions, an amplification of national culture, and greater respect for teaching, professionalism and the arts. In mid-18th century London, artists who had learnt as apprentices, by creating and working in the studios of other artists, began to band together. Was the foundation of the Royal Academy in 1768 an attempt to form a co-operative, in which every artist member would have a say? A hierarchy, for it would have a president, and other officers? A self-regulated elite, given that artists elected one another to the group? Or a way of reaching the public - albeit a very grand one - and thus furthering artistic careers? The Academy's unusual role combined commercial, critical and scholarly activities alongside the creation of its own collection and library, as well as its Schools, where even in the difficult financial times of the 21st century, all expenses for students continue to be met.

Such institutions were not unprecedented (Russia's own Academy of Arts is even older, founded in 1758). But it was impressive, particularly because the arts had taken some time to catch up, institutionally, with the sciences: in Britain, the Royal Society, founded for the promotion of natural science, that is scientific knowledge, appeared in 1660. The British Academy, its neighbour and counterpart for the humanities and social sciences, was founded centuries later, in 1902.

So although it may seem that the visual arts have not always been foremost in Britain - perhaps the English passion for words, in poetry, fiction and drama, has often seemed dominant - the Royal Academy has an august lineage, as the first such organization for practitioners, teachers and students of the fine arts and architecture. It dates, indirectly, from 1760 when a group of artists came together to make a collective selling show in rented premises in the Strand in London; from this initiative the “Society of Artists" was born, from which several artists went on to become founding members of the Royal Academy. Such groups were too often riven and injured by internal dissension, and concentrated almost solely on exhibitions, thus supporting artists who were already working; they had no aspirations to teach art students, which was a function of the Royal Academy from its beginning.

Like the Russian Academy of Arts, the Royal Academy was initiated by royal decree, in this case from George III, certainly among the more cultured of British monarchs. In 1768, he responded to a petition from the architect William Chambers to “support the foundation of an Academy for artists and architects". (It was Chambers, architectural adviser to the monarch, who also designed Somerset House, the Academy's first purpose-built home.) It was an intelligent, conscientious and deliberate attempt to raise the professional status of artists beyond that of artisans and craftsmen, to provide a framework for their training, and to help their work reach the public through exhibitions.

This was a time when there were hardly any public museums: the British Museum had been founded in 1752 but did not show the work of contemporary fine artists, while the National Gallery, which again did not engage with contemporary art, was started with a very small collection only in 1824. Before the appearance of the Royal Academy, artists tended to sell from their studios and many sought, and responded to commissions; there were some significant private dealers and agents without public premises or shops, but the network of commercial galleries now so familiar all over the world was a late 19th century phenomenon, as were the auction houses in their current guises.

-SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS (1723-1792). Self-portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds. c. 1780
SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS (1723-1792). Self-portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds. c. 1780
Oil on panel. 127 × 101.6 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Given by Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA, 1780
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: John Hammond

The great portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds was the institution's first President. Alfred Drury's more than life-size bronze portrait sculpture was erected in 1931, and retains its central position in the courtyard entrance of Burlington House today: Reynolds holds a palette in his left hand, with a brush grasped (rather like a conductor's baton) in his right. The second President was Sir Benjamin West, a painter from the “colonies" (soon to become the United States). Among the 34 founder Academicians (or “RAs", as they are often known) there were even two prominent women artists, Angelica Kau- ffmann and Mary Moser. However, women were then prohibited from attending life-drawing classes. In Johann Zoffany's celebrated group portrait set in the Life Drawing studio, “The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy" (1771-1772, Royal Collection), these pioneering founder women Academicians were represented only by their portraits hanging on the wall, while the men were fully fleshed out.

-JOHANN ZOFFANY (1733-1810). The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy. 1771-1772
JOHANN ZOFFANY (1733-1810). The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy. 1771-1772
Oil on canvas. 101.1 × 147.5 cm. The Royal Collection, London. The Picture Art Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

However, those two women founders were never members of the governing Council, and women were not to rejoin the Academy again as full members until Dame Laura Knight was elected in 1936; even from then on the process of achieving equality proved slow, continuing through until the late 20th century. In an unprecedented election in 2018, the twins Jane and Louise Wilson (born 1967), who work together as artists, were elected - not only women, but the first-ever twins. They are not the only duo acting as one, however: Gilbert and George, some decades older, are also current RAs, although elected relatively late in their careers, in 2017.

The status of the institution itself has certainly fluctuated over the years. During the apotheosis of the international avant-garde in the mid-20th century, membership was not always considered prestigious. Until recent decades, many leading artists in Britain declined the invitations of the Academy, as in the immediate post-war period the body had a reputation for damaging conservatism. In 1949, the then President of the RA, Sir Alfred Munnings, a renowned painter of horses, publicly denounced Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse as charlatans at the Royal Academy annual banquet; the impact was all the more marked for the fact that it was broadcast live on radio (Munnings was in his cups). Thus, those two great British artists of the second half of the 20th century, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, never became Academicians.

 

The first physical residence of the fledgling Academy was in central London on St. James's, followed in 1780 by a move to Somerset House on the Strand into newly rebuilt premises (today Somerset House is the home of the Courtauld Institute of Art). Then, in 1837, the Academy settled in with the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, in its new building designed by the architect Academician William Wilkins.

Finally, in 1867, came the move to the palatial Burlington House on Piccadilly, which remains the Royal Academy's home today. Construction on the original Burlington House had begun in 1664, and it was renovated and expanded by its aristocratic family owners throughout the 18th century; the influence of Italian art and architecture, particularly Andrea Palladio, remains evident today. Burlington House grew grander and grander, until the government acquired it in 1854 for £140,000. In 1867, when the Royal Academy moved in, the government leased the major portion of the building to it on a 999-year agreement for the rent of £1 annually.

Sidney Smirke RA transformed the building for the Royal Academy's purposes, designing the Keeper's House, the Schools, and adapting the piano nobile into the top-lit galleries on the first floor which remain an enfilade of some of the most significant and beautiful gallery rooms in Europe. It also houses the institution itself - 80 members, artists and architects, as well as foreign members - together with its library and art collection, the latter formed on the basis of mandatory deposit by each new Academician of a single work (they came to be known as “Diploma pieces").

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Royal Academy is its independence of officialdom. Other than the usual tax concessions for charities, the Royal Academy receives no official government support. It pays a peppercornrent for its premises and raises revenue by donations, as well as the commercial success of its wide-ranging exhibition programme. To facilitate its myriad self-directed activities, fund-raising is vital. The “Friends of the Royal Academy" scheme was founded in 1977 by the then President Sir Hugh Casson, the famous architect. It now has over 100,000 members who pay an annual subscription of around £100 each, which provides the most important and stable financial base for the organization. In return, members receive free admission to all exhibitions, together with access to “members' rooms", which are rather like a private club, offering food and drink as well as pleasant places to spend time in central London.

It is totally self-governing, with Academicians approving both staff appointments and the exhibition programme. An Academician is the Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools, while there are honorary professorships in architecture and art history: some of the very first public lectures in art history in the country were given in the late 18th century by Academicians as part of the institution's regular activities.

Its long history has offered up both controversy and excitement, as well as, of course, a permanent meeting place for art, artists and viewers. Although right from its beginning the Academy had an extraordinary history of putt i ng on major exhibitions for the public, in the immediate post-war period it was hostile to the extraordinary changes taking place in the international arts world. One sea change took place in 1974 when, under the leadership of Sir Thomas Monnington, the Academy took the unprecedented step of offering its entire piano nobile for the very first time to a retrospective exhibition devoted to a single British artist.

It was to mark the bicentenary of the birth of J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). In the 1970s, such was the relatively low international reputation of British art of the 18th and 19th centuries that the huge financial commitment seemed a genuine risk for the Academy, and it was organised jointly with the Tate Gallery. (The flexibility of those days was such that one aristocratic owner had his Turner returned for his Christmas festivities.)

Running from November 1974 to March 1975, it was marvellously successful, its wider ramifications even more important: it reached out to the modern world to establish Turner as an acknowledged artist of genius, not only within his homeland but also in the entire context of Western art. Turner's life had been deeply involved with the Royal Academy: a precocious youth, he was a student at its Schools from the age of 14, became an Associate Academician when only 24, then later the Professor of Perspective at the Academy. His great rival was John Constable (1776-1835), much slower to reach fame as an outstanding landscapist, who was only elected to the Academy in 1829, aged 52. Turner was a showman, and became notorious for adding telling touches to his works that were already on display at “Varnishing Day", immediately before the great Summer Exhibition opened. One famous such incident in 1832 saw Turner add a touch of bright red to a Dutch seascape to eclipse Constable's “The Opening of Waterloo Bridge" that was hanging next to it: it is said that Constable compared this piece of artistic showmanship to Turner walking in and firing a gun.

-J.M.W. TURNER (1775-1851). Dolbadarn Castle, North Wales. 1800
J.M.W. TURNER (1775-1851). Dolbadarn Castle, North Wales. 1800
Oil on canvas. 119.4 × 90.2 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Diploma Work given by J.M.W. Turner RA, accepted 1802
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

The Turner show both built on and continued a series of more general exhibitions that have ranged across the millennia and spanned the globe. Attendances can be huge: in 1973-1974 over 116 days, 771,466 visitors came to the “Genius of China" exhibition. Replete with its jade funeral burial suits, it captured the public imagination, and was also an exercise in soft diplomacy. More conventionally, the show with the greatest daily attendance was “Monet in the 20th Century", held in 1999 (an average of 8,698 visitors through its 85-day run, an overall attendance of 739,324). Russia has featured prominently, notably with “From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925 from Moscow and St. Petersburg" in 2008 (388,597 visitors over 84 days). As part of the 2011 exhibition “Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935", a 1:40 scale model of Tatlin's Tower (the Monument to the Third International) was erected in the Royal Academy Courtyard, while in 2017, to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution, the Academy presented its much-acclaimed “Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932".

 

In 2001, the Royal Academy purchased its neighbouring building at 6 Burlington Gardens, on the opposite side from its main Piccadilly frontage, with plans to join the two premises for the combined use of the Academy, thus giving it two distinct entrances, as well as an internal link across its north- south axis. To allow for such 21st century modernization and expansion, in 2008 the Royal Academy held an international competition which saw the world-famous architect David Chipperfield (himself an RA) commissioned to expand its physical site. In 2013 Britain's Heritage Lottery Fund granted £12.7 million to the project, which opened the door to general fund-raising.

Chipperfield was no stranger to architectural adaptation, already famous for having expanded Berlin's iconic Neues Museum; he has also designed two new (and much smaller) visual arts buildings in Britain, the Hepworth in Wakefield, and Turner Contemporary, in Margate, both now focus points in the regeneration of their locations. A master in achieving invisibility within older adapted buildings, he has suggested of the new Academy that, in a few years, “no- one will know what was there and what wasn't".

Among other additions, the expansion has created a new Collection Gallery that pays homage to the Royal Academy's rich past: its compact space will display work on a rotating basis. The first selection, covering the first 75 years or so of the Academy's existence, has been made by the current President, Christoper Le Brun. The centrepiece is inevitably Michelangelo's Taddei Tondo, “Madonna and Child with the Infant St. John" - the only marble sculpture by the artist in Britain - that was acquired in Rome in 1822 by the art patron Sir George Beaumont, who bequeathed it to the Academy on his death five years later.

No less prominent in the Collection Gallery is the 1780 self-portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds, in which the artist's left hand rests on a bust of Michelangelo. Reynolds had been
instrumental in promulgating the “cult of Michelangelo" in Britain: his final presidential lecture, delivered at the Academy in December 1790, included an extravagant homage to that artist, “To kiss the hem of his garment, to catch the slightest of his perfections, would be glory and distinction for an ambitious man." Such tribute is symbolically continued by Le Brun, who has hung drawings by Academicians that are connected to Michelangelo - views of the Sistine Chapel, as well as studies by Constable and David Wilkie of the Tondo itself - in a special section alongside the large drawing “Leda and the Swan" (once considered to be an original Michelangelo “cartoon", it is now attributed to Rosso Fiorentino).

Alongside the broad selection of its “diploma works", the Academy also housed a considerable “teaching collection", which followed Reynolds' precepts about the importance of the Renaissance masters in the training of contemporary artists. The most prominent work on display is a copy of Leonardo's huge “The Last Supper", produced around 1520, possibly by Giampietrino or another artist of Leonardo's circle; it faces three large oil copies of Raphael tapestries by the 18th century British artist, James Thornhill. (The undeniable “dark day" in the history of the Academy's collection came in 1962, when it was forced to sell its original Leonardo drawing, the canonic “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist", also known as the “Burlington House cartoon", to settle its bank overdraft. The work was “saved for the nation", acquired for the huge sum of £800,000, partly drawn from donations from members of the public, and moved to London's National Gallery.)

The more familiar teaching tools were sculpture casts: there are two in the Collection Gallery, the “Belvedere Torso" and “Laocoon and His Sons". The archetypal naked male figure of the former is imaged in other works shown, drawn from the neo-classical “history painting" style that is today a little-known aspect of British art of the period: the huge “Satan Summoning His Legions" (1796-97) by Sir Thomas Lawrence, the Academy's fourth President, is a notable example. The same figure is there, albeit in a more self-referential form, in Angelica Kauffman's “Design" (1778-80), where the artist herself sketches the Torso, her own body somehow seeming to mirror the pose of its stone form.

There are group portraits of early Academy meetings - Henry Singleton's “The Royal Academicians in General Assembly" shows some 40 of them at Somerset House in 1795 - as well as self-portraits by Sir Thomas Gainsborough (1787), the great rival of Reynolds, and Lawrence (1820). It is rounded out by works from the more familiar landscape genre, represented by major works by Turner (“Dolbardarn Castle, North Wales", 1800) and Constable (“A Boat Passing a Lock", 1826), as well as a cluster of exquisite small landscape pieces by the latter artist.

 

When the Royal Academy was initiated, it was a condition that there be “an Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures and Designs, which shall be open to all Artists of distinguished merit". The first “Annual Exhibition", as it was then known, opened to an elite public on Wednesday 26 April 1769 at those first Pall Mall premises, presenting 136 works by 56 artists over a month. An epigraph from Virgil's Aeneid, maior rerum mihi nascitur ordo, “A greater history opens before my eyes", graced the cover of its catalogue.

That initial show was seen by around 14,000 visitors, its opening, according to the “London Chronicle", attended by “a very crowded and brilliant rout of persons of the first fashion". By 1780, the Annual Exhibition had moved to Somerset House; seven years later, it showed 650 works by 300 artists there, and was visited by 50,000 people.

It began to be known as the “Summer Exhibition" in the 19th century, and by 1830 there were 1,250 works on view, attracting 70,000 visitors: by 1858, that figure had risen to 139,906, while the all-time record was set in 1879, with 391,197 (approximately one tenth of the population of Inner London at that time). The exhibition's cachet was wide, and it had always appealed to the upper classes, as well as to royalty: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert patronized contemporary art, and there are many letters in the Royal Library at Windsor from Victoria discussing the Summer Exhibition. But the middle classes, too, began to be involved as delighted visitors, with informed commentary appearing in newspapers and pamphlets from the critics of the day (John Ruskin, the leading art writer of his time, could be particularly scathing).

Visitors came both to see, and to be seen, as evidenced in William Powell Frith's 1883 painting “A Private View at the Academy, 1881", which depicted a variety of well-known public figures at the 113th show. It is a stylized piece, with visitors arranged around a tightly managed canvas, including politicians such as the Prime Minister William Gladstone and writers like Anthony Trollope and Robert Browning; the distinctive figure of Oscar Wilde offers wisdom in the centre of the right half of the painting, with the actresses Ellen Terry and Lily Langtry. Frith depicted himself, of course, as well as two Academy Presidents, Frederic, Lord Leighton, who led it from 1878 up to his death in 1896, and his short-lived successor, John Everett Millais, who did not survive even a year in the post.

Less reverential depictions were always provided by caricaturists, none more evocative than Thomas Rowlandson's “The Exhibition ‘Stare-Case', Somerset House" (c. 1800), with its figures tumbling down a steep staircase (hence, the pun of Rowlandson's title), with a pronounced sense of sexual bacchanalia underlying this supposedly serious society event.

To mark its 250th anniversary, the Summer Exhibition in 2018 was accompanied by a special retrospective, “The Great Spectacle" (as the event had often been known), that brought together works first shown at the exhibitions over the years. Drawn from museums and private collections, as well as from the Academy's own holdings, it provided an overview of artistic and exhibition trends in Britain over the period. As well as more familiar strands, like the portraiture of Reynolds and Gainsborough or the landscapes of Turner and Constable, it revealed the importance of now little-remembered directions, such as genre painting in the early 19th century. A pioneer in that field was the Scottish artist David Wilkie, whose popularity was appreciable: in 1822, his “Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Despatch" needed a barrier to protect it from visitors.

The phenomenon of the single picture that everyone came to see duly appeared - William Powell Frith's “Derby Day", an entry in 1858, was the first of many such paintings; it led to works being roped off and even guarded by policemen. Such popularity was reflected in associated directions too, with Elizabeth Butler's “Roll Call", depicting British troops in the aftermath of a battle of the Crimean War, selling more than 250,000 postcard reproductions in 1874.

The shock of new tendencies arrived with the Pre-Raphaelites, heralded by Millais' “Isabella", an entry from 1849 when the artist was only 20. Millais had studied at the Royal Academy Schools - starting there at the age of 11, he was its youngest-ever student, known to his fellows as “the Child" - as had many other figures of the “Brotherhood".

But the reputation of the Royal Academy as a bastion of conservatism only intensified in the last years of the 19th and over the early decades of the 20th century. One scandal in 1914, when a Suffragette visitor slashed the canvas of John Singer Sargent's portrait of Henry James, somehow symbolized that, since both figures embodied unrelenting respectability. Not every work shown at “The Great Spectacle" had actually been exhibited at the event: Wyndham Lewis's portrait of T.S. Eliot was on display - famously rejected in the year of its submission, 1938, its exclusion prompted protest, including the resignation of the eminent Augustus John from the Royal Academy.

In the aftermath of Alfred Munnings' 1949 speech, the institution's dismissal of modernism was nicely lampooned by the title of the ex-president's 1956 submission, “Does the Subject Matter?" (a view of members of the public gathered around an artwork in a gallery). Prime Minister Winston Churchill, a keen amateur landscapist throughout his life, had two works accepted for the 1947 Summer Exhibition (including “Winter Sunshine, Chartwell", a view of his family home). He entered them under the pseudonym “David Winter", although the identity of the artist was known to some within the Royal Academy; the title of Honorary Academician Extraordinary was conferred on him the following year. Post-war attendance records were set in 1955, when crowds flocked to see Pietro Annigoni's celebrated new portrait of the young Queen Elizabeth II. Only by the end of the century, particularly after the revolutionary 1997 “Sensation" exhibition at the Academy that was drawn from the collection of Charles Saatchi, did that begin to change. The Summer Exhibition of 2001, coordinated by Peter Blake (of Pop Art fame), would include a wide variety of new work, including two of the brightest stars of the “Young British Artists" movement, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.

 

Judging by the crowds flocking to the 2018 show, the Summer Exhibition is in rude, democratic health: riding high in its anniversary year, 296,442 visitors attended, the highest turn-out since 1905. It remains a showcase where the amateur artist jostles with the professional, where highly successful figures meet those who are only beginning their careers. With selection governed by established principles, final choice rests with a group of 12 Royal Academicians, known as the “Selection Committee". In 2018, the Committee's leader, effectively the chief curator of the show, was that versatile, sometimes controversial figure of the British contemporary art scene, Grayson Perry, who is as famous for his transvestitism as for his ceramics.

This year more than 20,000 works were considered, of which about two thirds were “send-in", or open submission works, from the public; artists from outside the Academy can submit two works a year, paying a fee of £35 for each entry, while Academicians have the right to put forward up to six works (depending on their size), the acceptance of which is mandatory. The Selection Committee also invites other artists, both British and international, to submit works along a suggested theme - in 2018, it was “Art Made Now" - which adds a curatorial strand. Famous names showing this year included Portugal's Joana Vasconcelos, whose monumental hanging sculpture “Royal Valkyrie", knitted and crocheted by hand, dominated the opening room, Mona Hatoum and Tal R, alongside Academicians including Wolfgang Tillmans, Mike Nelson and Tracey Emin, and Honorary Academicians Bruce Nauman and Ed Ruscha.

The entire initial submission is viewed digitally, before some 4,000 works are called in for assessment “in the flesh". From that number, more than 1,300 works reached the exhibition in 2018; there were dedicated rooms given over to small works and works on paper, the traditional gallery for the drawings and models of architects, and even, for the first time, a small “room of humour" (which housed the work of Martin Parr and David Shrigley, among others). Each individual artist on the Selection Committee assumes a degree of responsibility for one distinct gallery, from wall colours (Perry chose a livid yellow for his landmark Gallery III), to the final arrangement of the art on view, with hanging usually crowded from floor to ceiling. Such details of the hang have always proved controversial, from the times of Gainsborough onwards, particularly for artists whose works have been “skied", or put among the very top level of paintings, seemingly remote from visitors' attention (although for larger works, that is often an advantageous position).

Is it a representative, let along fair, process? Selection Committee members admit a degree of subjectivity, and especially selectivity: on occasions, they will even dispute among themselves for the right to include a particular work in the room for which they are responsible. Arrangement is effectively anonymous, however, with no indication of the names of artists (or the prices of their works) displayed on the walls; such information is kept to the pocket catalogues that are a distinct part of the experience of visiting. For Academicians, regular sales can make up a significant annual income

-      it is a nice detail that the Summer Exhibition, as long ago as 1865, became the first entity to use a red dot placed by a work to indicate a sale. Prices range right across the board: in 2018, only three works were priced at more than £100,000

-      Allen Jones's fibreglass, tinted acrylic and mixed media sculpture “Stepping Out" topped the score, at £150,000 - while a considerable number were priced at under £500.

Then, as the particular excitement of the Summer Exhibition subsides, preparations begin for the next season... The Autumn 2018 programme of exhibitions reflects the Royal Academy's wide, self-imposed remit, led by the major exhibition “Oceania", showing the art of the island cultures of the Pacific. “The Art of Making Buildings" is dedicated to the work of the internationally acclaimed Italian architect, Renzo Piano (whose notable museum buildings include the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York). It is joined towards the end of the year by drawings by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, in co-operation with Vienna's Albertina.

It is a true mix of the historic, the modern and the contemporary, characteristic for an institution that is fully aware of the need to entice and engage its audience, international and British, young and old alike. “The Academy is more necessary than ever in the 21st century," the eminent British artist (and Academician) David Hockney said this year, explaining his keenness to present two huge photographic drawings at the Summer Exhibition. As it moves on from its year of celebration, the Royal Academy certainly has premises fit for the challenges that the future will no doubt bring.

Illustrations

Alfred Drury’s statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts. Erected in 1931
Alfred Drury’s statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts. Erected in 1931
Guy Somerset. / Alamy Stock. Photo
Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts. 2018
Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts. 2018
Photographer: Rory Mulvey
EDWARD FRANCIS BURNEY (1760-1848). The Antique School at New Somerset House. c. 1780
EDWARD FRANCIS BURNEY (1760-1848). The Antique School at New Somerset House. c. 1780
Pen and ink with watercolour wash on laid paper. 33.5 × 48.5 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Purchased from Colnaghi and Company July 5 1960. Sydney Lee Fund
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
RICHARD HARRADEN. After Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832). Drawing from Life at the Royal Academy (Somerset House). 1808
RICHARD HARRADEN. After Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832). Drawing from Life at the Royal Academy (Somerset House). 1808
Etching, aquatint and watercolour, published in Ackermann’s “Microcosm of London”, 1 January 1808. 19.7 × 26 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Photograph
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
HENRY SINGLETON (1766-1839). The Royal Academicians in General Assembly. 1795
HENRY SINGLETON (1766-1839). The Royal Academicians in General Assembly. 1795
Oil on canvas. 198.1 × 259 cm. Royal Academy of Arts
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: John Hammond
The Collection Gallery, Royal Academy
The Collection Gallery, Royal Academy
Photographer: Rory Mulvey
The Collection Gallery, Royal Academy
The Collection Gallery, Royal Academy
Photographer: Rory Mulvey
LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519). Attributed to Pupils of Leonardo / Attributed to Giampietrino / Attributed to Marco D’ Oggiono (c. 1467-c. 1524) / Attributed to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (1467-1516). The Last Supper. c. 1515-1520
LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519). Attributed to Pupils of Leonardo / Attributed to Giampietrino / Attributed to Marco D’ Oggiono (c. 1467-c. 1524) / Attributed to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (1467-1516). The Last Supper. c. 1515-1520
Oil on canvas. 302 × 785 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Purchased from H. Fraville, 23 June 1821
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
SIR JAMES THORNHILL (1675/1676-1734). Paul Preaching in the Areopagus. 1729-1731. Original attributed to Raphael (1483-1520)
SIR JAMES THORNHILL (1675/1676-1734). Paul Preaching in the Areopagus. 1729-1731. Original attributed to Raphael (1483-1520)
Oil on canvas. 353 × 442 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Given by Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford, 1800
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: John Hammond
SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE (1769-1830). Satan Summoning His Legions. 1796-1797
SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE (1769-1830). Satan Summoning His Legions. 1796-1797
Oil on canvas. 431.8 × 274.3 cm. Royal Academy of Arts
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: Marcus J. Leith
ANGELICA KAUFFMAN (1741-1807). Design. 1778-80
ANGELICA KAUFFMAN (1741-1807). Design. 1778-80
Oil on canvas. 130 × 150.3 × 25 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Commissioned from Angelica Kauffman RA, 1778-1780
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: John Hammond
THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH (1727-1788). Romantic Landscape with Sheep at a Spring. c. 1783
THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH (1727-1788). Romantic Landscape with Sheep at a Spring. c. 1783
Oil on canvas. 153.7 × 186.7 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Given by Miss Margaret Gainsborough, 1799
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
JOHN CONSTABLE (1776-1837). The Leaping Horse. 1825
JOHN CONSTABLE (1776-1837). The Leaping Horse. 1825
Oil on canvas. 142 × 187.3 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Given by Mrs Dawkins, 1889
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: John Hammond
Promotion image for “Revolution: Russian Art. 1917-1932”
Promotion image for “Revolution: Russian Art. 1917-1932”
Courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts with model of the Tatlin Tower. January 2012
Courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts with model of the Tatlin Tower. January 2012
Photographer: Alexander Kachkaev. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57918479
MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI (1475-1564). The Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John. c. 1504-1505
MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI (1475-1564). The Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John. c. 1504-1505
Marble relief. Diameter - 106.8 cm. Royal Academy of Arts. Bequeathed by Sir George Beaumont, 1830
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
JOSEPH MICHAEL GANDY. Public and Private Buildings Executed by Sir John Soane between 1780 and 1815. 1818
JOSEPH MICHAEL GANDY. Public and Private Buildings Executed by Sir John Soane between 1780 and 1815. 1818
Watercolour, bodycolour and pen and ink over graphite on paper. 72.5 × 129.3 cm. Sir John Soane’s Museum, London
Sir David Chipperfield RA
Sir David Chipperfield RA
Photographer © Ingrid von Kruse
President of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun
President of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun
Photographer © Benedict Johnson
LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519). The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and the Infant St. John the Baptist (“The Burlington House Cartoon”). c. 1499-1500
LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519). The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and the Infant St. John the Baptist (“The Burlington House Cartoon”). c. 1499-1500
Charcoal (and wash?) heightened with white chalk on paper, mounted on canvas. 141.5 × 104.6 cm. The National Gallery, London. Purchased with a special grant and contributions from the Art Fund, The Pilgrim Trust, and through a public appeal organised by the Art Fund, 1962
© The National Gallery, London
THOMAS ROWLANDSON (1756-1827). Viewing at the Royal Academy. c. 1815
THOMAS ROWLANDSON (1756-1827). Viewing at the Royal Academy. c. 1815
Watercolour with pen and grey and brown ink over graphite on paper. 14.6 × 24.1 cm. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection Historic Images / Alamy Stock Photo
The Wohl Entrance Hall
The Wohl Entrance Hall
© James Harris
WILLIAM POWELL FRITH (1819-1909). A Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881. 1883
WILLIAM POWELL FRITH (1819-1909). A Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881. 1883
Oil on canvas. 102.9 × 195.6 cm.
© Pope Family Trust, c/o Martin Beisly
JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS (1829-1896). Isabella. 1849
JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS (1829-1896). Isabella. 1849
Oil on canvas. 103 × 142.8 cm. Courtesy National Museums Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery
RUSSELL WESTWOOD. Students in the Royal Academy Schools, 1953
RUSSELL WESTWOOD. Students in the Royal Academy Schools, 1953
Photograph: Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
© The Artist’s Estate
WYNDHAM LEWIS (1882-1957). T.S. Eliot. 1938
WYNDHAM LEWIS (1882-1957). T.S. Eliot. 1938
Oil on canvas. 133.3 × 85.1 cm. Durban Municipal Art Gallery
© The Estate of Mrs G.A. Wyndham Lewis. The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust
SIR WINSTON LEONARD SPENCER CHURCHILL (1874-1965). Winter Sunshine, Chartwell. 1924-1925
SIR WINSTON LEONARD SPENCER CHURCHILL (1874-1965). Winter Sunshine, Chartwell. 1924-1925
Oil on millboard. 35.6 × 50.8 cm. Chartwell, The Churchill Collection (National Trust)
© Churchill Heritage Ltd. Reproduced with permission of Anthea Morton-Saner on behalf of Churchill Heritage Ltd
The Main Galleries during the Summer Exhibition, 1956
The Main Galleries during the Summer Exhibition, 1956
Black and white silver gelatin print. Unidentified photographer
Photograph: © Royal Academy of Arts, London
PIETRO ANNIGONI (1910-1988). Queen Elizabeth II. 1955
PIETRO ANNIGONI (1910-1988). Queen Elizabeth II. 1955
Tempera, oil and ink on paper. 182.9 × 121.9 cm. Fishmonger’s Hall; Pietro Annigoni
© Camera Press, London
TRACEY EMIN (b. 1963) There’s a Lot of Money in Chairs. 1994
TRACEY EMIN (b. 1963) There’s a Lot of Money in Chairs. 1994
Appliquéd armchair. 69 × 53.5 × 49.5 cm. Private collection
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2017. Image courtesy White Cube
MICHAEL CRAIG-MARTIN (b. 1941). Reconstructing Seurat (Orange). 2004
MICHAEL CRAIG-MARTIN (b. 1941). Reconstructing Seurat (Orange). 2004
Acrylic on aluminium panel. 187 × 280 cm.
© Michael Craig-Martin. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian
Royal Academicians on the Сommittee for the 250th anniversary Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2018
Royal Academicians on the Сommittee for the 250th anniversary Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2018
© Getty Images / Tristan Fewings
Gallery III, Summer Exhibition 2018 view
Gallery III, Summer Exhibition 2018 view
© David Parry
JOANA VASCONCELOS. Royal Valkyrie Central Hall, Summer Exhibition 2018 view
JOANA VASCONCELOS. Royal Valkyrie Central Hall, Summer Exhibition 2018 view
© David Parry
The Wohl Entrance Hall
The Wohl Entrance Hall
Photographer © James Harris
Conservation of the Farnese Hercules plaster cast
Conservation of the Farnese Hercules plaster cast
© Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: David Parry
The Vaults
The Vaults
Photographer: James Harris

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