In a number of our posts, and most latterly in our biography of Paul Sandby, we have made reference to The Royal Academy of Arts so we thought it would be useful to provide a bit of background to this independent and privately funded institution.
The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1768 by a group of leading artists and architects under the patronage of King George III. The first Academy was housed in Pall Mall up until 1771 when it moved to Somerset House. It was here until 1837 when the British government took over the rooms for office space and it was therefore forced to share premises with the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The Academy moved to it’s current location of Burlington House in 1868.
Despite being under Royal Patronage, the Academy did not receive any state subsidies and was very much under the control of the 34 founder Members who essentially established it as a school to train artists in drawing, painting, sculpture and architecture. Amongst the famous watercolourists who trained at the Royal Academy are William Blake and J.M.W. Turner.
One of the other founding principles of the Royal Academy was to provide a venue for exhibitions that would be open to the public and give an opportunity for artists to sell their work to finance their training. Now known as the ‘Summer Exhibition’ , it is held every year (and has been without interruption since 1769) from May to August and has become an important feature of the art world, both nationally and internationally, attracting around 10,000 pieces of work.
Today, the Academy continues to aspire, in the words of its eighteenth century founders, ‘to promote the arts of design’. All of the Academicians are still practising painters, sculptors, engravers, printmakers, draughtsmen and architects and are elected by their peers. The current President of the Academy is the architect, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and he is only the 25th President in a period of spanning nearly 250 years. Current Members include Norman Foster, Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor.