The Royal Academy was formed to rival the Society of Artists after an unseemly leadership dispute between two leading architects, Sir William Chambers and James Paine. Paine won, but Chambers vowed revenge and used his strong connections with King George III to create a new artistic body, the Royal Academy, in 1768. It was formally launched the following year.
Its forty founder members, all admitted on 10 December 1768, included a father/daughter combination (George Michael Moser and Mary Moser) and two sets of brothers (George Dance the Younger and Nathaniel Dance-Holland, and Paul and Thomas Sandby).
Under the Direction of the Exhibitions Secretary Norman Rosenthal the Academy has hosted ambitious exhibitions of contemporary art including in 1997 "Sensation" the collection of work by Young British Artists owned by Charles Saatchi. The show created controversy for including a painting of Myra Hindley that was vandalised while on display.
The Academy also hosts an annual Royal Academy summer exhibition of new art, which is a well known event on the London social calendar. It is not as fashionable as was the case in earlier centuries, and has been largely ignored by the trendy Brit Artists and their patrons; however Tracey Emin exhibited in the 2005 show. In March 2007 this relationship developed further when Tracey Emin accepted the Academy's invitation to become a Royal Academician, commenting in her weekly newspaper column that, "It doesn't mean that I have become more conformist; it means that the Royal Academy has become more open, which is healthy and brilliant."
Anyone who wishes may submit pictures for inclusion and those which are selected are displayed alongside the works of the Academicians. Many of the works are available for purchase.
In 2004 the Academy attracted press and media attention for a series of financial scandals and reports of a feud between Rosenthal and other senior staff that resulted in the cancellation of what would have been profitable exhibitions. In 2006, it attracted further press by erroneously placing only the support for a sculpture on display in the belief that it was the sculpture, and then justifying it being kept on display.
The Academy has received many gifts and bequests of objects and money. Many of these gifts were used to establish Trust Funds to support the work of the Royal Academy Schools by providing "Premiums" to students displaying excellence in various artistic genre. The rapid changes that pulsed through 20th century art have left some of the older prize funds looking somewhat anachronistic. But efforts are still made to award each prize to a student producing work that bears a relation to the intentions of the original benefactor.
The Academy's rules are that there must always be at least 14 sculptors, 12 architects, and 8 printmakers; the balance being made up of 46 painters. New Academicians are elected by the existing RAs, and originally had to enter a Diploma Work representative of their œuvre.
Apart from kudos of being elected, full members of the Academy may expect to serve for a time on the governing council of the Academy, and to take part in various committees. Each room in the Summer Exhibition is generally hung by a different R.A.
In common with certain other Royal societies, election as President of the Royal Academy (P.R.A.) practically guarantees a knighthood, if the President is not already of that rank.
A larger number of Associates of the Royal Academy (designated "A.R.A.") are also elected, but being an A.R.A. is not a prerequisite to full membership.
Members of the public can also join the Royal Academy as "Friends" by making a financial donation; outside of public exhibitions, this is one of the RA's main sources of income.
|Sir Joshua Reynolds||1768–1792|
|Sir Thomas Lawrence||1820–1830|
|Sir Martin Archer Shee||1830–1850|
|Sir Charles Lock Eastlake||1850–1865|
|Sir Francis Grant||1866–1878|
|Sir John Everett Millais||February–August 1896|
|Sir Edward Poynter||1896–1918|
|Sir Aston Webb||1919–1924|
|Sir Frank Dicksee||1924–1928|
|Sir William Llewellyn||1928–1938|
|Sir Edwin Lutyens||1938–1944|
|Sir Alfred Munnings||1944–1949|
|Sir Gerald Kelly||1949–1954|
|Sir Albert Richardson||1954–1956|
|Sir Charles Wheeler||1956–1966|
|Sir Thomas Monnington||1966–1976|
|Sir Hugh Casson||1976–1984|
|Sir Roger de Grey||1984–1993|
|Sir Philip Dowson||1993–1999|
|Sir Nicholas Grimshaw||2004–Present|
|Prof. Dr. Maurice Cockrill||2005–Present|
|Prof. Paul Huxley||2000–Present|
|Secretary and Chief Executive||Served|
|Dr. Charles Saumarez Smith||2007–Present|