Royal Academy

This article refers to an art institution in London. For other meanings of Royal Academy see Royal Academy (disambiguation).

The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London, England.


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).

Sir Joshua Reynolds was its first president, and Benjamin West its second.


The Royal Academy does not receive financial support from the state or crown. One of its principal sources of revenue is hosting temporary public art exhibitions. These are of the highest quality, comparable to those at the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery and leading art galleries outside the United Kingdom. In 2004 the highlights of the Academy's permanent collection went on display in the newly restored reception rooms of the original section of Burlington House, which are now known as the "John Madejski Fine Rooms".

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.

In late 2007, the director of the National Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith, is due to take over as head of the Royal Academy in a newly created post as secretary and chief executive.

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.

Royal Academy Schools

The Academy runs a postgraduate art school and a research library. The Royal Academy Schools, the country's oldest art school, is based in Burlington House. There are generally two exhibitions every year of work by Royal Academy students.


Full membership of the academy is limited to 80 Academicians or "RAs", who may be painters, printmakers, sculptors, or architects, and must be "professionally active in Britain".

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.

List of RAs

(incomplete list)


President Served
Sir Joshua Reynolds 1768–1792
Benjamin West 1792–1805
James Wyatt 1805–1806
Benjamin West 1806–1820
Sir Thomas Lawrence 1820–1830
Sir Martin Archer Shee 1830–1850
Sir Charles Lock Eastlake 1850–1865
Sir Francis Grant 1866–1878
Lord Leighton 1878–1896
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
Phillip King 1999–2004
Sir Nicholas Grimshaw 2004–Present

Other posts

Keeper Served
Prof. Dr. Maurice Cockrill 2005–Present

Treasurer Served
Prof. Paul Huxley 2000–Present

Secretary and Chief Executive Served
Dr. Charles Saumarez Smith 2007–Present

See also


External links

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