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Institutions

The Royal Academy 1787

Pietro Antonio Martini, The Exhibition at the Royal Academy 1787 after J.H.Ramberg. 1788

The Royal Academy was set up in 1769 with premises initially in Pall Mall. It moved into the north wing of Somerset House in 1780, where it remained until 1836, when it took over the east wing of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, finally taking up its present location at Burlington House, Piccadilly in 1869.

The Exhibition Room shown here is a room in Somerset House, now used by the Courtauld Institute of Art.

In its original form, the Royal Academy had 40 members, to which group a new member could only be elected after the death of an existing member.  There were also 20 associate members, and 6 associate engravers. The members formed a Council of eight. Officers of the association included the President,  a Secretary, Librarian and Keeper, and there were Professors of Perspective, Anatomy, Painting and Architecture, and later Chemistry and Sculpture. Training was given without charge to up to 60 students, and travelling scholarships could be won to study abroad.

Joshua Reynolds was the first President. He was succeeded by Benjamin West in 1792. 

An exhibition has been held annually since 1769 to which all artists may submit works, the selection for exhibition being made by the Council. Those refused were given permission by Queen Victoria to hang their pictures on Green Park railings, a tradition which persists, though the number of genuine artists exhibiting there among the vendors of knick knacks is now is small. 

J.M.W.Turner (1775-1851) was admitted to the schools in 1789 at the age of fourteen, became an associate member in 1799 and a full member in 1802. He was appointed Professor of Perspective in 1807.


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