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Revelations at the Royal Academy


Venice by JMW Turner, RA
Turner was elected a full member of the Royal Academy in 1802.
In April 2006, this painting sold for £20m to become
the most expensive British painting ever auctioned.

The Royal Academy needs no introduction, nor does it receive one on the Academy’s website, not at least that I could find. According to Wikipedia,

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 the King to create a new artistic body, the Royal Academy, in 1768. It was formally launched the following year.

The Academy’s Permanent Collection, "hidden behind closed doors for two centuries," in Burlington House, has recently been opened to the public in the John Madejski Fine Rooms.

A little-known national treasure, the Collection focuses predominantly on British art and architecture from the 18th century to the present day, and includes works by renowned British painters such as Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner, Stanley Spencer and David Hockney. The current display highlights key moments in the history of the Royal Academy and its Collection and also devotes two rooms to landscape paintings from the 19th and 20th Century, including works by Constable, Turner, John Singer Sargent, Winston Churchill and Kyffin Williams.

Opening times:
1pm-4.30pm Tuesday to Friday / 10am-6pm Saturday and Sunday /Closed Monday

Some years ago I found I had more time to wait at Heathrow for my plane than I had expected, and I dashed back to London to wander through the Royal Academy. It was heaven, and I nearly missed my plane.

The Academy’s 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 receives no financial support from the state or crown. Supported by Friends, it hosts temporary public art exhibitions. Its current exhibit features extraordinary 10th to 13th century Chola Dynasty bronzes from southern India.

Britain's oldest art school, the Royal Academy School, is based in Burlington House. There are usually two exhibitions every year of work by 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 website is beautiful. The latest Royal Academy Magazine features a romantic article on the Chola bronzes by Michael Wood.