About the Royal Academy of Arts
Joshua Reynolds PRA, Self-portrait, c. 1780. Oil on panel. © Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photo © Royal Academy of Arts, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate.
The Academy was founded by George III in 1768. The 34 founding Members were a group of prominent artists and architects including Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir William Chambers who were determined to achieve professional standing for British art and architecture. They also wanted to provide a venue for exhibitions that would be open to the public; and to establish a school of art through which their skills and knowledge could be passed to future generations of practitioners.
The Academy today continues to aspire, in the words of its eighteenth-century founders, ‘to promote the arts of design’, that is: to present a broad range of visual art to the widest possible audience; to stimulate debate, understanding and creation through education; and to provide a focus for the interests of artists and art-lovers. The Academy has held an annual Summer Exhibition
of works for sale since its formation and its first loan exhibition was held in 1870. The Academy now enjoys an unrivalled reputation as a venue for exhibitions of international importance.
The Academy is an independent institution. The Academicians are all practising painters, sculptors, engravers, printmakers, draughtsmen and architects and are elected by their peers. There are up to 80 Academicians and a number of Senior Academicians who are over 75. The current President of the Academy is Christopher Le Brun.
He is the 26th President in a period of 244 years. Past Royal Academicians include John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner, Lord Leighton and Stanley Spencer, while current Members include Norman Foster,
and Anish Kapoor.
The Academy is governed by a Council selected by rotation from the Academicians, and includes the four principal Officers of the Royal Academy - the President, Keeper, Treasurer and the Secretary and Chief Executive, all of whom attend Council ex officio. In addition, following a review of governance in 2007, there can now be three co-opted outside members of Council, currently including Brendan Finucane QC, Mariella Frostrup and Julian Heslop. Alongside Council, the Royal Academy Trust, chaired by Lord Davies of Abersoch, looks after the endowment and assists with fund-raising.
Click here for a list of Officers and Trustees
The Royal Academy is a charity and raises funds through exhibition ticketing, the Academy Shop and RA Restaurant. It is also supported by private sponsorship, corporate support, individual donations, the Patrons and by its Friends
organisation which numbers more than 90,000 Friends.
One of the founding principles of the RA was to 'mount an annual exhibition open to all artists of distinguished merit' to finance the training of young artists in the RA Schools. Now known as the Summer Exhibition
and held every year without interruption since 1769, the exhibition attracts around 10,000 works, the selection being carried out by Academicians chaired by the President.
The RA continues to fulfil its founders’ aims by mounting a continuous programme of internationally-acclaimed loan exhibitions,
supported by extensive Learning programmes,
seminars and debates. The Main Galleries and The Sackler Wing of Galleries host a variety of major exhibitions from all periods and art forms. Recent exhibitions have been Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600 - 1600; Monet in the 20th Century; Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution, 1760-1830; China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795; From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925 from Moscow and St Petersburg; Byzantium 330-1453 and The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters.
Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John (Taddei Tondo), 1504–06. Marble, 1068 mm.
Collections and Library
The RA owns a major collection
of works by Royal Academicians past and present together with the oldest and one of the best fine-art libraries in Britain. The Collection has received outstanding bequests such as the Michelangelo Tondo on display in the Sackler Wing of Galleries. Highlights from the Collection can be seen on free guided tours
of the John Madejski Fine Rooms.
The Academy's art school
(it is known as 'The Schools' because each 'School' originally corresponded to a different element in the training of the artists that had to be mastered in a particular order) is the oldest in Britain. Past students include many famous British artists such as William Blake, JMW Turner, Edwin Landseer, JE Millais and, more recently, John Hoyland, Sir Anthony Caro and Sandra Blow. Today, 60 students study drawing, painting and printmaking on a three-year postgraduate course - the only such course currently available in Britain.
Read about Burlington House, the Royal Academy's home
Read about the John Madejski Fine Rooms
Read about the RA's exhibitions and events
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The Royal Academy of Arts is a registered charity under Registered Charity Number 1125383 and is also registered as a company limited by guarantee in England & Wales under Company Number 6298947. Registered office: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD