RA Magazine Summer 2009
Issue Number: 103
Acting Editor Nigel Billen on an institution that has stayed the course
What will future generations be drawn to when they look back to the 2009 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition? It’s a question that sprang to mind as we began researching the exhibition of 1888 in connection with our latest show.
John William Waterhouse, whose work makes a triumphal return to the RA this summer, was a frequent exhibitor at the Summer Exhibition. In 1888, midway through his career, Waterhouse submitted what was to become one of his most famous pictures, The Lady of Shalott. An appropriate year, we thought, to explore both Waterhouse's life and a Summer Exhibition at the height of the Victorian era (page 34).
Our cover star, A Mermaid (1900), rivals The Lady of Shalott as a Waterhouse favourite, but as Frank Whitford discovers in our story, when first shown, The Lady of Shalott wasn’t universally loved. So, when we asked the illustrator Paul Cox to re-create the gallery and have the picture feted by the great and good of Victorian society, we knew we were using a little dramatic licence. But real enough is the sense of excitement, caught in Paul’s drawing, that greets another Summer Exhibition.
For 240 years, the Summer Exhibition has been a highlight of the season and a platform for well-known and lesser-known artists. As Martin Gayford points out (page 42), the success of this summer celebration has a lot to do with the show’s ability to incorporate change gradually.
This year, the Academy hosts a video and film room for the first time and will no doubt generate a few headlines by doing so. Only a few years ago the exhibiting of photography would have raised eyebrows and yet this year, in terms of the Summer Exhibition, the medium will come of age with the first presentation of a photographic prize. (Incidentally, on page 49 we publish a photographic piece by Richard Long RA, coinciding with his new show at Tate Britain.)
‘Making Space’, the theme of this year’s exhibition, sums up the flexibility that is the institution’s strength. It’s why we have a show, part of which Waterhouse would have recognised, but one that also reflects the art world of today.
Win a limited-edition print by Eileen Cooper RA
Eileen Cooper RA, Come About, 2009 To coincide with her new exhibition of work, Dreams of Elsewhere, at the Art First gallery, London, Eileen Cooper RA has generously donated an original print, Come About, for one lucky reader. The piece is from a suite of four screenprints and was printed at the Glasgow Print Studio. For a chance to win this beautiful prize, simply answer the following question: In which Peak Distrct town was Eileen Cooper RA born? Send your answer on a postcard, with your name and address, to Eileen Cooper Print Competition, RA Magazine, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J OBD. Entries should arrive no later than 2 Sep, 2009.
Friends of the RA can enter the competition online. Visit the new Friends website,
then follow the log-on procedure and look for the link to the RA Magazine competition page. If you are not yet a Friend, visit the site to find out more about the benefits of Friends membership.
For competition rules, click here
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