Things you never knew about the Summer Exhibition
The Summer Exhibition was first held in a warehouse on Pall Mall from 1769 to 1779.
136 paintings were exhibited in the 1769 Summer Exhibition, 672 in 1792, and 815 in 1805. The figure exceeded 1,000 in 1820 and reached 1,500 by 1845.
Over 60,000 visitors attended the Summer Exhibition when it moved to the Great Room of Somerset House (now home to the Courtauld Institute) in 1780.
Following a press campaign fig leaves were applied to classical statues of male figures in Somerset House after the 1780 Summer Exhibition.
Gainsborough withdrew paintings from the 1784 Summer Exhibition because he was unhappy with the way they were to be hung.
In 1822 Wilkie's Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Gazette after the Battle of Waterloo was roped off to prevent its being damaged by the 90,000 people who wanted to see it. This happened again in 1858 to protect Frith's Derby Day.
Turner painted some of his late masterpieces, including Rain, Steam and Speed — The Great Western Railway, in the Summer Exhibition itself. Varnishing Day was traditionally used for varnishing and touching up paintings in the galleries just before the exhibition opened to the public. An onlooker recalled him 'standing very close up to the canvas, [he] appeared to paint with his eyes and nose as well as his hands'.
Millais first exhibited Christ in the House of his Parents in the 1850 Summer Exhibition. The Times described it as 'plainly revolting' and Dickens thought the Christ Child 'a hideous, wry-necked, blubbering, red-haired boy in a nightgown'.
The first Summer Exhibition to be held in Burlington House, the Academy's current home, was in 1869. Of 4,500 submitted works 1,320 were accepted.
The Academy's move to Burlington House had an impact on the development of the arts in the latter half of the 19th century. Rules restricting the display of whole-length and life-sized half-length portraits were lifted because of increased wall space. Landscape artists, finding that work under 6 feet long was often lost on the wall, began painting much larger canvases as a result.
'Royal Academy Pictures', the first illustrated Summer Exhibition catalogue, was printed in 1888.
From 1903 onwards Royal Academicians were restricted to exhibiting 6 paintings each, and other artists to 3 paintings each.
A suffragette attacked Sargent's portrait of Henry James in the 1914 Summer Exhibition.
Augustus John resigned from the Academy in 1938 when Wyndham Lewis's portrait of TS Eliot was not included in the Summer Exhibition.
The hanging of one Gallery by one Academician was first tried in 1976 when Peter Blake filled Gallery II with work by leading contemporary artists of the day, such as Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, RB Kitaj, Joe Tilson, Ivor Abrahams and Norman Adams. All later became Royal Academicians.