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Royal Academy Dining Club

RA Collection: Archive

Archive context

Showing item 17 of 17 in this group

Reference code

RAA/CLB

Title

Royal Academy Dining Club

Date

1769-present

Level

Sub-fonds

Extent & medium

23 volumes, 10 files

Historical Background

The true origination of the Royal Academy Club is lost in obscurity. The earliest reference to it is found in the re-drafting of its laws in November 1770. It is likely that the venue for the dinners was the Turks Head, traditional artists' haunt and birthplace of the Society of Artists in 1759. The Club sprang from a desire for an informal setting in which Academicians and, latterly, guests could mingle and talk, away from the structured debate of Academy meetings. The laws stated that the Club is to meet every Friday night while the Academy (schools) were sitting or the exhibition open. This first Club is prominent in Joseph Farington's diary, the following is a typical entry:

"8th November 1793

"This being the first day of the Royal Academy Club meeting I went there. Twenty two members were present. Boswell told me it was not by advice of any medical friend that Dr. Johnson was induced to leave off drinking wine. A constant apprehension which He had of becoming insane, made him fear the consequence of continuing the use of it."

By the 1790's the club met from November to April and around ten times a year. At the start of the nineteenth century the Club became a victim of factional wrangles that nearly destroyed the Academy itself. The 'opposition' at the Thatched House Inn established a rival club, although this was never as popular. Both Clubs fizzled out, with the official one beings wound up in 1806. In 1813 it was re-launched as a club for members only. This Club was dissolved five years later and re-established with a revised membership. Records for this iteration of the Club exist until 1823, at which point the club is clearly still in full swing. However, the club again fell into abeyance, occasioning its definitive re-establishment in 1847. Associates were admitted in 1853 and members guests from 1855.

The Club now meets three times a year. The S.C. Hutchison memorial dinner is held in the early spring, is formal in character and held in honour of the memory of the Royal Academy's one-time Secretary and Historian. The Whitebaite dinner is held in the summer and comprises a boat trip either up or down the Thames to a riverside venue. Finally a Christmas dinner is held after the General Assembly electing the President for the ensuing year. At this latter dinner a number of staff are invited to join the Academicians.

Content Description

The records comprise attendance books, minutes and accounts. Also included are menus and a certain quantity of members' correspondence.