Free Society of Artists

RA Collection: People and Organisations

The Society of Artists arose from proposals to establish an academy and annual exhibition of contemporary British art during the 1750s. Unable to obtain royal or parliamentary support the majority of leading painters, led by those associated with the Foundling Hospital, decided to organize an exhibition themselves in the rooms of the Society of Arts in 1760. Disagreements with the Council of the Society of Arts, particularly over admission fees and the hanging of works, resulted in the principal painters finding an alternative venue, in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross, in 1761.

However the Society of Arts continued to hold annual exhibitions and those artists who remained with them, the majority of whom were lesser painters, formed themselves into the Free Society of Artists in 1762. The Spring Gardens faction, led by Francis Hayman, now adopted the title Society of Artists and were incorporated as such, by royal charter, in 1765. Leading members seceded from the society in 1768, a move leading directly to the formation of the Royal Academy of Arts. The Free Society of Artists was dissolved in 1783.

Associated books

2 results