Visit The Great Spectacle for £5
Turner, Constable, Emin, Hockney and even Winston Churchill all exhibited their work in past Summer Exhibitions. See their work and more in our show The Great Spectacle: 250 Years of the Summer Exhibition, which explores the history of a cultural institution. Summer Exhibition ticket holders can visit for just £5. Simply keep your ticket, and then show it when you book at the Ticket Office. You don’t need to visit on the same day – the offer stands until the exhibition closes on 19 August.
To celebrate our 250th birthday, we’re highlighting 250 beautiful, odd and inspiring objects from the RA Collection in 25 themes. In this edition, with the Summer Exhibition on display, and another RA exhibition – The Great Spectacle – looking back at its history, we explore some works in the Collection from Summers gone by.
Mary Moser, one of two female founder-members of the Royal Academy (alongside Angelica Kauffman), specialised in paintings of flowers such as this one, 'Summer'. This painting is on display in The Great Spectacle.
This is a portrait of Ernest Marsh, who worked in a fish and chip shop in west London. Painter Ruskin Spear was well-known for his everyday subject matter, and included Marsh in a number of his paintings. This work was exhibited in the 1955 Summer Exhibition, after Spear submitted it to the RA as his 'Diploma Work' – the work that all artists donate to the Academy on being elected a Royal Academician.
Exhibited in the 1916 Summer Exhibition, this work was begun by the painter Charles Sims in 1913, before the outbreak of World War I. It was originally an idyllic landscape, but after Sims' eldest son was killed fighting in the war in 1915, he returned to the picture. He added the figure of Clio, the muse of history, whose scroll is daubed with red paint, suggestive of blood. This work is currently on show in The Great Spectacle.
Jean Cooke's portrait of her husband, John Bratby, was exhibited in the 1961 Summer Exhibition, although it was painted in 1954, the year that Bratby became known as a 'Kitchen Sink' painter. This label alluded to the everyday domestic subject-matter favoured by Bratby and a number of his contemporaries – and appropriately, this portrait shows him relaxing after a good meal.
William Roberts' Diploma Work shows a beachside brawl, inspired by the Biblical subject of 'the Rape of the Sabine Women', which had previously been depicted by painters from Poussin to Picasso. Roberts had been influenced by Cubism and abstraction in his youth, and the angularity and methodical order in this composition belies the violence of the event.
In his paintings, Stanley Spencer elevated the quiet Berkshire village of Cookham and its inhabitants to become the setting and cast of enchanting and dramatic scenes. This painting, exhibited in the 1956 Summer Exhibition, reflects Spencer's fascination with what household debris reveals about our lives.
This painting was inspired by Leonard Rosoman's visit to the Mojave desert in 1970. It was shown in the 1970 Summer Exhibition, from which it was purchased through the Chantrey Bequest – a fortune bequeathed by the artist Sir Francis Chantrey RA to buy paintings and sculpture made in Britain.
Eileen Cooper, former Keeper of the Royal Academy – the artist responsible for the Royal Academy Schools – produced a number of coloured linocuts in small editions in 2001. 'Search' was exhibited in 2003 Summer Exhibition.
Gilbert Spencer's autobiographical painting, 'An Artist's Progress', exhibited in the 1959 Summer Exhibition, charts Spencer's development from a child in Cookham (left) to his studies at the Slade School of Art and his election to the Royal Academy. The painting was commissioned for the cafe of the Royal Academy, where it can still be seen.
Craigie Aitchison's painting of the Crucifixion (his Diploma Work) was exhibited in the 1989 Summer Exhibition. Early in his career Aitchison was awarded a scholarship to spend time in Italy, where he was strongly influenced by early Italian religious painters such as Piero della Francesca. This influence is evident in the clear, geometric forms of this painting, and its Christian subject.