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Looking to the past, present and future of one of the cornerstones of artistic process, we ask what it means to make art from life, and how the practice is evolving as technology opens up new ways of making and seeing.

Drawing from casts and life models was long considered essential training for any aspiring artist, and was once a staple of the Royal Academy’s own art school. Now, on the cusp of the RA’s 250th anniversary, this special exhibition project takes an inquisitive look at the tradition and its ongoing relationship with artists today.

Beginning with historic works drawn from the RA Collection, From Life traces a line from the origins of the RA in the 18th century to the present day. Alongside a room devoted to Jeremy Deller’s Iggy Pop Life Class, which took place at the Brooklyn Museum in 2016, we show contemporary work in diverse media by various artists including Lucian Freud and his studio assistant David Dawson, Jonathan Yeo, and numerous Royal Academicians who continue to interrogate the practice of working from life, among them Jenny Saville, Chantal Joffe, Antony Gormley and Gillian Wearing.

Finally in the Tennant Gallery, subject to availability, new interactive work of artists Yinka Shonibare and Humphrey Ocean, and architect Farshid Moussavi offers a glimpse of possible future applications of virtual reality in the art of tomorrow. Through these, we see how emerging technologies such as HTC Vive and Tilt Brush by Google are presenting artists with new ways to both observe and represent themselves, opening up unexplored techniques and pushing back physical limitations.

All ticket prices include £2.50 for a printed gallery guide.

The visitor’s experience of the virtual reality element within the exhibition will depend on availability. As each virtual reality artwork can only be experienced individually, there may be queues at busy times and access cannot be guaranteed.

11 December 2017 — 11 March 2018

Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm
Friday 10am – 10pm

The Sackler Wing of Galleries and Tennant Gallery

Ticket prices start from £11 (£10 without donation). Concessions available. Friends of the RA, and under 16s when with a fee-paying adult, go free.

Book now