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The Making of an Artist: Learning about Architecture

The Dorfman Architecture Court, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts

5 Aug — 31 Dec 2020

Aspiring architects in the 18th-century RA Schools honed their craft by copying casts taken from classical buildings. This display brings those casts together, revealing another aspect of traditional artistic training.

To visit, please book a free ticket to our Collection Gallery, for access to all our free displays.

It was an architect, William Chambers, who delivered the 1768 petition to King George III asking him to support the foundation of an Academy for artists and architects. The newly formed RA Schools taught architecture until the 1950s, and just as aspiring artists were taught to look to classical statues for guidance, would-be architects were required to closely study classical architecture.

The RA Collection includes a large number of architectural casts that were acquired for this purpose. Purchased from 1770 to 1870, many of these casts going on display came from the collection of Sir Thomas Lawrence, the fourth president of the RA. The casts were made from moulds taken directly from the great architectural monuments of ancient Rome. In some cases they now include more detail than the buildings themselves, which have been damaged by weather, pollution, vandalism and overzealous 19th-century restorations.

5 August — 31 December 2020

Mon–Sun: 10am–6pm


The Dorfman Architecture Court, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts