The Making of an Artist: Learning to Draw
The RA has always had an art school. This display illustrates how art has been taught here over the past 250 years and gives a glimpse of what happens now.
The story of 250 years of art teaching is now revealed through a new display in the Vaults, which lie hidden beneath the Main Galleries. Providing a link between our two sites, Burlington House and Burlington Gardens, the Vaults now also trace a path from the past to the present of artistic teaching.
For two and a half centuries, artists have been coming to the RA Schools to hone their craft, but students arriving today will have a very different experience to their 18th-century predecessors. In the early days, students started their training by drawing plaster casts in the ‘Antiques School’ or ‘Plaster Academy’. This included drawing écorchés (casts of bodies from which the skin has been removed to reveal the musculature) which were created to help students gain a better understanding of anatomy. Once they had demonstrated their skill in these areas, they were permitted to graduate to drawing life models in the ‘Life School’. Learning to Draw opens with some of the casts that students such as William Blake and JMW Turner drew from, sitting alongside works made by much more recent Schools graduates that still pay tribute to this artistic heritage.
The Vaults also feature a display on the life of John Everett Millais, From The Child to The President. Best known as a Pre-Raphaelite, Millais was the youngest ever student in the Schools. He began attending classes at the age of just 11, quickly earning the nickname ‘The Child’. At the RA Schools, he befriended Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt, with whom he formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1863 and briefly became President of the RA at the end of his life, but died just six months after his election in 1896.
From 19 May 2018
Daily 10am – 6pm
Friday 10am – 10pm
The Vaults, Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts
by Richie Moment
As you walk through the free display in our Vaults, keep an eye out for this special project by RA Schools graduate Richie Moment.
As part the transformation marking the RA’s 250th birthday, Sir David Chipperfield RA built a public path directly through the Royal Academy Schools, encouraging visitors to engage in the life of the Schools. In response, Moment invites you to pick up a pencil, help yourself to a leaflet and think about the challenges of building a public route through a cultural organisation. The project will continue until the supply of leaflets has run out.
Public Exposure coincides with two other artistic interventions around the RA campus, The Secret to a Good Life by Bob and Roberta Smith RA in the McAulay Gallery and Sarah Pickstone: An Allegory of Painting in the Burlington House Foyer and RA Café Corridor.
Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Royal Academy Schools
The Royal Academy Schools is a school of contemporary art at the heart of the Royal Academy. Each year, up to 17 artists join our three-year postgraduate programme. Former students include Turner Prize nominee Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Eddie Peake, Catherine Story and Matthew Darbyshire.
Founded in 1768, the RA Schools remain free and independent to this day.
Donation to the RA
The RA is a charity, run by artists and funded by art-lovers. Your donation supports our future, to continue to create, debate and exhibit great works of art and to champion art and artists.
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