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The Making of an Artist: Learning to Draw

The Julia and Hans Rausing Hall, Royal Academy of Arts

Now on

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 Julia and Hans Rausing Hall, Royal Academy of Arts