The Permanent Collection on display in the John Madejski Fine Rooms
20 December 2008—29 November 2009
High Art: Reynolds and History Painting 1780-1815
High Life: Celebrating the Loan of WP Frith's Private View at the Royal Academy 1881
Henry Fuseli RA, Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent, 1790. Oil on canvas. © Royal Academy of Arts. Photography John Hammond.
History painting was regarded as the pinnacle of High Art and strongly promoted by Sir Joshua Reynolds above other genres such as portraiture, landscape and still life. This display includes major works given by early Members of the Royal Academy to the Collection including biblical subjects by Benjamin West, John Singleton Copley and John Francis Rigaud, as well as Henry Fuseli’s fantastical Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent (above).
Seminal self-portraits by Reynolds and West are on display and also allude to the knowledge and learning required to pursue history painting with casts of antique statues, a bust of Michelangelo and books on history included as props to enhance the image of the artist.
WP Frith, Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881 (1883). Collection: Pope Family Trust.
This second part of the display focuses on the loan of WP Frith’s Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881. Painted in 1883, this is Frith’s last major panoramic painting and shows the Victorian elite seeing and being seen at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1881. Frith includes a host of notable figures from Oscar Wilde and Lily Langtry to the Prime Minister, William Gladstone, and from the actress Ellen Terry to the illustrator John Tenniel.
Hung alongside this picture are subject paintings by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Briton Riviere, a portrait of Lord Leighton by GF Watts and HH Armstead's marble relief of The Ever Reigning Queen which was first seen by the public in the very exhibition that Frith depicts.
Opening times of the John Madejski Fine Rooms
1pm-4.30pm Tuesday to Friday
10am-6pm Saturday and Sunday (closed Monday)
Free guided tour 1pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 3pm Wednesday; 11.30am Saturday