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Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London, England. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate.

History

The Royal Academy of Arts was founded through a personal act of King George III on 10th December 1768 with a mission to promote the arts of design through education and exhibition. The motive in founding the Academy was twofold: to raise the professional status of the artist by establishing a sound system of training and expert judgment in the arts and to arrange the exhibition of contemporary works of art attaining an appropriate standard of excellence. Behind this concept was the desire to foster a national school of art and to encourage appreciation and interest in the public based on recognised canons of good taste.
Fashionable taste in 18th century Britain centered on continental and traditional art forms providing contemporary artists little opportunity to sell their works. From 1746 the Foundling Hospital, through the efforts of William Hogarth, provided an early venue for contemporary artists to show their work in Britain. The success of this venture led to the formation of the Society of Artists and the Free Society of Artists. Both these groups were primarily exhibiting societies and their initial success was marred by internal fractions amongst the artists. The combined vision of education and exhibition to establish a national school of art set the Royal Academy apart from the other exhibiting societies. It provided the foundation upon which the Royal Academy came to dominate the art scene of the 18th and 19th centuries supplanting the earlier art societies.
Sir William Chambers used his connections with King George III to gain royal patronage and financial support of the Academy and the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds was made its first President.
The Instrument of Foundation of the Royal Academy signed by King George III on 10th December 1768 named 34 Founder Members and allowed for a total membership of 40. The Founder Members were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin West, Thomas Sandby, Francis Cotes, John Baker, Mason Chamberlin, John Gwynn, Thomas Gainsborough, Giovanni Battista Cipriani, Jeremiah Meyer, Francis Milner Newton, Paul Sandby, Francesco Bartolozzi, Charles Catton, Nathaniel Hone the Elder, William Tyler, Nathaniel Dance, Richard Wilson (painter), George Michael Moser, Samuel Wale, Peter Toms, Angelica Kauffman, Richard Yeo, Mary Moser, William Chambers, Joseph Wilton, George Barret, Edward Penny, Augustino Carlini, Francis Hayman, Dominic Serres, John Richards, Francesco Zuccarelli, George Dance. William Hoare and Johann Zoffany were added to this list later by the King and are known as Nominated Members. Amongst the Founder Members were two women, a father and daughter and two sets of brothers.
The Royal Academy was initially housed in cramped quarters in Pall Mall although in 1771 it was accorded temporary accommodation for its Library and Schools in Old Somerset House, then a royal palace. In 1780 it was installed in purpose-built apartments on the Strand front of New Somerset House, which had been designed by Sir William Chambers, the Academy's first treasurer. The Academy moved in 1837 to Trafalgar Square, where it occupied the east wing of the recently completed National Gallery (designed by another Academician, William Wilkins). These premises soon proved too small to house both institutions and in 1868, 100 years after the Academy's foundation, it moved to Burlington House, Piccadilly, where it is to this day.
The first Royal Academy exhibition of contemporary art, open to all artists, was held on 25th April 1769 and ran through until 27th May 1769. 136 works of art were shown and this exhibition, now known as the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, has been staged annually without interruption to the present day. In 1870 The Royal Academy expanded its exhibition program to include a temporary annual loan exhibition of Old Masters’ following the cessation of a similar annual exhibition of Old Masters’ held by the British Institution. The range and frequency of these loan exhibitions has grown enormously since that time making the Royal Academy a leading art exhibition institution of international importance.

(Source Wikipedia)