Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Museums, Public Buildings and Galleries - Royal Academy of Arts  

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The Royal Academy, which now occupies the eastern wing of the National Gallery, was incorporated in December, 1768; and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who received the honour of knighthood on the occasion, was appointed its first president. It consists of forty academicians, twenty associates, and six associate engravers (all of whom are of the most distinguished rank in the respective lines of their profession), and was instituted for the encouragement of the arts of design, painting, sculpture, &c. Four of the academicians are nominated professors of painting, sculpture, architecture, and perspective; and each delivers a course of five or six lectures to the students during the winter months; a course of six lectures is also delivered by a professor of anatomy, who, however, is not a regular member of the academy, but elected for the purpose. Here the students are permitted to draw from living models; in winter, for studies in drawing, and in summer for designs in painting. Nine of the academicians are annually chosen to set the figures, to examine the performances of the students, and to give them the necessary instructions for the due advancement of their art. The annual exhibition of paintings, sculptures, models, &c., which commences in the beginning of May, and continues open about six weeks, is one of the most interesting spectacles to an intelligent mind that the capital can boast. Each person pays one shilling for admission, and another for a catalogue, if required. The sums thus received have, of late years, not only defrayed all the expenses of the establishment, but left a considerable surplus.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS, TRAFALGAR SQUARE, east wing of the National Gallery. The Academy was constituted Dec. 10th, 1768 ; opened its first exhibition in Somerset House, May, 1780, but removed from Somerset House and opened its first exhibition in Trafalgar-square, May, 1838. Its principal objects were, and are still -1. The establishment of a well-regulated "School, or Academy of Design," for the use of students in the arts; and, 2. An "annual exhibition," open to all artists of distinguished merit, where they might offer their performances to public inspection, and acquire that degree of reputation and encouragement which they should be deemed to deserve. It is called by its members "a private society." "In fact," says Mr. Howard, the secretary, in his evidence before the House of Commons, (*Pye, p.298)  "it is a private society, but that it supports a school that is open to the public." The members are under the superintendence and control of the Queen only, who confirms all appointments ; and the society itself consists of 40 Royal Academicians, (including a President), 20 Associates, and 6 Associate Engravers. The Royal Academy derives the whole of its funds from the produce of its annual exhibition, to which the price of admission is one shilling, and the catalogue one shilling. From 1769 to 1780 the exhibition produced at an averageabout 1500l. annually; from 1780 to 1796, about 2500l. The average annual receipts amounted in 1836 to about 5000l. Since the removal to Trafalgar-square, the receipts have increased, and are now, I am assured, nearer 6000l. On the first day of opening in 1847, 106l. was taken; on the second, 114l.; and on the third, 130l. The annual exhibition opens the first Monday in May, and works intended for exhibition must be sent in at least three weeks or a month before-but of this due notice is given in all the public papers. No works which have been already exhibited; no copies of any kind, (excepting paintings on enamel); no mere transcripts of the objects of natural history; no vignette portraits, nor any drawings without backgrounds, (excepting architectural designs), can be received. No artist is allowed to exhibit more than eight different works. Honorary exhibitors (or unprofessional artists) are limited to one. All works sent for exhibition are submitted to the approval or rejection of the council, whose decision is final, and may be ascertained by application at the Academy in the week after they have been left there. Mode of obtaining Admission.- 

Any person desiring to become a student of the Royal Academy, presents a drawing or model of his own performance to the keeper, which, if considered by him a proof of sufficient ability, is laid before the Council, together with a testimony of his moral character, from an Academician, or other known person of respectability. If these are approved by the Council, the candidate is permitted to make a drawing or model from one of the antique figures to the Academy, and the space of three months from the time of receiving such permission is allowed for that purpose; the time of his attendance is from 10 o'clock in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. This drawing or model, when finiahed, is laid before the Council, accompanied with outline drawings of an anatomical figiore and skeleton, not less than two feet high, with lists and references on each drawing, of the several muscles, tendons, and bones contained therein, together with the drawing or model originally presented for his admission as a probationer; if approved, the candidate is accepted as a student of the Royal Academy, and receives in form the ticket of his admission from the hand of the keeper in the Antique School. If the specimen presented be rejected by the Council, he is not allowed to continue drawing in the Academy. The rule for Architectural Students is of a like character.

The 10th of February is the day on which the vacancies in the list of Royal Academicians are filled up ; and November the month for electing Associates. The Reyel Academy possesses a fine library of books of prints, and a large collection of casts from the antique, and several very interesting pictures by old masters. The library is open to the students. Each member on his election presents a picture, or a work of art, of his own design and execution, to the collection of the Academy. The series thus obtained is interesting in the history of British art.  ... The mode of obtaining admission to view the diploma pictures, &c., is by a written application to the keeper at the gallery.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

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Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly. The annual exhibition, which is open from the beginning of May to the end of July, and the winter exhibitions of loan pictures, are too well known to require any detailed description here. But it is perhaps not generally known that the interesting collection of pictures presented by Academicians on receiving that distinction, known as the diploma pictures, may be seen daily from 11 till 4 on application to the secretary. In addition to providing one of the largest picture shows in the world—from the proceeds of which its income is derived—the Royal Academy fulfils important functions as an educational establishment. Professors of painting, sculpture, architecture, and anatomy are appointed by the academy, and medals and prizes are annually awarded to successful students.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

ROYAL ACADEMY. BURLINGTON HOUSE ... The annual exhibition of pictures opens first Monday in May, closes after first Monday in August, 8 a.m to 7 p.m. Admission 1s.; during the last week, evenings also, 7:30 to 10:30, 6d.

Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895