The Royal Academy is a happy choice as the forerunner of this pageantry. It is an extremely popular institution . . . quite different from any other kind of artistic body . . . that fits naturally in an atmosphere which welcomes the Opera, the Derby, Eton and Harrow. Just as Piccadilly is more than a street, so the Academy is more than an exhibition of works of art. It is the common meeting ground of the people in their search for aesthetic satisfaction.

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The exhibition begins on a suave note with the sleek smartness of THE PRIVATE VIEW ...a delightful artificial façade of convention embellished by the warmth of connoisseurs, the veneer of idle gossip, gentle slander, and casual looks. This selective air gives way to the more robust atmosphere of the first public day. The brass turnstiles click continuously and spill into crowded galleries an extraordinary cross-section of the community. Long-haired curiosities who might be either sex ...slim young women with pretty faces and shapeless clothes that somehow hold together ...frustrated spinsters armed with a smattering of artistic jargon ...an occasional bizarre creature resplendent in what is intended to reflect the fashions of the previous day ...fragile white-haired Victorian ladies who handle their catalogues with a gracious touch ... an army of inarticulate men inveigled into Burlington House by feminine charm. The blending is remarkable, something like the spirit of Chelsea on Ascot Heath. The onlooker drifts on a wave of artistic generalities and studio heartiness. Even the graceful young woman who can always be found sitting about somewhere without her clothes looks quietly amused as she surveys us from an ornate picture frame, closely guarded by a still-life from Cornwall, the promenade at Brighton replete with seagulls, waves and trippers, and a commissioned portrait of a municipal councillor who looks a trifle uneasy about the nakedness of his attractive neighbour.

It is all so familiar, a familiarity both dangerous and misleading. The layman reads into the exhibition a significance that was never originally intended by the founder. To be an exhibitor does not confer the title of a good artist. Conversely, to be excluded is not a disgrace. The idea that exclusion places a stigma upon an artist's skill is due to the erroneous belief that to be hung at the Royal Academy carries with it a diploma of artistic merit. This is not the case. A modicum of technical proficiency, at times not always apparent, is more than sufficient to qualify, with the additional good fortune of not being "crowded out" by being the wrong shape, size, or colour scheme. A common fallacy about the Royal Academy is that it is representative of contemporary English art. It is only necessary to scan the names of those associated with contemporary artistic works in this country to realize the omissions. The Academy is not necessarily responsible for these absentees, but an exhibition that leaves out artists of distinction cannot be called fully representative.


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A clique has for long considered it the correct thing to be rude to the Royal Academy. In many ways the tilts are justified. Even the friendly critic has to admit an unimaginative solidity that suggests Browning's "Garniture and household stuff". At its best the Academy picture is dull and ordinary. Occasionally some intensification of colour and broadening of touch lifts a picture out of the rut of convention. But, on the whole, it is solid, comfortable stuff, fundamentally conservative, and in keeping with the pronouncement of W. R. M, Lamb, its Secretary for over thirty years, . . . "To keep the main body of art alive, through regular intercourse with the perceptions and feelings of ordinary people who must be familiar with the normal forms before they can appreciate the strange fruits of experiment is one great duty of the Royal Academy." The advice has been well followed. The hanging committee might be likened to the bishop who counselled his ordinands: "Always be true to your convictions; in nine cases out of ten they will be right. Never give your reasons; in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred they will be wrong."


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Such devotion to conviction is laudable in a narrow sense. But it is regrettable that the continuous growth of popular interest in artistic matters should be instructed in such limited fashion. The Royal Academy shares in the work of educating people in a sense of beauty, and of showing that in a nation greatness and ugliness cannot go together. Art does not mean merely the making of pictures and statues for the delectation of the few. The Arts should be regarded as an important and necessary factor in our national life. The layman confesses that he knows nothing about art, but he knows what he likes. The instinct is natural. Everyone is born with the potentialities of artistic appreciation. Degrees vary. Few attain that delicate awareness described by Blake as being able "to see the world in a grain of sand. And heaven in a wild flower". And yet the suggestion is there. The colour scheme of a woman's ensemble,, the deft touch in arranging flowers, the layout of a garden by a man these are the actions of an artist, only the latter translates his reactions on a canvas.


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The layman is conscious of this inner artistic feeling. He enjoys the Royal Academy as the visible expression of this urge. The introvert sees himself as an extrovert. But, knowing nothing of the basic principles of aesthetic evaluation, informed comparison is impossible. The Royal Academy glorifies the contemporary, and at times the works are pleasing and of high merit, but, judged by the truism that there is only good and bad art, what is hung leaves much to be desired. A ready appreciation of contemporary art is a healthy sign, but alongside should be placed an awareness of what has gone before, a knowledge of the Masters and the masterpieces that preceded the foundation of English art. Few people have this background. The tragedy is that evidence of this gradual evolution of artistic greatness is in London for all to see, only, like Pilate, the layman hurries past and refuses to look at truth.

London Season, Louis T. Stanley, [As Written]


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Presidents   of   the   Royal   Academy

Sir Joshua Reynolds, PRA
#Reynolds, the great portrait painter and President of the Royal Academy, was born near Plymouth, Devon. Intended by his parents for the medical profession, he showed an over-riding proclivity for art, and in 1740 he went to London to pursue his art studies, becoming a pupil of Hudson, a leading portraitist. Back in Devon in 1743, Reynolds set up as a portrait painter himself, but returned to London in 1743. From 1749 to 1752 he lived in Italy, where he studied the works of Michelangelo and Raphael. After this period, his reputation growing, he established himself in London, and was one of the first members of the Incorporated Society of Artists. When the Royal Academy was set up in 1768, Reynolds was appointed its first President. He gave a famous series of fifteen Discourses for Academy students, and exhibited some 245 works in the Academy Exhibitions. He was appointed painter to the king in 1784, and spent his later years living in Leicester Square where there is a small bust to commemorate him.

Reynolds was held by the Pre-Raphaelites to epitomise all that was bad about the Royal Academy, and they called him 'Sir Sloshua Reynolds' because they felt that all good old Academicians covered their paintings with a thick coating of brown varnish to hide mistakes and give a general warm glow to their paintings.

Reynolds's works may be seen in most of the larger galleries, and among his best portraits are those at Kenwood and at the Wallace Collection. A bronze statue of him, by Alfred Drury, was placed in the courtyard in front of the Royal Academy in 1912 (under the auspices of the Leighton Fund).


Benjamin West, PRA
#Benjamin West, second President of the Royal Academy, was born in Pennsylvania, his grandfather having emigrated to America from England. West showed an early and precocious talent for drawing, and was able to overcome some opposition from his Quaker background and devote himself to art. In 1760 he travelled to Rome, where he was taken under the wing of a leading Italian painter called Mengs. Subsequently, he travelled to Florence, Bologna and Venice, then returning to Rome where he painted his Cymon and Iphigenia. Further travels in Europe took him to Paris (he did not particularly admire the French paintings) and finally, in 1763, to England, where he remained. By 1765 his father brought West's American girlfriend to England, and they were married. West was by this time already a successful portrait painter, friends with Reynolds and many other influential people, including his mentor Archbishop Drummond, who in 1766 introduced him to King George III. A large number of Royal commissions followed, including painted interiors and easel pictures. West was instrumental in the founding of the Royal Academy, and about the time it commenced, painted his chef d'oeuvre, "The Death of Wolfe". This painting caused surprise by abandoning the convention that history paintings should clothe the figures in classical dress, and instead wear contemporary clothes.

When Reynolds died in 1791, West was elected President of the Academy, but subsequent over-friendly relations with the French seem to have lead to his falling from favour, and he was forced to resign in 1805, the King's architect James Wyatt being elected in his place. However, in the following year West was again elected to the Presidency, holding the position until his death in 1820, last but one of the original Academicians. During West's time as President, he was important in the founding of the British Institution and the Society of Painters in Water Colours (in 1805), as additional venues where artists could exhibit.


James Wyatt, PRA
# Early classical career
Wyatt spent six years in Italy, 1762-1768, in company with Richard Bagot of Staffordshire, who was Secretary to the Earl of Northampton's embassy to the Venetian Republic. In Venice, Wyatt studied with Antonio Visentini (1688-1782) as an architectural draughtsman and painter. In Rome he made measured drawings of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, "being under the necessity of lying on his back on a ladder slung horizontally, without cradle or side-rail, over a frightful void of 300 feet".

Back in England, his selection as architect of the proposed Pantheon or "Winter Ranelagh" in Oxford Street, London brought him almost unparalleled instant success. His brother Samuel was one of the principal promoters of the scheme, and it was doubtless due to him that the designs of a young and almost unknown architect were accepted by the Committee. When the Pantheon was opened in 1772, their choice was at once endorsed by the fashionable public: Horace Walpole pronounced it to be "the most beautiful edifice in England".

Externally it was unremarkable, but the classicising domed hall surrounded by galleried aisles and apsidal ends, was something new in assembly rooms, and brought its architect immediate celebrity. The design was exhibited at the Royal Academy, private commissions followed, and at the age of 26 Wyatt found himself a fashionable domestic architect and an Associate of the Royal Academy. His polished manners secured him friends as well as patrons among the great, and when it was rumoured that he was about to leave the country to become architect to Catherine II. of Russia, a group of English noblemen is said to have offered him a retaining fee of £1,200 to remain in their service. His major neoclassical country houses include Heaton Hall near Manchester (1772), and Heveningham Hall in Suffolk (circa 1788-99).

In later years, he carried out alterations at Frogmore for Queen Charlotte, and was made Surveyor-General of the Works. In about 1800, he was commissioned to carry out alterations to Windsor Castle which would probably have been much more considerable had it not been for the King's illness, and in 1802 he designed for the King the "strange castellated palace" at Kew which was remarkable for the extensive employment of cast iron in its construction. In 1776, Wyatt succeeded Henry Keene as Surveyor to Westminster Abbey, and in 1782 or 1783 he became, in addition, Surveyor of the Ordnance. The death of Sir William Chambers brought him the post of Surveyor General and Comptroller of the Works in 1796.

Wyatt was now the principal architect of the day, the recipient of more commissions than he could well fulfil. His widespread practice and the duties of his official posts left him little time to give proper attention to the individual needs of his clients. As early as 1790, when he was invited to submit designs for rebuilding St. Chad's Church at Shrewsbury, he broke his engagements with such frequency that the committee "became at length offended, and addressed themselves to Mr. George Stewart". In 1804, Jeffry Wyatt told Farington that his uncle had lost "many great commissions" by such neglect. When approached by a new client, he would at first take the keenest interest in the commission, but when the work was about to begin he would lose interest in it and "employ himself upon trifling professional matters which others could do". His conduct of official business was no better than his treatment of his private clients, and there can be no doubt that it was Wyatt's irresponsible habits which led to the reorganization of the Board of Works after his death, as a result of which the Surveyor's office was placed in the hands of a political chief assisted by three "attached architects".

Wyatt was a brilliant but facile designer, whose work is not characterized by any markedly individual style. At the time he began practice the fashionable architects were the brothers Adam, whose style of interior decoration he proceeded to imitate with such success that they complained of plagiarism in the introduction to their Works in Architecture, which appeared in 1773. Many years later Wyatt himself told George III that "there had been no regular architecture since Sir William Chambers - that when he came from Italy he found the public taste corrupted by the Adams, and he was obliged to comply with it". Much of Wyatt's classical work is, in fact, in a chastened Adam manner with ornaments in Coade stone and "Etruscan" medallions executed in many cases by the painter Biagio Rebecca, who was also employed by his rivals. It was not until towards the end of his life that he and his brother Samuel (with whom must be associated their nephew Lewis) developed the severe and fastidious style of domestic architecture which is characteristic of the Wyatt manner at its best.

(1) But among Wyatt's earlier works there are several (e.g., the Christ Church gateway and the mausoleum at Cobham) which show a familiarity with Chambers Treatise on the Decorative Part of Civil Architecture, and so permit the belief that if his artistic integrity had been greater Wyatt might have continued the Chambers tradition instead of falling in with the "corrupt taste" of the brothers Adam. Had he been given the opportunity of designing some great public building, it is possible that he would have shown himself a true disciple of Chambers;

(2) but his career as a government architect coincided with the Napoleonic wars, and his premature death deprived him of participation in the metropolitan improvements of the reign of George IV.

Gothic architecture
Meanwhile, Wyatt's reputation as a rival to Robert Adam had been eclipsed by his celebrity as a Gothic architect. Every Georgian architect was called upon from time to time to produce designs in the medieval style, and Wyatt was by no means the first in the field. However, whereas his predecessors had merely Gothicized their elevations by the addition of battlements and pointed windows, Wyatt went further and exploited to the full the picturesque qualities of medieval architecture by irregular grouping and the addition of towers and spires to his silhouettes. Never, indeed, have the romantic possibilities of Gothic architecture been more strikingly demonstrated than they were by Wyatt at Fonthill Abbey and Ashridge; and although crude in scale and often unscholarly in detail, these houses are among the landmarks of the Gothic revival in England. In his lifetime Wyatt enjoyed the reputation of having "revived in this country the long forgotten beauties of Gothic architecture", but the real importance of his Gothic work lay in the manner in which it bridged the gap between the rococo Gothic of the mid 18h century and the serious medievalism of the early 19th century.

Of his cathedral restorations, inspired as they were by the mistaken idea that a medieval church ought to be homogeneous in style and unencumbered by screens, monuments, and other obtrusive relics of the past, it can only be said that the Chapters who employed him were no more enlightened than their architect, and that at Westminster Abbey at least he accomplished an urgent work of repair in an unexceptionable manner. His activities at Salisbury, Durham, Hereford, and Lichfield were bitterly criticized by John Carter in his Pursuits of Architectural Innovation, and it was due in large measure to Carter's persistent denunciation that, in 1796, Wyatt failed to secure election as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. In the following year, however, he was permitted to add F.S.A. to his name by a majority of one hundred and twenty-three votes.

Wyatt was elected to the Royal Academy in 1785, and took an active part in the politics of the Academy. In 1803 he was one of the members of the Council which attempted to assert its independence of the General Assembly of Academicians, and when the resultant dissensions led West to resign the Presidency in the following year, it was Wyatt who was elected to take his place. But his election was never formally approved by the King, and in the following year he appears to have acquiesced in West's resumption of office. Wyatt was one of the founders of the Architects' Club in 1791, and sometimes presided at its meetings at the Thatched House Tavern.

In 1802 Wyatt built a new house for the 7th Earl of Bridgewater on the Ashridge estate in Hertfordshire which is now a Grade 1 listed building.

Death
He died on September 4, 1813, as the result of an accident to the carriage in which he was travelling over the Marlborough Downs with his friend and employer, Christopher Codrington of Doddington Park, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He left a widow and four sons, of whom the eldest, Benjamin Dean, and the youngest, Philip, are notable architects. Matthew Cotes (1777-1862), the second son, became a well-known sculptor, whose best work is the bronze statue of George III in Trafalgar Square. Charles, the third son, was for a time in the service of the East India Company at Calcutta, but returned to England in 1801. Nothing is known of his later career.

Notes:
The best portrait of Wyatt is that in the possession of Messrs. W. & A. Gilbey, Ltd. There is another in the RIBA Library, and a pencil portrait by Dance is in the Library of the Royal Academy. The National Portrait Gallery has a bronze bust of Watt by Rossi. Curiously few original drawings by Wyatt are known to be in existence: but in the RIBA Library there are designs by him for Badger Hall, Fonthill Abbey, Downing College, and Ashridge Park. An album of Wyatt's sketches, in the possession of the Vicomte de Noailles, contains designs for chandeliers, torchères, vases, etc., a plan for Lord Courtown, etc. Those for Slane Castle are in the Murray Collection of the National Library of Ireland.

Wyatt's principal draughtsman was Joseph Dixon, who, according to Farington, had been with him from the time of the building of the Pantheon.

He had many pupils, of whom the following is an incomplete list: W. Blogg, H. Brown, Joseph Dixon (perhaps a son of the draughtsman), John Foster, Jnr, of Liverpool, J. M. Gandy, C. Humfrey, W. Kitchen, W. Sanderson, R. Smith, Thomas and John Westmacott, M. Wynn, and his sons Benjamin and Philip Wyatt. Michael Gandy and P. J. Gandy-Deering were also in his office for a time.

[A.P.S.D.; D.N.B.; B.M., Egerton MS. 3515 (Wyatt family letters); A. Dale, James Wyatt, 1936; The Farington Diary, ed. J. Greig, passim; T. F. Hunt, Architettura campestre, 1827; Hist. MSS. Comm. XVth Report, Appendix VII, pp. 255, 281, 301; Fortescue, viii, 79, 87, 143, 178-9, 181, 204; Gent's Magazine, 1813 ( ii), pp. 296-7; R. Turnor, James Wyatt, 1950, and review by John Summerson in New Statesman and nation, July 29, 1950.]

Preferred Media: Architecture
Born: 3 August 1746 in Weeford, near Lichfield,
Staffordshire, England, United Kingdom
Died: 4 September 1813
Nationality: British
Elected A.R.A: 27 Aug 1770
Elected R.A: 15 Feb 1785
President From: 1805 to 1806



Benjamin West, PRA


Sir Thomas Lawrence, PRA
# He was born in Bristol. His father was an innkeeper, first at Bristol and afterwards at Devizes, and at the age of six Thomas was already being shown off to the guests of the Bear as an infant prodigy who could sketch their likenesses and declaim speeches from Milton. In 1779, the elder Lawrence had to leave Devizes, having failed in business and Thomas's precocious talent began to be the main source of the family's income; he had gained a reputation along the Bath road. His debut as a crayon portrait painter was made at Oxford, where he was well patronized, and in 1782, the family settled in Bath, where the young artist soon found himself fully employed in taking crayon likenesses of fashionable people at a guinea or a guinea and a half a head. In 1784, he gained the prize and silver-gilt palette of the Society of Arts for a crayon drawing after Raphael's "Transfiguration," and presently beginning to paint in oil.

Abandoning the idea of going on the stage which he had briefly entertained, Lawrence came to London in 1787, was kindly received by Sir Joshua Reynolds , and became a student at the Royal Academy. He began to exhibit almost immediately, and his reputation increased so rapidly that he became an associate of the Academy in 1791. The death of Sir Joshua in 1792, opened the way to further successes. Lawrence was at once appointed painter to the Dilettanti Society, and principal painter to King George III. in lieu of Reynolds. In 1794, he was a Royal Academician, and he became the fashionable portrait painter of the age, his sitters including England's most notable people, and ultimately most of the crowned heads of Europe. Caroline of Brunswick was one of his favourite subjects, and is reputed to have been his lover for a time. In 1815 he was knighted; in 1818, he went to Aachen to paint the sovereigns and diplomats gathered there for the third congress, and visited Vienna and Rome, everywhere receiving flattering marks of distinction from princes, due as much to his courtly manners as to his merits as an artist. After eighteen months he returned to England, and on the very day of his arrival was chosen president of the Academy in room of Benjamin West, who had died a few days before. He held the office from 1820 to his death. He was never married.

Sir Thomas Lawrence had all the qualities of personal manner and artistic style necessary to make a fashionable painter, and among English portrait painters he takes a high place, though not as high as that given to him in his lifetime. His more ambitious works, in the classical style, such as his once celebrated "Satan," are practically forgotten.

The best display of Lawrence's work is in the Waterloo Gallery of Windsor, a collection of much historical interest. "Master Lambton," painted for Lord Durham at the price of 600 guineas, is regarded as one of his best portraits, and a fine head in the National Gallery, London, shows his power to advantage. The Life and Correspondence of Sir T. Lawrence, by D.E. Williams, appeared in 1831.


Sir Martin Archer Shee, PRA
#He was born in Dublin, of an old Catholic Irish family, and his father, a merchant, regarded the profession of a painter as an unsuitable occupation for a descendant of the Shees. Martin Shee nevertheless studied art in the Dublin Society, and came to London. There, in 1788, he was introduced by William Burke to Joshua Reynolds, on whose advice he studied in the schools of the Royal Academy. In 1789 he exhibited his first two pictures, the "Head of an Old Man" and "Portrait of a Gentleman." Over the next ten years he steadily increased in practice. He was chosen an associate of the Royal Academy in 1798, in 1789 he married, and in 1800 he was elected a Royal Academician. He moved to George Romney's former house in Cavendish Square, and set up as his successor.

Shee continued to paint with great readiness of hand and fertility of invention, although his portraits were eclipsed by more than one of his contemporaries, and especially by Thomas Lawrence. The earlier portraits of the artist are carefully finished, easy in action, with good drawing and excellent discrimination of character. They show an undue tendency to redness in the flesh painting--a defect which is still more apparent in his later works, 'in which the handling is less "square," crisp and forcible. In addition to his portraits he executed various subjects and historical works, such as Lavinia, Belisarius, his diploma picture "Prospero and Miranda", and the "Daughter of Jephthah."

In 1805 he published a poem consisting of "Rhymes on Art", and a second part followed in 1809. Lord Byron spoke well of it in his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. Shee published another small volume of verse in 1814, entitled The Commemoration of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and other Poems, but this was less successful. He also produced a tragedy, "Alasco", set in Poland. The play was accepted at Covent Garden, but was refused a licence, on the grounds that it contained treasonable allusions, and Shee angrily resolved to make his appeal to the public. He carried out his threat in 1824, but "Alasco" was still on the list of unacted dramas in 1911.

On the death of Lawrence in 1830, Shee was chosen president of the Royal Academy, and shortly afterwards he received a knighthood. In his examination before the parliamentary committee of 1836 concerning the functions of the Academy, he ably defended its rights. He continued to paint till 1845. Illness made him retire to Brighton, and he was deputised for by J.M.W. Turner, who had appointed him a trustee of the projected Turner almshouse. His descendant Mary Archer-Shee supports the campaign for the fulfilment of Turner's wishes for his bequests. Shee had three sons, who became successful barristers. A descendant of one was the central figure in a play written by Terence Rattigan.



Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, PRA
#The painter Charles Eastlake was born in Plymouth, son of the Solicitor to the Admiralty, and studied painting at the Royal Academy Schools in 1809. He exhibited regularly at the British Institution from 1814, until 1825, from which time he sent pictures only to the Academy. He lived in Plymouth, then in Italy for some dozen years, then back in Britain, settled in London. He became ARA in 1827, RA in 1830, and President of the Royal Academy in 1850, on the death of his predecessor, Martin Arthur Shee. There were big events in his time as PRA - the Great Exhibition in 1851, generally good for the arts and for the Academy; Turner's will, which in 1856, gave all his remaining paintings to the National Gallery, and 20,000 pounds cash to the Academy; the admission of the first woman to the Drawing and Painting Schools in 1861; and the Royal Commission into the affairs of the Academy, at which Eastlake gave evidence for 5 days, and which effectively made the decision that the Academy should leave the National Gallery.

From 1855, Eastlake was Director of the National Gallery - much later, E. J. Poynter also held both the Directorship and the office of PRA. He was instrumental in various important acquisitions of mainly Italian Old Masters, greatly enhancing the prestige of the national collection.

Eastlake's subjects were mainly historical, but his increasing public duties meant that his output reduced drastically in his later years.



Sir Francis Grant, PRA
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Francis Grant was a self-taught painter, who after a slow start first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1834, with a sporting picture called Merton Breakfast. A succession of other sporting pictures - predominantly hunting scenes - followed, and he became established as a successful painter. He became a highly fashionable portrait painter, including in his subjects the Queen, Palmerston, and many other well-known people.

Grant became ARA in 1842, and RA in 1851. In 1866, on the death of Charles Eastlake PRA, Edwin Landseer was offered the Presidency of the Royal Academy. He turned this down, and Grant was then elected (incidentally, a portrait of Landseer by Grant is in the Russell Cotes Museum). Grant was knighted soon afterwards. Under Grant's leadership, the Royal Academy moved from the National Gallery to Burlington House. It was under Grant also that the Chantrey Bequest fund was set up.

Portraits by Grant may be seen in the National Portrait Gallery, and we should also note a portrait by him of his niece, the sculptor Mary Grant, in Leicester.




Frederic, Lord Leighton, PRA
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"Sir Frederic Leighton maintains a level of excellence that would be wonderful if the reason of it were not so manifest. He invariably sets up a lofty standard, and to that standard he as invariably attains; for he knows his own power so accurately, and in accomplishment is so certain, that he is as unlikely of failure as he is indisposed to shoot beyond the mark which he presumably regards as his limit" - Magazine of Art, 1895.

Frederic Leighton regarded himself as of a very different School to that of the Pre-Raphaelites, yet was friends with many of them, and from our perspective we can see close links between his Aesthetic Classicism and the Pre-Raphaelite style. He was for a time the pupil of Edward von Steinle, a follower of the Nazarenes, who were also directly inspirational to the Pre-Raphaelites. In the 1860s, Leighton made some illustrations for George Elliot's Romola, some of which look very Pre-Raphaelite.

Leighton studied almost entirely on the Continent, in Germany, France, Belgium and Italy. It was while he was in Rome that he was visited by the novelist Thackeray, who on returning to London, commented to Millais that he "should look to his laurels... as there is a young fellow called Leighton in Rome... who if I'm not mistaken, will one day be President of the Royal Academy." Leighton did indeed become PRA before Millais, in 1878. After his death in 1896, Millais finally achieved the position, but occupied it only for a short time before his own demise.

Leighton's election to the Presidency of the Royal Academy proved popular. The Magazine of Art felt moved to comment that
"It is not often that the elections at the Royal Academy can be regarded with unmixed satisfaction by those who are interested in the welfare of the institution as the representative artistic society of Great Britain... In selecting Frederick Leighton for this important post the Royal Academy has fulfilled the hopes of almost the entire artistic public. Never, perhaps, has public opinion been so unanimous as it has shown itself on this subject."

Leighton was tremendously influential in the art world, perhaps most notably by raising the profile of sculpture in establishment circles. However, he was accused by some, notably G. D. Leslie, of diluting the British character of the Academy. After his death, the Leighton Fund was set up to purchase/commission works of art for public places.


John Everett Millais, PRA
#A child prodigy in art, John Everett Millais entered the Royal Academy Schools at age 11, and exhibited at the RA from age 17. There he became friends first with Holman Hunt, and afterwards Rossetti, and these three founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. Millais quickly moved from a mannerist to a realistic style in keeping with the Pre-Raphaelite ideal, and was coached by John Ruskin who took him to Scotland to paint in 1853. Millais produced the most well-known portrait of the famous critic in 1854, and incidentally married the wife of Ruskin after the latter's marriage was annulled. (She was the model for the soldier's wife in "'The Order of Release").

Millais's pictures include "Cymon and Iphigenia", "Lorenzo and Isabella", his first Pre-Raphaelite image, "The Carpenter's Shop" (much derided by Charles Dickens), "Ferdinand lured by Ariel", "Ophelia", with Elizabeth Siddall, later wife of Rossetti, in the title role, and subsequently "The Vale of Rest" and "Autumn Leaves".

He thrived at the Royal Academy, becoming ARA as early as 1853, then RA and finally, in the year of his death, President of the Academy. However, his art became more popular, and he turned to pictures of society ladies, little girls, and fashionable lovers. His "St. Isumbras at the Ford", showing the knight and two oversweet children on an oversize horse, induced the young Frederick Sandys to draw a famous caricature featuring Millais as the knight, Rossetti and Holman Hunt as the children, and the donkey as John Ruskin.

Millais was also a notable illustrator during the 1860s, and worked much more consistently in this medium than most of the other Pre-Raphaelites. His important illustrations include six for Allingham's The Music Master, 18 for Moxon's Tennyson, two for Willmott's Poets of the 19th Century and 40 in Trollope's Orley Farm. Orley Farm in fact appeared originally in serial form in The Cornhill Magazine, and there are further Millais illustrations in this magazine, in Good Words, in Once a Week and in other periodicals.

Work by Millais can be seen at the Tate Gallery ("Ophelia" and "The Vale of Rest"), Birmingham ("The Blind Girl"), Manchester ("Autumn Leaves"), Liverpool ("Lorenzo and Isabella" at the Walker Art Gallery), ("Port Sunlight" "St. Isumbras at the Ford" and "The Black Brunswicker" at the Lady Lever Gallery), and at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford ("Return of the Dove to the Ark"). "The Bride of Lammermoor" is in Bristol. "The Convalescent" and "Brighteyes" are in the Aberdeen art gallery. Portraits by Millais can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery. A very early work, before Millais became a Pre-Raphaelite, is in Hove.


Sir Edward John Poynter, PRA
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E. J. Poynter, last of the great Victorian Classical painters, was born in Paris, his father Ambrose Poynter being an architect and landscape painter. He studied under W. C. T. Dobson, afterwards at the RA Schools, and then returned to Paris, working under Charles Gleyre at the same time as Alma Tadema, Whistler and Du Maurier. He was very much part of the British establishment thereafter, becoming ARA in 1868, first Slade Professor of University College London 1871-5, RA in 1877 and Director of the National Gallery 1894-1904. In 1896, Poynter was elected President of the Royal Academy, narrowly beating Briton Riviere to the post, and he seems to have got the job because of his very wide teaching, lecturing and administrative experience and depth of scholarship.

Poynter's term as PRA came after Millais's brief occupation of the post, and follows rather from his predecessor Leighton, who was PRA for nearly two decades. It had been Leighton who, in 1854, originally persuaded Poynter, then painting only landscapes, to turn to figure studies, and he helped the younger man with drapery studies. Like Leighton, Poynter studied abroad, trained as an academic artist, and was a superior draughtsman, technically masterful, working on largely ideal Greek-style pictures. Again like Leighton, Poynter was enormously influential, though in his case it was because of his large number of official positions and teaching posts. He was created a baronet in 1902 - only Leighton was made a Lord for being PRA.

Poynter's first exhibited at the RA in 1861, and thereafter contributed both regularly and abundantly. His first success there was "Faithful unto Death" (1865), now at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, followed by the large, evocative and popular paintings "Israel in Egypt" (1867), and "The Catapult" (1868). His peak artistic period was certainly the 1860s and 1870s, as thereafter he spent more and more time on his official and institutional activities. However, he was still able to produce various important works, as for example "A Visit to Aesculapius" (1880), bought by the Chantrey Bequest and now in the Tate Gallery. Good also is "Horae Serenae" of 1894, an utterly classical frieze-shaped picture with girls dancing, a picnic, a peacock and an elegant, symmetrical composition. His 1895, picture "The Ionian Dance" has elements of Albert Moore, marble worthy of Alma Tadema, and again a lovely classical composition.

As well as paintings, Poynter worked in a variety of other media, including some book illustrations early on in his career, most notably for Dalziel's Bible Gallery, drawn in a Pre-Raphaelite manner. He designed and drew panels for cabinets by Burges, did stained glass designs for Powell, mosaics for the House of Lords and at South Kensington, fresco work, pottery, and the reverse sides of the British coins of the time. In his later years, Poynter's paintings became less epic and more decorative, with lots of pictures on the 'girl on a vaguely classical terrace' theme, with or without decorative drapery.

One late and important picture is "The Cave of the Storm Nymphs" (1903). But Poynter carried on producing Classical paintings until his death in 1919, long after the mood had swung against such works. His followers included Frederick Goodall and Edwin Long, both keen on Egyptian paintings, and also in his circle were Simeon Solomon and Burne-Jones, the latter by virtue of being a brother-in-law.

"A Visit to Aesculapius" is at the Tate Gallery and "Psyche in the Temple of Love", is at the Walker Art Gallery. "The Champion Swimmer", is at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. A room at the Victoria and Albert Museum has tile panels designed by Poynter. Excellent ceiling panels by Poynter may be found in Waltham Abbey.


The National Gallery

The National Gallery is laden with richness. All the stepping stones are there to bridge the centuries. The exquisite "John Arnolfini and his Wife" painted by John Van Eyck with the eye of a miniaturist, takes us back to the fourteenth century. The expressive beauty of the "Virgin of the Rock" reflects the touch of Leonardo da Vinci. Compare it with the icy loveliness of Botticelli's "Madonna and Child". The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were cluttered with artists of genius. The art was unknown in France, Spain and England. The spotlight alternated between Italy and the Netherlands. Michelangelo dominated the scene. Two of his unfinished works are in the National Gallery. Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese are also represented. Raphael's "Ansidei Madonna" that defies criticism ought to be studied. It was bought from the Duke of Marlborough in 1884, for the then record figure of £70,000. These names mark the close of the Italian dynasty. Spain comes next to the forefront, headed by El Greco. The aesthetic-looking "Luigi Cornaro" is a good example of his work. Then such illustrious names as Rubens; Frans Hals; Claude; Rembrandt; Velasquez, court painter to Philip IV. of Spain; Van Dyck, the master of graceful refinement, who took the English Court by storm; Jan Steen, boisterous and often coarse.


The forthright advent of the brusque William Hogarth, born 1697, marked the first British painter of note. England had entered the painting world. Hogarth is well represented in the National Gallery. Sir Joshua Reynolds was born twenty-five years later. He was a grave figure of courtly mannerisms. He founded the "Literary Club" with such members as Garrick, Johnson, Goldsmith, Burke, Boswell, Sheridan, Walpole, and Gibbon. He immortalized the appearance and mannerisms of the society of his day in his paintings. December, 1786, the Royal Academy came into being. Joshua Reynolds was asked to be the first President.


The portraits of Gainsborough are unrivalled. He portrayed the gaiety and beauty of English women with a feathery vivacity. His dream-like idyll called "The Mall" drew from Horace Walpole the remark: "It is all in motion and in a flutter like a lady's fan." The essence of daintiness is expressed in Sir Thomas Lawrence's "Pinkie", the nymph-like child study sold for £77,700 in 1926. To this galaxy of talent must be added the pioneer eighteenth and nineteenth-century landscape painters, Wilson; Old Crome; Constable; Turner; Whistler, of pure beauty. Pre-Raphaelitism and its founders Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Millais, and Holman Hunt. Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse ... the list is almost endless, but in time it halts alongside the present exhibitors as the Royal Academy speeds the Season on its fanciful way.

London Season, Louis T. Stanley, [As Written]