Posts Tagged ‘Royal Academy of Arts’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Society of Painters in Water Colour – Old Water Colour Society
1804-1881 (Then becoming the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colour)

Society of Painters in Water Colour – Old Water Colour Society was founded in 1804 by William Frederick Wells. Its original membership was William Sawrey Gilpin, Robert Hills, John Claude Nattes, John Varley, Cornelius Varley, Francis Nicholson, Samuel Shelley, William Henry Pyne and Nicholas Pocock. The members seceded from the Royal Academy where they felt that their work commanded insufficient respect and attention.

In 1812, the Society reformed as the Society of Painters in Oil and Watercolours, reverting to its original name in 1820.

In 1831 a schism created another group, the New Society for Painters in Water Colours, and so the 1804 group became known as the Old Water Colour Society, and just the Old Society. The New Society subsequently became the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, which still exists today.

The Old Society obtained its Royal charter 1881.

Presidents were:

  • William Sawrey Gilpin (1804–1806)
  • William Frederick Wells (1806–1807)
  • John Glover (1808)
  • Ramsay Richard Reinagle (1808–1812)
  • Francis Nicholson (1812–1813)
  • John Warwick Smith (1814)
  • John Glover (1815)
  • Joshua Cristall (1816)
  • John Warwick Smith (1817–1818)
  • Joshua Cristall (1819)
  • George Fennell Robson (1820)
  • Joshua Cristall (1821–1831)
  • Anthony Van Dyke Copley Fielding (1831–1855)

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Joseph Wright of Derby
3 September 1734 – 29 August 1797


Joseph Wright

Joseph Wright of Derby was born in Irongate, Derby. Deciding to become a painter, Wright went to London in 1751 and for two years studied under Thomas Hudson, the master of Joshua Reynolds. After painting portraits for a while at Derby, Wright again worked as an assistant to Hudson for fifteen months. In 1753 he returned to and settled in Derby and varied his work in portraiture by the production of the subjects with strong chiaroscuro under artificial light, with which his name is chiefly associated, and by landscape painting. Wright also spent a productive period in Liverpool, from 1768 to 1771, painting portraits. These included pictures of a number of prominent citizens and their families.

Wright married Ann (also known as Hannah) Swift, the daughter of a leadminer, on 28 July 1773

Wright and his wife had six children, three of whom died in infancy. Wright set off in 1773 with John Downman, a pregnant Ann Wright and Richard Hurleston for Italy. Their ship took shelter for three weeks in Nice before they completed their outward voyage in Livorno in Italy in February 1774. Downman returned to Britain in 1775. Although he spent a great deal of time in Naples, Wright never actually witnessed any eruption of Mount Vesuvius; however, it is possible that he witnessed smaller, less impressive eruptions, which may have inspired many of his subsequent paintings of the volcano. On his return from Italy he established himself at Bath as a portrait-painter, but meeting with little encouragement he returned to Derby in 1777, where he spent the rest of his life. He became increasingly asthmatic and nervous about the house, and for these complaints he was treated by his friend Erasmus Darwin. Ann Wright died on 17 August 1790. On 29 August 1797 Wright died at his new home at No. 28 Queen Street, Derby, where he had spent his final months with his two daughters.

Wright was a frequent contributor to the exhibitions of the Society of Artists, and to those of the Royal Academy, of which he was elected an associate in 1781 and a full member in 1784. He, however, declined the latter honour on account of a slight which he believed that he had received, and severed his official connection with the Academy, though he continued to contribute to the exhibitions from 1783 until 1794.

Wright is seen at his best in his candlelit subjects of which the Three Persons Viewing the Gladiator by Candlelight (1765), his A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (1766), in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, and An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768), in the National Gallery are excellent examples. His Old Man and Death (1774) is also a striking and individual production.

Joseph Wright of Derby also painted Dovedale by Moonlight, capturing the rural landscape of a narrow valley called Dovedale, 14 miles northeast of Wright’s home town of Derby, at night with a full moon. It hangs in the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. Its companion piece, Dovedale by Sunlight (circa 1784–1785) captures the colors of day. In another Moonlight Landscape, in the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota Florida, equally dramatic, the moon is obscured by an arched bridge over water, but illuminates the scene, making the water sparkle in contrast to the dusky landscape. Another memorable image from his tour of the Lake District is Rydal Waterfall of 1795.

Cave at evening (above) is painted with the same dramatic chiaroscuro for which Joseph Wright is noted. The painting was executed during 1774, while he was staying in Italy. Notice the similarities to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s holding, Grotto by the Seaside in the Kingdom of Naples with Banditti, Sunset (1778).

Wright had close contact with the pioneering industrialists of the Midlands. Two of his most important patrons were Josiah Wedgwood, credited with the industrialization of the manufacture of pottery, and Richard Arkwright, regarded as the creator of the factory system in the cotton industry. One of Wright’s students, William Tate, was uncle to the eccentric gentleman tunneler Joseph Williamson and completed some of Wright’s works after his death. Wright also had connections with Erasmus Darwin and other members of the Lunar Society, which brought together leading industrialists, scientists, and philosophers. Although meetings were held in Birmingham, Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, lived in Derby, and some of the paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby, which are themselves notable for their use of brilliant light on shade, are of, or were inspired by Lunar Society gatherings.

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768), shows people gathered round observing an early experiment into the nature of air and its ability to support life.

The Alchemist in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone (1771) depicts the discovery of the element phosphorus by German alchemist Hennig Brand in 1669. A flask in which a large quantity of urine has been boiled down is seen bursting into light as the phosphorus, which is abundant in urine, ignites spontaneously in air.

A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery shows an early mechanism for demonstrating the movement of the planets around the sun. The Scottish scientist James Ferguson (1710–1776) undertook a series of lectures in Derby in July 1762 based on his book Lectures on Select Subjects in Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Optics &c. (1760). To illustrate his lectures, Ferguson used various machines, models and instruments. Wright possibly attended these talks, especially as tickets were available from John Whitehurst, Wright’s close neighbour, a clockmaker and a scientist. Wright could also have drawn on Whitehurst’s practical knowledge to learn more about the orrery and its operation.

These factual paintings are considered to have metaphorical meaning too, the bursting into light of the phosphorus in front of a praying figure signifying the problematic transition from faith to scientific understanding and enlightenment, and the various expressions on the figures around the bird in the air pump indicating concern over the possible inhumanity of the coming age of science.

These paintings represent a high point in scientific enquiry which began undermining the power of religion in Western societies. Some ten years later, scientists would find themselves persecuted in the backlash to the French Revolution of 1789, itself the culmination of enlightenment thinking. Joseph Priestley, a member of the Lunar Society, left Britain in 1794 after his Birmingham laboratory was smashed and his house burned down by a mob objecting to his outspoken support for the French Revolution. In France, the chemist Antoine Lavoisier was executed by the guillotine at the height of the Terror. The politician and philosopher Edmund Burke, in his famous Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), tied natural philosophers, and specifically Priestley, to the French Revolution; he later wrote in his Letter to a Noble Lord (1796) that radicals who supported science in Britain “considered man in their experiments no more than they do mice in an air pump”.

In light of this comment, Wright’s painting of the bird in the air pump, completed over twenty years earlier, seems particularly prescient.

It was against this background that Charles Darwin, grandson of the Derby man and Lunar Society member, Erasmus Darwin, would add to the conflict between science and religious belief half a century later, with the publication of his book The Origin of Species in 1859.

Wright’s birthplace at 28 Irongate, Derby is commemorated with a representation of an orrery on the pavement nearby.

Joseph Wright was buried in the grounds of St Alkmund’s Church, Derby. The church was controversially demolished in 1968 to make way for a major new section of the inner ring road cutting through the town centre, and now lies beneath the road. Wright’s remains were removed to Nottingham Road Cemetery.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Royal Academy of Arts
1768- to Present


Royal Academy of Arts

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

The Royal Academy of Arts was founded through a personal act of King George III on 10 December 1768 with a mission to promote the arts of design in Britain 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 judgement in the arts, and to arrange the exhibition of contemporary works of art attaining an appropriate standard of excellence. Supporters wanted 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 was based on continental and traditional art forms, providing contemporary British 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 in Britain. The success of this venture led to the formation of the Society of Artists of Great Britain and the Free Society of Artists. Both these groups were primarily exhibiting societies; their initial success was marred by internal factions among 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, a prominent architect, used his connections with George III to gain royal patronage and financial support of the Academy, and it was founded in 1768. The painter Joshua Reynolds was made its first president. Francis Milner Newton was elected the first secretary, a post he held for two decades until his resignation in 1788.

The instrument of foundation, signed by George III on 10 December 1768, named 34 founder members and allowed for a total membership of 40. The founder members were Reynolds, John Baker, George Barret, Francesco Bartolozzi, Giovanni Battista Cipriani, Augustino Carlini, Charles Catton, Mason Chamberlin, William Chambers, Francis Cotes, George Dance, Nathaniel Dance, Thomas Gainsborough, John Gwynn, Francis Hayman, Nathaniel Hone the Elder, Angelica Kauffman, Jeremiah Meyer, George Michael Moser, Francis Milner Newton, Mary Moser, Edward Penny, John Inigo Richards, Thomas Sandby, Paul Sandby, Dominic Serres, Peter Toms, William Tyler, Samuel Wale, Benjamin West, Richard Wilson, Joseph Wilton, Richard Yeo, Francesco Zuccarelli. William Hoare and Johann Zoffany were added to this list later by the King and are known as nominated members. Among 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 given temporary accommodation for its library and schools in Old Somerset House, then a royal palace. In 1780 it was installed in purpose-built apartments in the first completed wing of New Somerset House, located in the Strand and designed by 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. In 1868, 100 years after the Academy’s foundation, it moved to Burlington House, Piccadilly, where it remains. Burlington House is owned by the British Government, and used rent-free by the Royal Academy.

The first Royal Academy exhibition of contemporary art, open to all artists, opened on 25 April 1769 and ran until 27 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 Academy expanded its exhibition programme to include a temporary annual loan exhibition of Old Masters, following the cessation of a similar annual exhibition at the British Institution. The range and frequency of these loan exhibitions have grown enormously since that time, making the Royal Academy a leading art exhibition institution of international importance.

Britain’s first public lectures on art were staged by the Royal Academy, as another way to fulfil its mission. Led by Reynolds, the first president, a program included lectures by Dr. William Hunter, John Flaxman, James Barry, Sir John Soane, and J. M. W. Turner. The last three were all graduates of the RA School, which for a long time was the only established art school in the country.

The Royal Academy does not receive financial support from the state or the Crown. Its income is from exhibitions, trust and endowment funds, receipts from its trading activities, and from the subscriptions of its Friends and corporate members. It also gains funds by sponsorship from commercial and industrial companies, in which the Academy was one of the pioneers.

The Royal Academy Schools was the first institution to provide professional training for artists in Britain. The Schools’ programme of formal training was modelled on that of the French Académie de peinture et de sculpture, founded by Louis XIV in 1648. It was shaped by the precepts laid down by Sir Joshua Reynolds. In his fifteen Discourses delivered to pupils in the Schools between 1769 and 1790, Reynolds stressed the importance of copying the Old Masters, and of drawing from casts after the Antique and from the life model. He argued that such a training would form artists capable of creating works of high moral and artistic worth. Professorial chairs were founded in Chemistry, Anatomy, Ancient History and Ancient Literature, the latter two being held initially by Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith.

In 1769, the first year of operation, the Schools enrolled 77 students. By 1830 over 1,500 students had enrolled in the Schools, giving an average intake of 25 students each year. They included men such as John Flaxman, J. M. W. Turner, John Soane, Thomas Rowlandson, William Blake, Thomas Lawrence, John Constable, George Hayter, David Wilkie, William Etty and Edwin Landseer. The term of studentship was at first six years. This was increased to seven years in 1792 and to ten in 1800.

The Royal Academy has an important collection of books, archives and works of art accessible for research and display. A large part of these collections have been digitised and can be investigated through the Collection website.

The first president of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, gave his noted self-portrait, beginning the Royal Academy collection. This was followed by gifts from other founding members, such as Gainsborough and Benjamin West. Subsequently each elected Member was required to donate an artwork (known as a “Diploma Work”) typical of his or her artistic output, and this practice continues today. Additional donations and purchases have resulted in a collection of approximately a thousand paintings and a thousand sculptures, which show the development of a British School of art.

Membership of the Royal Academy is composed of practising artists, each elected by ballot of the General Assembly of the Royal Academy, and known individually as Royal Academicians (RA, or more traditionally as R.A.). The Royal Academy is governed by these Royal Academicians. The 1768 Instrument of Foundation allowed total membership of the Royal Academy to be 40 artists. The category of Associate Member of the Royal Academy (ARA, traditionally as A.R.A.) was introduced in 1769 to provide a means of preselecting suitable candidates to fill future vacancies among Academicians.[citation needed] Originally engravers were completely excluded from the academy, but at the beginning of 1769 the category of Associate-Engraver was created. Their number was limited to six, and unlike other associates, they could not be promoted to full academicians,[15] In 1853 membership of the Academy was increased to 42.

Joshua Reynolds 1768–1792
Benjamin West 1792–1805
James Wyatt 1805–1806
Benjamin West 1806–1820
Thomas Lawrence 1820–1830
Martin Archer Shee 1830–1850
George Michael Moser, RA 10 Dec 1768 – 24 Jan 1783
Agostino Carlini, RA 3 Mar 1783 – 24 Sep 1790
Joseph Wilton, RA 24 Sep 1790 – 25 Nov 1803
Henry Fuseli, RA 24 Dec 1804 – 16 Apr 1825
Henry Thomson, RA 9 Jun 1825 – 10 Dec 1827
William Hilton, RA 10 Dec 1827 – 30 Dec 1839
William Chambers 10 Dec 1768 – 8 Mar 1796
John Yenn 2 Apr 1796 – 8 Jun 1820
Robert Smirke 8 Jun 1820 – 18 Jul 1850
Francis Milner Newton, RA 10 Dec 1768 – 10 Dec 1788
John Inigo Richards, RA 10 Dec 1788 – 2 Mar 1810
Henry Howard, RA 11 Feb 1811 – 20 Jan 1847
John Baker 1768 Foundation member
George Barret 1768 Foundation member
Francesco Bartolozzi 1768 Foundation member
Agostino Carlini 1768 Foundation member
Charles Catton 1768 Foundation member
Mason Chamberlin 1768 Foundation member
William Chambers 1768 Foundation member
Giovanni Battista Cipriani 1768 Foundation member
Francis Cotes 1768 Foundation member
George Dance the Younger 1768 Foundation member; Professor of Architecture 1798–1805
Nathaniel Dance-Holland 1768 Foundation member
Thomas Gainsborough 1768 Foundation member
John Gwynn 1768 Foundation member
Francis Hayman 1768 Foundation member; first Academy librarian
Nathaniel Hone 1768 Foundation member
Angelica Kauffman 1768 Foundation member
Jeremiah Meyer 1768 Foundation member
George Michael Moser 1768 Foundation member; first Keeper
Mary Moser 1768 Foundation member
Francis Milner Newton 1768 Foundation member; first Secretary
Edward Penny 1768 Foundation member
Joshua Reynolds 1768 Foundation member; President 1768–1792
John Inigo Richards 1768 Foundation member; Secretary 1788–1810
Paul Sandby 1768 Foundation member
Thomas Sandby 1768 Foundation member; first Professor of Architecture
Dominic Serres 1768 Foundation member; Librarian 1792–1793
Peter Toms 1768 Foundation member
William Tyler 1768 Foundation member
Samuel Wale 1768 Foundation member
Benjamin West 1768 Foundation member; President 1792–1805, 1806–1820
Richard Wilson 1768 Foundation member
Joseph Wilton 1768 Foundation member; third Keeper
Richard Yeo 1768 Foundation member
Francesco Zuccarelli 1768 Foundation member
William Hoare 1769 Nominated member
Johann Zoffany 1769 Nominated member
Richard Cosway 1771
Joseph Nollekens 1772
Philip James de Loutherbourg 1781
George Stubbs 1781
Joseph Wright 1784
Thomas Banks 1785
James Wyatt 1785 President 1805
James Northcote 1787
John Opie 1788
John Russell 1788
Henry Fuseli 1790 Professor of Painting 1799–1803, 1810–1824; Keeper 1803–1810?
Ozias Humphrey 1791
John Yenn 1791
Robert Smirke 1793
Thomas Lawrence 1794 President 1820–1830
Richard Westall 1794
Thomas Stothard 1794
John Hoppner 1795
William Beechey 1798 Associate RA: 1793
Henry Tresham 1799 Professor of Painting 1807–1809
John Flaxman 1800 Professor of Sculpture 1810–1826
Martin Archer Shee 1800 President 1830–1850
John Soane 1802 Professor of Architecture 1806–1837
J. M. W. Turner 1802
Thomas Phillips 1808 Professor of Painting 1824–1832
James Ward 1811
David Wilkie 1811
Richard Westmacott 1811 Professor of Sculpture 1827–1856
Robert Smirke 1811
Philip Reinagle 1812
William Theed 1813
George Dawe 1814
John Jackson 1817
Edward Hodges Baily 1821
Jeffry Wyatville 1824
William Wilkins 1826 Professor of Architecture 1837–1839
Charles Lock Eastlake 1827 President 1850–1865
William Etty 1828
John Constable 1829
Edwin Henry Landseer 1831
Clarkson Stanfield 1835
Charles Robert Cockerell 1836 Professor of Architecture 1839–1856
John Peter Gandy 1838
Frederick Richard Lee 1838

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