Society of Artists of Great Britain

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Joshua Reynolds was a member of the Society (self portrait c. 1748). Self-portrait c.1747-9 by Joshua Reynolds (2).jpg
Joshua Reynolds was a member of the Society (self portrait c. 1748).

The Society of Artists of Great Britain was founded in London in May 1761 [1] by an association of artists in order to provide a venue for the public exhibition of recent work by living artists, such as was having success in the long-established Paris salons. Leading members seceded from the society in 1768, a move leading directly to the formation of the Royal Academy of Arts. The society was dissolved 1791 after years of decline. [2]

Royal Academy of Arts art institution in London, England

The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) 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 Society of Artists of Great Britain began in 1760 as a loose association of artists, including Joshua Reynolds and Francis Hayman, who wanted greater control by artists over exhibitions of their work previously organised by William Shipley's Society of Arts (founded in 1754). The new society organised their first exhibition in April 1760 and over one thousand visitors per day attended. [3] The following year they held their second exhibition at Christopher Cock's Auction Rooms in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross, [3] and "In a conspicuous gesture they called themselves the Society of Artists of Great Britain to emphasise their identity with the 'nation' and to announce a clear split with Shipley's faction." [1] Some 13,000 people bought a copy of the catalogue for the 1761 exhibition which featured a frontispiece designed by William Hogarth depicting Britannia watering three trees marked Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. [3]

Joshua Reynolds 18th-century English painter, specialising in portraits

Sir Joshua Reynolds was an English painter, specialising in portraits. John Russell said he was one of the major European painters of the 18th century. He promoted the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was a founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, and was knighted by George III in 1769. In 2018, the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, UK was celebrated.

Francis Hayman British artist

Francis Hayman was an English painter and illustrator who became one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768, and later its first librarian.

William Shipley Drawing master, social reformer, and inventor

William Shipley was an English drawing master, social reformer and inventor who, in 1754, founded an arts society in London that became The Royal Society of Arts, or Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA).

In 1765, the Society, then comprising 211 members, obtained a Royal Charter as the "Incorporated Society of Artists of Great Britain". [1]

Reynolds would later be a founder of the Royal Academy of Arts, after an unseemly leadership dispute between two leading architects, Sir William Chambers and James Paine had split the Society. Paine won, but Chambers used his strong connections with George III to create the new body – the Royal Academy of Arts was formally launched in 1769. However, the Society of Artists of Great Britain continued its schedule of exhibitions until 1791, while those who remained with the older "Society of Arts" now called themselves the "Free Society of Artists" (1761–1783).

William Chambers (architect) Scottish-Swedish architect

Sir William Chambers was a Scottish-Swedish architect, based in London. Among his best-known works are Somerset House, London, and the pagoda at Kew. Chambers was a founder member of the Royal Academy.

James Paine (architect) English architect

James Paine (1717–1789) was an English architect.

See also

References and sources

  1. 1 2 3 Taylor, Brandon (22 April 1999). Art for the Nation: Exhibitions and the London Public, 1747–2001. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN   9780719054532.
  2. "Incorporated Society of Artists of Great Britain". Royal Academy of Arts . Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 Smith, Charles Saumarez (2012). The Company of Artists: The Origins of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. London: Modern Art Press. pp. 31–31. ISBN   1408182106.

Algernon Graves was a British art historian and art dealer, who specialised in the documentation of the exhibition and sale of works of art. He created reference sources that began the modern discipline of provenance research.

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The first modern public exhibition took place in London during 1756, when the recently established Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce held the first in a series of fine art exhibitions. Prizes were offered for improvements in the manufacture of tapestry, carpets and porcelain, and winners were chosen from a competition of submitted articles. The show was open to society members and their friends. The society was more concerned with quicker production and more efficient implements than with artistic expression. Awards were given to young students for such practical things as planting oak trees for the English navy and dyeing textiles. There were 130 paintings by 69 painters in the exhibition, including artists such as Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin Wilson, Richard Cosway and Louis-François Roubiliac.

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