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The famous artists of the Continent almost invariably organize schools of art, converting their studios into miniature academies, surrounding themselves with pupils and disciples who sit at their feet, listen to their teaching, assist them by painting for them the less important portions of their works, adopt their processes, and follow their styles of drawing and colouring. There is something to be said for the system. It is an advantage to the young student to be constantly brought into contact with a real master of the art; to have the opportunity of working under his supervision, and, on the other hand, of watching him at his labours, and of witnessing the birth, growth, and completion of his best pictures. The main objection to the plan is that it may develop merely imitative ability rather than stimulate genuine originality; that it inclines the student to follow too scrupulously a beaten track rather than strike out a fresh pathway for himself. He may reproduce the virtues of his exemplar’s art, but he will certainly copy its vices as well. And then the difficult question arises: when is he to assert his independence? At what period in his career is he to cease leaning on his teacher, and to pursue his own devices unaided and alone? He may have tied his leading-strings so tightly about him that liberty of thought and action has become almost impossible to him, and the free use of his limbs, so to speak, has gone from him. It is quite true that the artist should be a student all his life; but then he should be a student of art generally, not of any one professor of art in particular, or he will be simply the pupil of a great master to the end of the chapter, never a great master himself.

Objection to a system of instruction that may tend to perpetuate mannerism, to cramp originality, and fetter genius, has of late years led to considerable opposition to art-academies generally, whenever more is contemplated by them than the mere school-teaching of the pupil, and the affording him assistance at the outset of his professional life. Haydon was fond of declaring ’that academies all over Europe were signals of distress thrown out to stop the decay of art,’ but that they had failed egregiously, and rather hastened the result they had intended to hinder. Fuseli asserted that ’all schools of painters, whether public or private, supported by patronage or individual contribution, were and are symptoms of art in distress, monuments of public dereliction and decay of taste.’ He proceeded afterwards to defend such schools, however, as the asylum of the student, the theatre of his exercises, the repositories of the materials, the archives of art, whose principles their officers were bound to maintain, and for the preservation of which they were responsible to posterity, etc. Dr. Waagen was of opinion that the academic system gave an artificial elevation to mediocrity; that it deadened natural talent, and introduced into the freedom of art an unsalutary degree of authority and interference. The late Horace Vernet entertained similar views, recommending the suppression of the French Academy at Rome. M. Say (the Adam Smith of France) held that all Academies were in truth hostile to the fine arts; and a report of a committee of the English House of Commons (1836) went far in the same direction, venturing to predict the probability ’that the principle of free competition in art as in commerce would ultimately triumph over all artificial institutions,’ and that ’governments might at some future period content themselves with holding out prizes or commissions to the different but co-equal societies of artists, and refuse the dangerous gift of pre-eminence to any.’

In England the school of the individual great artist upon the continental plan seems to have had no counterpart. Favourite portrait-painters have, now and then, employed a staff of subordinates to paint the draperies, and fill in the backgrounds of their works, but the persons thus employed have been mechanicians rather than artists. Northcote was the pupil of Reynolds, and Harlowe was taught by Lawrence; but in neither case was there much attempt at maintaining a school of manner, as it would be understood out of England. The works of Northcote and Harlowe contain traces of the teaching of their preceptors little more than do the productions of their contemporaries, and they certainly bequeathed no distinct traditions of style to their successors. In England the foundation of a National Academy, or of an institution in any measure manifesting the characteristics of a National Academy, took place long subsequent to the rise of the foreign Academies. And the English Royal Academy, as at present constituted, cannot be said to occupy a position analogous to that of foreign academies. As was expressed in the Report of the Parliamentary Committee of 1836: ’It is not a public national institution like the French Academy, since it lives by exhibition and takes money at the door, yet it possesses many of the privileges of a public body without bearing the direct burthen of public responsibility.’ Or, as was succinctly explained by Mr. Westmacott, himself an academician, before the commissioners appointed in 1863 to inquire into the position of the Royal Academy: ’When we wish not to be interfered with we are private, when we want anything of the public we are public;’ and then he goes on to say: ’The Academy is distinctly a private institution, and, admitting it is not perfect, doing great public good all for nothing,’ i.e., without charge. Mr. Westmacott was unconsciously pleading guilty to Haydon’s accusation that ’the academicians constituted in truth a private society, which they always put forward when you wish to examine them, and they always proclaim themselves a public society when they want to benefit by any public vote.’

For long years the sentiment had prevailed in England that art was no affair of the State, had no sort of interest for the governing power of the country, or indeed for the general public; and it was, of course, left to those persons to whom an Academy of Art was in any way a matter of necessity or importance, to found such an institution for themselves. Certainly the encouragement given to the painter during the first half of the eighteenth century was insignificant enough. He was viewed much as the astrologer or the alchemist; his proceedings, the world argued, were sufficiently foolish and futile, but still harmless; he was not particularly in anybody’s way, and therefore it was not worth anybody’s while to molest or displace him. But as for patronizing, or valuing, or rewarding him, turning upon him the light of the royal countenance, or cheering him with popular applause, those were quite other matters. King, and Court, and people had vastly different things to think about. He was just suffered, not succoured in any way. He must get on as well as he could, educating, improving, helping himself. As for aid from the State, that was absolutely out of the question.

For the benefit of his brother artists and of himself, therefore, Sir Godfrey Kneller, who had lived in happier times, so far as art was concerned-for the Stuarts had some love for poetry and painting, though the Hanoverian sovereigns had not-instituted a private drawing Academy in London in the year 1711. Of this Academy, Vertue, who collected the materials for the ‘Anecdotes of Painting,’ which Walpole digested and published, was one of the first members, studying there some years; and it was probably of this institution that Hogarth wrote in 1760, describing it as founded by some gentlemen painters of the first rank, who, in imitation of the Academy of France, introduced certain forms and solemnities into their proceedings which were objectionable to several members, and led to divisions and jealousies in the general body. Finally, the president and his followers, finding themselves caricatured and opposed, locked out their opponents and closed the Academy.

Sir James Thornhill, who had headed the most important of the parties into which the institution had become divided, and who held the appointment of historical painter to George I., then submitted to the Government of the day a plan for the foundation of a Royal Academy which should encourage and educate the young artists of England. He proposed that a suitable building, with apartments for resident professors, should be erected at the upper end of the King’s Mews, Charing Cross. The cost of carrying out this plan was estimated at little more than three thousand pounds; but although Lord Treasurer Halifax gave his support, the Government negatived the proposition, and declined to find the necessary means.

Sir James, not altogether daunted by his ill success, determined to do what he could on his own responsibility, and without aid from the Treasury. He opened a Drawing Academy, therefore, at his house in James Street, Covent Garden, on the east side, where, as a writer in 1804 describes the situation, ’the back offices and painting-room abutted upon Langford’s (then Cock’s) Auction Room in the Piazza,’ and gave tickets to all who desired admission. It is to be feared that Sir James’s generosity was somewhat abused. Certain it is that dissensions arose in his Academy as in Kneller’s; that one Vandrebank headed an opposition party, and at length withdrew with his adherents to found a rival school. According to Hogarth, ’he converted an old meeting-house into an Academy, and introduced a female figure to make it more inviting to subscribers.’ But this establishment did not last long, the subscriptions were not forthcoming, and the fittings and furniture of the school were seized for debt. Upon the death of Sir James, in 1734, his Academy was also closed.

But a school had now become indispensably necessary to the artists of the day. After a time they forgot their differences, and again united. Hogarth had become possessed of his father-in-law Sir James Thornhill’s furniture, which he was willing to lend to an association of artists founding a new school; a subscription was accordingly arranged, and a room ’large enough to admit of thirty or forty persons drawing after a naked figure,’ was hired in the house of Mr. Hyde, a painter in Greyhound Court, Arundel Street, Strand. Hogarth, attributing the failure of preceding academies to an assumption of superior authority on the part of members whose subscriptions were of largest amount, proposed that all members should equally contribute to the maintenance of the establishment, and should possess equal rights of voting on all questions relative to its affairs. For many years this academy, which, in 1738, removed to more convenient premises in Peter’s Court, St. Martin’s Lane, existed in a most satisfactory manner. To this school of Hogarth’s, as we may fairly consider it, the majority of the English painters of the reign of George II. and the early part of George III., owed much of their art education. Perhaps the success of the school was due in great part to the discretion and good management of the artist who had been nominated its chief instructor: George Michael Moser, a gold and silver chaser, enameller and modeller, Swiss by birth. Something also it owed to its unpretentious yet practical and utilitarian character. The artists were bound together by mutual convenience; their school, conferring no degrees, aiming at no distinction, was of equal advantage to all. It was strictly a private institution, in no way attracting to itself public notice or asking for aid from the public purse.


In 1734 there had been founded in England the Dilettanti Society, composed of noblemen and gentlemen who had travelled abroad, and professed a taste for the fine arts. In 1749, this society found itself rich and influential enough to contemplate the establishment of an academy of art, and even took steps to obtain a site on the south side of Cavendish Square, and to purchase Portland stone for the erection there of a building adapted to the purpose, on the plan of the Temple at Pola. The society then put itself in correspondence with the School of Painters in St. Martin’s Lane, asking for co-operation and assistance in the carrying out of the project. The painters, however, according to Sir Robert Strange’s account of the transaction, held back: they objected to aid in the formation of an academy of art which was not to be under the absolute rule and government of artists. Thereupon the Dilettanti Society declined to find funds for the foundation of an institute over which, when completed, they were to possess no influence whatever, in the management of which they were to be absolutely without voice; and the negotiation was accordingly brought to an abrupt conclusion. (We may note here that, curiously enough, the Royal Commission of 1863 proposed, in some degree, a reversion to this abortive project, and recommended the introduction of a lay element into the governing body of the present Royal Academy.)

The proposal of the Dilettanti Society, though rejected, seems yet, after the lapse of a few years, to have tempted the painters in St. Martin’s Lane to enlarge the boundaries of their institution. In 1753 they fancied the time had come when, with the support of the general body of artists in England, an effort might be made to found a national academy. A circular was addressed to all the well-known artists by Francis Milner Newton, the secretary of the school in St. Martin’s Lane, calling their attention to a scheme for establishing a public academy of painting, sculpture and architecture, for erecting a suitable building, receiving subscriptions, appointing professors, making regulations for the instruction of students, etc. The circular concluded by requesting attendance at a meeting to be held at the Turk’s Head, in Gerard Street, Soho, when the election of thirteen painters, three sculptors, one chaser, two engravers, and two architects, in all twenty-one, for the purposes of the academy, would be proceeded with. But this scheme met with little support, and was abandoned. Its projectors, defeated and ridiculed-the subjects of several caricatures of the period-had to fall back again among their fellow-artists, probably with little advantage to the harmony of the general body.

Yet the plan of an academy, though it had met with very inconsiderable encouragement, was not suffered to die out absolutely; somehow the thing took root, and even grew, in a measure, making no very great sign of vitality however. But it produced a pamphlet now and then-found unexpected advocates here and there, dragged on a sickly, invalid sort of existence. In 1755, a committee of artists resumed the idea, but this time they appeared to the sympathies of the general public, proposing to raise an academy as charitable institutions are established, by aid of popular benevolence, and to apply for a charter of incorporation from the Crown, the terms of the charter being formally drawn up, and even published. The prospectus made handsome mention of the pecuniary assistance which had been some time before proffered by the Dilettanti Society; whereupon the society renewed its promise of support, and re-opened negotiations with the committee of artists. But difficulties again arose. Sir Robert Strange, who attended the meetings of the parties, found on the part of the Dilettanti Society ’that generosity and benevolence which are peculiar to true greatness;’ but on the side of the majority of the artists, he regretted to observe ’motives apparently limited to their own views and ambition to govern.’ Again the negotiation was broken off, the project went to pieces, and now the hope of establishing a national academy in England seemed in its worst plight-hopeless-gone down to zero.

In 1757, Hogarth, on the resignation of his brother-in-law, Mr. Thornhill, was appointed, in the sixtieth year of his age, painter to the king. Hogarth, it may be noted, had always opposed the attempt to found an academy. He supported the plan of an art-school, deeming such an institution of practical value to the painter. But he appears to have thought that an academy would only multiply portrait painters, of whom there was quite a sufficiency, would not create a demand for works of real art-value, or improve the taste of patrons in that respect. In 1758, Hogarth’s idea of an art-school met with unexpected support in the opening of the Duke of Richmond’s Gallery of Casts and Statues at Whitehall. Invitation to students was given by public advertisements. For a time Cipriani gave instruction in the gallery, and it is recorded that the result was a purer taste among British artists in the drawing of the human figure than they had previously displayed.

And now help was to come to the plan of an academy from a most unexpected source, in a most accidental way. In the reign of George II., if little was done for art and artists, great interest was displayed in works of public benevolence. From that period dates the rise of very many national hospitals and charitable institutions of various kinds. Among others, the London Foundling Hospital, which was incorporated in 1739, and received especial favour and support from the legislature and the public. To the sympathy with the objects of this charity displayed by the artists, are attributable the first recognition of them by the nation as a community meriting regard and assistance; and ultimately the rise and progress of an Academy of Art in England.

In 1740, when Handel came forward to aid the funds of the charity by the performance of his oratorios, Hogarth presented to the governors of the institution his famous portrait of Captain Coram, and designed an emblematical decoration to be placed over the chief entrance of the hospital, then in Hatton Garden. In 1745, the west wing of the present edifice in Guildford Street being completed, other artists followed Hogarth’s example, and presented, or promised to present, to the hospital specimens of their art. In 1746, the grateful court of the charity elected its artist-benefactors-Hayman, Hudson, Allan Ramsay, Lambert (the scene-painter), Wilson, Moser, Pine, Hogarth, and Rysbrack (the sculptor), among them-to be governors, with leave to dine at the hospital, at their own expense, on the 5th of November in each year, to commemorate the landing of King William III., and ’to consider what further ornaments might be added to the building without expense to the charity.’ For many years the artists availed themselves of this opportunity-met, dined, drank claret and punch, and discussed professional affairs to their hearts’ content.

The Foundling had become quite a pet charity with Parliament and people. It was assisted by donations from the Crown and grants from Government; while voluntary contributions from the public flowed liberally into its treasury. From 1756 to 1760 nearly 15,000 children were received into the asylum. The open, uninquiring system, still existing on the Continent, then prevailed. A basket hung at the gate, in which to deposit the child, on whose behalf the aid of the institution was to be invoked; a bell was then rung to give notice was forthwith received and provided for. The hospital to the officers of the establishment, and the foundling became the resort and rendezvous of all classes. The public seemed never to weary of watching over and visiting its proteges, and the donations of the artists which adorned the walls of the hospital, were greatly admired and talked about, and soon became of themselves a decided source of attraction. The nation began to appreciate the fact that it possessed some really excellent English painters, and the painters made the discovery that there existed a large public interested in them and in their doings, and prepared to give favour and support to an exhibition of works of art.

In November 1759, a meeting was held at the Turk’s Head, Gerard Street, Soho, which seems to have been a sort of house of call for artists, as well as for literary men, when it was resolved that once in every year, at a place to be appointed by a committee, chosen annually, for carrying the design into execution, there should be held an exhibition of the performances of painters, sculptors, architects, engravers, chasers, seal-cutters, and medallists, the profits to be expended in charity-’towards the support of those artists whose age and infirmities, or other lawful hindrances, prevent them from being any longer candidates for fame;’ the charge for admittance to be one shilling each person. A committee of sixteen was chosen, consisting of six painters, two sculptors, two architects, two engravers, one seal-cutter, one chaser, one medallist, and the secretary, to which office Mr. Francis William Newton had been appointed, to carry out the views of the meeting.


Application was then made to the Society of Arts, which had been established five years previously by Mr. Shipley, of Northampton (brother of the bishop of St. Asaph), to permit the use of its rooms, then in the Strand, opposite Beaufort Buildings, for the purposes of the proposed exhibition. The Society gave its consent, deciding that the period of exhibition should be from the 21st of April to the 8th of May, and only objecting to the proposal that money should be taken at the doors for admission. This objection was removed by admitting the public gratis, and charging sixpence for the catalogue of the works of art on view. Sixty-nine artists sent works to the exhibition. The number of works exhibited was 130. The Society’s rooms were crowded to inconvenience; the exhibition was a great success. There was a sale of 6582 catalogues; the proceeds enabling the committee to defray all expenses, to purchase L100 consols, and to retain a small balance in hand. No record was kept of the number of visitors to the exhibition; the purchase of catalogues was not obligatory, so the amount sold is hardly a clue to the number of visitors. Many doubtless dispensed with catalogues altogether, and many borrowed from their friends. But the results of the exhibition satisfied its warmest well-wishers.

There was but one drawback to the general satisfaction. The Society of Arts conceived itself at liberty to exhibit among the other works the drawings of certain of its students, whose industry and merit had entitled them to gold medals and other rewards. The untutored public, misled by the talk about prizes, persisted in regarding these juvenile essays as the works judged by the cognoscenti to be the most meritorious of the whole exhibition, and rendered them the homage of extraordinary attention and admiration accordingly. Mature professors of art had to endure the mortification of finding their best productions passed over by the unskilful multitude, and the highest praises awarded to mere beginners. The newspapers of the day-newspapers have never been very learned in art matters-fell into the same delusion, and in their notices of the exhibition, paid attention only to these most over-rated prize-holders.

But, altogether, the artists had good cause to be satisfied. They had held the first exhibition of works of art in England, and the exhibition had thoroughly succeeded. They had opened up a new source of profit to themselves in the display of their productions. They had obtained from the general public recognition of themselves and their profession. The Crown might be negligent of them, the State might be apathetic as to affairs of art, aristocratic patrons might be led astray by the ignis fatuus of love of the old masters, by the fashionable tastes for antiquities; but here was ‘the million’ on the side of its artist compatriots; the voice of the nation had declared itself in favour of the nation’s art. Really there seemed at last to be hope, if not something more, for the English painter, and the long-looked-for English academy appeared fairly discernible on the horizon.

The decided success of the exhibition in the Strand was yet attended by certain disadvantages. Ill-fortune would probably have closely united the artists; prosperity seems to have divided them-to have engendered among them jealousies and dissensions. The proceeds of the exhibition soon proved a source of encumbrance and difficulty to the exhibitors. Their original intention had been to apply their profits to the relief of distressed painters. But now among a certain party a strong feeling was manifested in favour of devoting the money to the advancement of art. Finally it was resolved that the matter should stand over until the funds should have accumulated to the amount of L500, and that a vote of the majority of artists should then decide the question.

Further evidences of disorganization and want of definite aim were to come. While many artists desired to continue relations with the Society of Arts, others regarded the conditions imposed by that Society as vexatious and embarrassing. Particularly they objected to the introduction into their exhibition of the works of the Society’s students. They represented further that the exhibition had been ’crowded and incommoded by the intrusion of persons whose stations and educations disqualified them for judging of statuary and painting, and who were made idle and tumultuous by the opportunity of attending a show;’ and by way of remedy, proposed that in future the price of the catalogue should be one shilling, and that no person should be admitted without one, but that a catalogue once purchased should serve as a ticket of admission during the season. The Society of Arts, however, distinctly refused assent to these changes. The dispute quickened, waxed warm. Finally a large and distinguished section of the artists, comprising in its ranks the committee of sixteen who had managed the first exhibition, determined to sever their connexion with the Society of Arts, and to assert their independence. They accordingly engaged a room of an auctioneer in Spring Gardens for a display of their works during May 1761. The more timid party still clung to the friendly Society in the Strand, and there held a second exhibition. From the spring of 1761, therefore, there were two exhibitions of works of art in London.

The exhibitors in Spring Gardens styled themselves the ’Society of Artists of Great Britain;’ the old committee of sixteen being at the head of the affairs of the new society. The designs on their catalogue by Wale and Hogarth demonstrated their intention to devote their revenue to the relief of the distressed. Of the catalogue, rendered attractive by these embellishments, 13,000 copies were sold. No charge was made for admission; but the purchase of a catalogue was made imperative. The catalogue, however, was a ticket of admission for the season. The receipts of the exhibition of 1761 amounted to L650.

At the other exhibition in the Strand, to which sixty-five artists contributed, the old system prevailed. Visitors were at liberty to purchase a catalogue or not, as they chose; but a check was placed upon the indiscriminate admission of all classes by requiring from visitors the production of tickets which had been distributed gratuitously by the exhibitors, and were readily obtainable. After defraying all expenses the exhibition produced upwards of L150, which sum was appropriated in benefactions-to the Middlesex Hospital L50, to the British Lying-in Hospital L50, to the Asylum for Female Orphans L50, the small balance remaining after these donations being distributed among distressed artists. In the following year the Strand exhibitors took the first practical measures for founding a provident society for the benefit of British artists by forming themselves into an organized body, with a constitution and rules for their proper government, and assuming the title of ’The Free Society of Artists, Associated for the Relief of the Distressed and Decayed Brethren, their Widows and Children.’ The society was to be maintained by the sale of the catalogues of an annual exhibition, or by charging for admission to such exhibition, as a committee of management to be chosen every year should determine; such committee having also power to reject the works sent in that they might deem unworthy of exhibition, and to hang or dispose of accepted works ‘without respect to persons.’ Every artist who contributed works to the exhibition for five years in succession, intermission by reason of illness or absence from the country not being a disqualification, was to be a perpetual member of the society and entitled to share in its benefits and privileges. In 1763 the institution took legal shape, and was ‘enrolled of record in His Majesty’s Court of King’s Bench,’ fifty members signing the roll.

Meanwhile the rival association had not been idle. It had increased the number of its committee from sixteen to twenty-four; this committee exercising absolute authority over the affairs of the society. Vacancies in its numbers were filled up by the remaining committee-men, without reference to the society, while it enjoined upon its members that its transactions should be kept a profound secret from the general body of the society. Already a love of rule seems to have gained upon this committee. Its members began to regard themselves in the light of academicians for life-as perpetual governors, rather than officers of the society, removable at its pleasure: an erroneous view of their position which led to much trouble in the sequel. Other changes had taken place-a charge of one shilling was made for admission to the exhibition of 1762, the catalogue being given gratis, and appended to the catalogue appeared an address written on behalf of the society by Dr. Johnson, explaining the objects of the exhibition, the reason for charging for admission to it, and a change that had been determined upon in regard to the appropriation of the society’s revenues. ’The purpose of this exhibition,’ declared the address, ’is not to enrich the artists, but to advance the art; the eminent are not flattered by preference, nor the obscure insulted with contempt. Whoever hopes to deserve public favour is here invited to display his merit.’ When the terms of admission were low, it was stated, the rooms ’were thronged with such multitudes as made access dangerous, and frightened away those whose approbation was most desired.’ A curious plan for appropriating the expected profits was then set forth. The works sent in for exhibition were to be reviewed by the committee of management, and a price secretly set on every work and registered by the secretary. At the close of the exhibition the works were to be sold by auction; if they sold for more than the price fixed by the committee, the artists were to receive the increased amount, but if they sold for less, then the deficiency was to be made up to the artists out of the profits of the exhibition. For the most part the pictures at the subsequent sale by auction did not realize the prices set upon them by the committee, and upwards of L120 had to be paid to the artists out of the exhibition funds. Upon the whole, the plan did not work very well. The society’s attempt to come between buyer and seller satisfied neither party. After this one experiment, the scheme was abandoned.

The society had, however, little reason to complain of want of public support. In 1762 the exhibition produced over L520, and in 1763, L560. In 1764, the receipts rose to L760. But the internal economy of the institution was in a less satisfactory state. Many members expressed discontent at the arbitrary power exercised by the committee-a permanent body, not always recruited from the best sources, for many of the most eminent artists declined to accept office, or were neglectful of their duties as committee-men, so that ultimately there seemed to be danger of the whole government of the society falling into the hands of the least competent, if the most active, of its members. And the society was much in want of a distinct legal status. After all, it was but a private sort of corporation most imperfectly constituted; it was growing rich without its property being regularly secured to it. Enrolment was not regarded as sufficiently answering this object, and it was proposed at a general meeting of the members that the Crown should be solicited to incorporate the society by charter. The committee, content with the existing state of things under which they exercised extreme authority, opposed these projects. However, the general body proved too strong for them; the charter was petitioned for and granted on the 26th of January 1765. In substance it followed the terms of the charter which had been proposed by the artists ten years before, when an attempt had been made to establish an academy ‘on general benevolence.’ It placed no limit to the number of the society’s members, or ‘Fellows,’ as they were thenceforward to be called; the committee-men being designated ‘Directors.’ It gave the society arms, a crest, a constitution, power to hold land (not exceeding the yearly value of L1000), to sue and to be sued, etc.; and it authorized the society, every St. Luke’s Day, to elect Directors to serve for the ensuing year. In other respects the charter was somewhat indefinite; but it was presumed that under the power to make bye-laws, all points in dispute might be finally dealt with and adjusted. The ‘Fellows’ were disposed to be conciliatory. They elected the late committee to be the first ‘Directors,’ under the charter. Everything seemed to promise well. Two hundred and eleven artists signed the roll of the society, promising to the utmost of their power to observe and conform to the statutes and orders, and to promote the honour and interest of the ’Society of Incorporated Artists of Great Britain.’

But between the Fellows and the Directors there seems to have been but a hollow truce after all. They were bent upon different plans and objects. The Fellows entertained practical views enough. The only academy of art was still the very inadequate private school in St. Martin’s Lane-a distinct institution, a common resort of artists, whether members of a society or not. The Fellows desired out of the funds of their society to found a public academy of a high class, that should be of real value to the profession. The Directors, among whom the architects Chambers and Payne were remarkably active, proposed, on the other hand, ’that the funds should be laid out in the decoration of some edifice adapted to the objects of the institution.’ The Fellows declared that in this project the society, as a whole, had no interest; and at a general meeting in March 1767, they carried a resolution ’that it should be referred to the Directors to consider a proper, form for instituting a public academy, and to lay the same before the meeting in September next.’ An attempt was then made on the part of the Directors to comply with the terms of this resolution, and yet to reserve the funds of the society for the future carrying out of their own pet scheme.

Dalton, an artist of very inconsiderable fame, who held the appointment of librarian to the King, was treasurer to the Incorporated Society, and a leading member of its direction. He had, some time previously, attempted to establish a print warehouse in Pall Mall, but the speculation had signally failed; accordingly the speculator had been left with very expensive premises on his hands. He now conceived that his warehouse might readily be converted into a very respectable academy of arts, and he contrived to obtain the King’s encouragement of the plan. Soon, at another general meeting, the Fellows were informed that the King intended to take the fine arts under his special protection, and to institute a public academy under royal patronage. At these good tidings opposition ceased. The resolution passed at the March meeting of the society was at once repealed. Universal satisfaction prevailed; there was great rejoicing among the Fellows at the brilliant prospects dawning upon art and artists. The words ‘Royal Academy’ were substituted for ‘Print Warehouse’ over the door of Mr. Dalton’s house in Pall Mall. The subscribers to the school in St. Martin’s Lane, on the representation of Mr. Moser that they would thenceforward have free access to the Royal Academy, that their school would be thus superseded, and that their furniture would consequently be of no further use to them, were prevailed upon to assign to him their anatomical figures, busts, statues, lamps, and other effects and fittings, which were forthwith removed to Pall Mall. But bitter disappointment was to follow all this hopefulness and satisfaction. It soon appeared that there was no money applicable to the support of the royal establishment. The King had given nothing. The Directors would consent to no outlay from the society’s funds. The Royal Academy was to be self-supporting. The artists had in truth gained not at all-were in a somewhat worse position than before. They were required to pay an annual fee of one guinea to an academy in which their comfort and convenience were less studied than in the old school in St. Martin’s Lane. For now the disturbing element of non-professional membership was permitted. Any person, not intending to study, was allowed entrance to the academy, on payment of an annual guinea. The discontent of the artists was extreme, and was vehemently expressed.

Public interest in the society, however, had meanwhile in no way abated. The exhibition of 1767 produced over eleven hundred pounds. But the dissensions of the Directors and Fellows had become notorious –­ arrested general attention, and attracted the comments and censures of the newspapers. The Fellows forthwith determined to effect a change in the composition of the directorate, whose oppression and mismanagement had been, as they judged, so fatal to the interests of the general body. It was proposed that a bye-law should be passed, rendering compulsory the retirement of eight out of the twenty-four Directors every year, and that the retiring Directors should be replaced by other members of the society. But this not unreasonable proposition was strenuously resisted by the Directors, who argued that by the terms of the charter exclusive authority to originate new laws was vested in them absolutely. It was at length determined between the contending parties that the question should be decided by a reference to the opinion of the Attorney-General. The Directors, after much procrastination, drew up and submitted their case. The Attorney-General (Mr. William de Grey, afterwards Lord Walsingham) was of opinion, in answer to the questions put to him, that under the charter the Directors were to make laws, and the general body to approve or reject the same, and that, therefore, the Directors were not bound to take into consideration a resolution of a general meeting in order to form it into a bye-law. But it was suggested that the Directors should consider how far it might be prudent to accept such a resolution, ’since the same majority that resolved might unite in electing Directors of the same opinion with themselves, especially in the case of resolutions that appeared to be reasonable and proper;’ the Attorney-General being further of opinion that the proposed bye-law was not in any way inconsistent with the terms of the society’s charter. Upon this opinion the Fellows acted. They submitted to the Directors the enactment of a bye-law rendering no more than sixteen of the existing Directors capable of being re-elected for the year ensuing. The Directors were obstinate: they declared that the proposed law would be an attack on the freedom of elections, a dangerous innovation, and an ungrateful return for all the exertions they had made on behalf of the society. At the general meeting following this, held on St. Luke’s day, the 18th of October 1768, the struggle terminated: the Fellows, made less moderate by opposition, elected sixteen of their number to fill the places of sixteen old Directors, who were superseded and deposed. Mr. Joshua Kirby was appointed president in the room of Mr. Hayman, who had succeeded to that post on the death of Mr. Lambert in 1765; Mr. Newton and Mr. Dalton were removed from the offices of secretary and treasurer. On the 10th November the eight remaining of the old Directors declared that they could not act with their new colleagues, believing them bent upon measures repugnant to the charter and tending to the destruction of the society; and accordingly they placed their resignations in the hands of Mr. Kirby, the new president. They desired to be understood, however, as not objecting to all the new Directors. On the contrary, they professed to entertain the highest esteem for Mr. Kirby himself and ‘some others,’ who had been elected to their offices without taking part in any intrigue, and who, as being men of honour and ability in their professions, were extremely proper persons to fill the places they occupied. The conflict was thus brought to a close. The Fellows had delivered their society from the persistent misrule under which it had so long suffered. The price of this emancipation was, in the first place, the loss of all the twenty-four Directors. Further and more important results, however, were to be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, brief mention must be made of the transactions of the smaller institution-the Free Society of Artists. Adherence to the Society of Arts, though it brought with it restriction as to charging for admission to the annual exhibitions, and made the sale of catalogues almost its only source of revenue, was yet maintained by the Free Society for four years. But, in 1765, the Free Society no longer availed itself of the premises of the Society of Arts. An independent exhibition was then opened at a large room, hired for the purpose, in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, being part of the warehouse of Mr. Moreing, an upholsterer; and the exhibition of the following year was also held in the same place. In 1767 and 1768 the Society exhibited in two large rooms at the bottom of the Haymarket, Pall Mall. The Society published from time to time statements of its progress. In one of these the growth of the Society, its utility, and purposes, are plainly set forth. Every member afflicted with illness and applying for relief had been assisted with donations of from three, five, ten, fifteen, twenty, up to one hundred guineas. The Society possessed funds applicable to the purposes of benevolence to the amount of L1200. With a continuance of public favour the Society trusted to be able in a few years, not only to provide for its distressed, but ’to found an academy, and to give premiums for the encouragement of every branch in the polite arts.’ Up to 1768 one hundred members had signed the Society’s roll.

The story of the two societies has thus been brought down to 1768. From that year dates the rise of a third society-the Royal Academy of Arts: an institution which has long outlived its rivals, which has indeed fed upon and gained strength from their decay and decease, as at the outset it owed its existence to the success of their previous efforts, and which, in spite of constant opposition and bitterest attack, flourishes still, as though possessed of that longevity which is proverbially the attribute of the threatened. ‘The Academy,’ said Haydon, ’originated in the very basest intrigue.’ Undoubtedly there was intrigue in connexion with its origin, but not necessarily of the ‘very basest’ character. Some allowance must be made for ‘poor human nature.’ The contest dividing the Incorporated Society had been a very keen one-had been distinguished by much angry feeling and acrimonious spirit. It was hardly to be supposed that the defeated party, the sixteen expelled Directors and the additional eight who retired in sympathy with the expulsion of their colleagues, would sit down patiently under their defeat: their disgrace as they considered it. They had declined to regard themselves as members of a fluctuating committee, although such was distinctly their legal position, removable at the will of the society. For eight years they had held the reins of power; the supposition that these were to be theirs for life had some excuse, and they argued that their displacement, if in accordance with the letter of the law, was yet contrary to its spirit. It was true a majority was against them; but they found fault with the composition of the majority. There had been, they declared, too indiscriminate an admission of Fellows. Inferior practitioners, troublesome, pragmatical, jealous, anxious for power, had availed themselves of the loose terms of the charter, to creep into the society, and conspire against the legitimate influence of the respectable members. This was the Directors’ view of the case. What was now to be their course? Should they submit, serve where they had once ruled, sink into simple Fellows, and thus, as it were, grace the triumph of their foes? Perish the thought! They would found a rival society!

It must not be understood that the Directors, as opposed to the Fellows, were wholly without friends in the society. Though outnumbered, they had yet a certain small following; while many held aloof from both parties, ill-pleased at the virulence with which their dissensions had been conducted. Reynolds in particular declined all interference in the contentions which were rending in twain the society. He had long withdrawn himself from the meetings of the Directors, declaring himself no friend to their proceedings, and when he discovered their intention ‘to raise up a schism in the arts,’ as Sir Robert Strange phrases it, and make a separate exhibition, he declared that he would exhibit with neither body.

An exhibition of the works of the ex-Directors in competition with the exhibition of the Fellows would have been fair play enough-a perfectly legitimate and honourable proceeding. It would then have rested with the public to declare which exhibition displayed the greater amount of merit and was the more worthy of their encouragement and support. Further, the attempt on the part of the Directors to obtain the favour of the King for their undertaking was hardly to be blamed. But what was distinctly unjustifiable in their proceedings was their intriguing to secure a monopoly of this favour: to possess themselves exclusively of the royal patronage, to the detriment and ultimate ruin, not merely of the society their own connexion with which had been so violently severed, but of the unoffending and praiseworthy smaller institution-the Free Society. In this matter, however, it must be said, the ex-Directors were not alone to blame. Other patrons of art may exhibit themselves, if they please, as partisans, but a royal patron should not condescend to a position at once so inequitable and so undignified. To this derogation, however, George III., good-humouredly weak or pertinaciously obtuse, suffered himself to be brought. He became the patron of a clique, and even yielded himself as an instrument to be employed for the injury of that clique’s antagonists. Whatever had been the faults of the other societies as against the founders of the Royal Academy-and it must be admitted that the Free Society was, perfectly blameless in that respect,-as against the Crown they had done nothing to merit royal displeasure, but, on the contrary, were entitled, with the other enlightened institutions of the country, to count upon the King’s encouragement.

Some such demon as, whispering in the ear of Visto, bade him ’Have a taste!’ had been wheedling George in. The King proclaimed himself a patron of the arts, and then proceeded to assume the airs of a connoisseur. Certainly he did not distinguish himself much in that capacity; his pretensions were not backed by any real learning. He made woeful mistakes. For instance, he never appreciated Reynolds, whose merits one would think were sufficiently patent-needed not a conjurer to perceive them-passing him over to appoint Allan Ramsay serjeant painter, when Hogarth dying vacated that honorary office. He preferred West’s works, because they were smoother-and Dance’s, because they were cheaper!

West was the King’s pet painter. Dr. Drummond, Archbishop of York, had obtained for him, in February 1768, the honour of an audience. The artist took with him to the palace a picture, ’Agrippina landing with the Ashes of Germanicus,’ which he had executed for the archbishop. The King greatly admired the work, and West forthwith received the royal command to paint ‘The Departure of Regulus for Rome.’ Later in the year a sketch of the picture was submitted to the King. At this time the newspapers were full of the dissensions of the Incorporated Society. Concerning these the King inquired of West. The artist-one of the eight Directors who had voluntarily quitted the Society after the ejection of their sixteen colleagues-related to the King the history of the Society’s proceedings from the Directors’ point of view. Whereupon the King stated ’that he would gladly patronize any association that might be found better calculated to improve the arts.’

West returned from the palace full of this royal announcement. He at once put himself in communication with three ex-Directors of the Incorporated Society,-Côtés, a fashionable portrait-painter; Chambers, who had been instructor in architecture to the King when Prince of Wales; and Moser, the gold-chaser and enameller, who had taught the King drawing. These four artists formed themselves into a committee to arrange the plan of an academy. The King, it is stated, took great personal interest in the scheme, and even drew up several laws with his own hand. He expressed great anxiety that the design should be kept a profound secret, lest it should be converted into a vehicle of political influence. The artists did not object to this secrecy; they rather preferred that their plan should, as it were, open fire upon their foes unexpectedly, with the suddenness of a battery promptly unmasked.

We now come to the well-known story of the arrival at Windsor Castle of Kirby, the President of the Incorporated Society, at a time when the King is inspecting West’s completed picture of, ‘Regulus.’ Kirby joins in the general admiration of the work; he turns to West, and trusts that it is the artist’s intention to exhibit the picture. West replies that the question of exhibition must rest with his Majesty, for whom the picture has been painted. ‘Assuredly,’ says the King, ’I shall be happy to let the work be shown to the public.’ ’Then, Mr. West, you will send it to my exhibition,’ adds the President of the Incorporated Society. ‘No!’ his Majesty interposes, ’it must go to my exhibition-to the Royal Academy!’ Mr. Kirby is thunderstruck,-the battery had been unmasked. Profoundly humiliated he at once retires from the royal presence, not to survive the shock very long, says the story. However, he lived to 1774.

Mr. Kirby was a landscape painter of repute in his day. Author of a work on perspective, and the friend of Gainsborough, he had risen from quite humble life to a position of some eminence, entirely by his own exertions. It was admitted that he had attained the post of President of the Incorporated Society without intrigue on his part, and that both by reason of his professional skill and his private worth, he was entitled to the respect alike of the friends and foes of that institution. The King condescended to play an ignoble part when he took pains to mortify and distress so honest a gentleman. Rival artists might conspire against the Society from which they had seceded, and seek to mine its position; but his Majesty stooped very low when he lent his royal hand to the firing of the train. However, he had thrown himself heart and soul into the project for founding a new society-the Royal Academy. So that he reared that edifice, he seemed to care little how he might sully his fingers in the process. In this, as in some other occurrences in the course of his reign, he demonstrated sufficiently that he could on occasion be obstinate and fatuous, wanting both in discrimination and in dignity.

After the scene at Windsor Castle, in which poor Mr. Kirby had been demolished, a meeting was held at the house of Wilton, the sculptor, of some thirty artists, including, of course, the twenty-four ex-Directors of the Incorporated Society, to hear Chambers, the architect, read the proposed academy’s code of laws which had been prepared under the immediate inspection of the King, and to nominate the officers of the institution. Some uneasiness had been felt during the day as to whether Reynolds would or not join the academy. He had hitherto abstained from all part in the proceedings; but that he should be the first president had been decided by the King in consultation with the other conspirators. Penny, the portrait-painter, had visited Reynolds to sound him on the subject, but found him obdurate. West was then deputed to wait upon the greatest English painter, and to leave no means untried in the way of persuading him to join the new association. For a time Reynolds was cold and coy enough, but influenced at last by the allurement of probable knighthood, or the force of other arguments, he permitted himself to be carried in West’s coach to the meeting at Wilton’s. He was at once declared president; Chambers being appointed treasurer, Newton secretary, Moser keeper, Penny professor of painting, and Dr. William Hunter professor of anatomy. Reynolds, however, deferred his acceptance of the post of president until he had consulted his friends Dr. Johnson and Mr. Burke upon the subject, and it was not until a fortnight after his election that he finally consented to fill the proposed office.

The first formal meeting of the Royal Academy was held in Pall Mall on the 14th December 1768. Mr. Chambers read a report to the artists assembled, relating the steps that had been taken to found the Academy. No allusion was made in this report to the secret negotiations and consultations with the King; but it was set forth that on the previous 28th November, Messrs. Chambers, Côtés, Moser, and West had had the honour of presenting a memorial to the Crown, signed by twenty-two artists, soliciting the royal assistance and protection in establishing a new society for promoting the arts of design. The objects of the society were stated to be ’the establishing a well-regulated school or academy of design, for the use of students in the arts, and an annual exhibition, open to all artists of distinguished merit, where they may offer their performances to public inspection, and acquire that degree of reputation and encouragement which they shall be deemed to deserve.’ ‘We apprehend,’ the memorialists had proceeded, ’that the profits arising from the last of these institutions will fully answer all the expenses of the first: we even flatter ourselves they will be more than necessary for that purpose, and that we shall be enabled annually to distribute somewhat in useful charities. Your Majesty’s avowed patronage and protection is therefore all that we at present humbly sue for; but should we be disappointed in our expectations, and find that the profits of the society are insufficient to defray its expenses, we humbly hope that your Majesty will not deem that expense ill-applied which may be found necessary to support so useful an institution.’ This memorial, so the report went on to state, the King had received very graciously: saying that he considered the culture of the arts as a national concern, and that the memorialists might depend upon his patronage and assistance in carrying their plan into execution; further, he desired that a fuller statement in writing of their intentions might be laid before him. Accordingly, Mr. Chambers had drawn up a sketch of his plan, and, having obtained its approval by as many artists as the shortness of time would allow, had submitted it to the King, who, on the 10th of December 1768, signified his approbation, ordered that the plan should be carried into execution, and with his own hand signed Mr. Chambers’s plan-’the Instrument,’ as it was then, and has ever since been called. Mr. Chambers then read the Instrument to the meeting, after which the artists present signed an obligation or declaration, promising to observe all the laws and regulations contained in the Instrument, and all future laws that might be made for the better government of the society, and to employ their utmost endeavours to promote the honour and interest of the establishment, so long as they should continue members thereof. The Academy thus obtained its constitution, and assumed such form of legal existence as it has ever possessed.

The Instrument is simply a document on parchment, signed by the King, but unsealed and unattested. It recites that sundry eminent professors of painting, sculpture, and architecture had solicited the King’s patronage and assistance in establishing a society for promoting the arts of design, and that the utility of the plan had been fully and clearly demonstrated. Therefore the King, being desirous of encouraging every useful undertaking, did thereby institute and establish the said Society under the name of the ‘Royal Academy of Arts in London,’ graciously declaring himself the patron, protector, and supporter thereof, and commanding it should be established under the forms and regulations thereinafter set forth, which had been humbly laid before his Majesty, and had received his royal assent and approbation. The rules declared that the Academy should consist of forty members only, who should be called Academicians; they were to be at the time of their admission painters, sculptors, or architects of reputation in their professions, of high moral character, not under twenty-five years of age, resident in Great Britain, and not members of any other society of artists established in London. Under this rule, it will be noted, that engravers could not aspire to the honours of the Academy. Sir Robert Strange regarded this as a direct affront to the members of his profession, and attributed it to his well-known attachment to the Incorporated Society and hostility to the designs of the ex-Directors of that body. The provision that members of other societies were to be disqualified from becoming members of the Academy, was of course aimed at the rival institutions, and undoubtedly a severe restriction upon the general body of artists. Of the forty members who were to constitute the Academy, the Instrument named thirty-six only; a circumstance which justified suspicion that the leaders in the enterprise had so small a following that they could not muster in sufficient force to complete the prescribed number of original members: or they may have purposely left vacancies to be supplied as artists of eminence were detached from the rival societies or otherwise became eligible. Among the thirty-six, while many artists of fame appear, it must also be said that many very obscure persons figure, whose names, but for their registry upon the list of original Academicians, would probably never have been known to posterity in any way. Nearly a third of the number are foreigners. There are two ladies, Mesdames Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser, the first and last female Academicians. Then there are coach, and even sign-painters, a medallist, and an engraver-Bartolozzi, whose nomination was in direct contravention of the Academy’s constitution and an additional injustice to Sir Robert Strange. The originators of the plan must surely have felt that they were marching through Coventry with rather a ragged regiment at their heels. The number of reputable names missing from their list was remarkable: Allan Ramsay, serjeant-painter to the King; Hudson, Reynolds’s preceptor, and Romney, his rival; Scott, the marine painter; Pine, the portrait painter; and the engravers Strange, Grignon, and Woollett; beside such artists as Edward Edwards, Joseph Farington, Ozias Humphrey, John Mortimer, Robert Smirke, Francis Wheatleigh, and many others (members of the Incorporated Society for the most part), who, though ultimately connected with the Academy, had no share in its foundation.


Having named the original members, the Instrument proceeded to lay down rules for the further government of the institution; to prescribe the manner of electing future members, a council, and president, a secretary and keeper (the treasurer was to be nominated by his Majesty, ’as the King is graciously pleased to pay all deficiencies’), the appointment of different professors, the establishment of schools, a library for the free use of students, and of an annual exhibition of works of art to be ‘open to all artists of distinguished merit.’ New laws and regulations were to be framed from time to time, but to have no force until ’ratified by the consent of the general assembly and the approbation of the King.’ At the end of the Instrument the King wrote, ’I approve of this plan; let it be put in execution’-adding his signature.

This Instrument, with the bye-laws and regulations made upon its authority, cannot be said to possess the characteristics or incidents of a charter, still less of an Act of Parliament, or indeed, to present any very formal or legal basis upon which to found a national society. The Commissioners of 1863, while they recommended the grant of a charter to define satisfactorily the position of the Academy, considered the Instrument as a solemn declaration by the original members of the main objects of their society, to which succeeding members had also practically become parties, and were of opinion that its legal effects would be so regarded in a court of law or equity. It did not appear, however, that the Academy itself was in favour of the objects of its institution being more clearly defined by means of a charter. In 1836, Haydon boldly accused the Academicians that they ’cunningly refused George IV.’s offer of a charter, fearing it would make them responsible “to Parliament and the nation."’ The charge would seem to have some truth in it. Certainly the Academy has made no attempt to obtain a precise definition of its position in regard to the crown and the public.

The Incorporated Society viewed with natural alarm the rise of a rival institution, favoured in so marked a manner by the patronage of the crown. Sir Robert Strange at once proposed the presentation of a petition, setting forth in plain terms the grievances that would be entailed upon the Society, and upon artists generally, by the illiberal constitution of the Academy and its apprehended monopoly of the royal protection. Sir Robert’s proposition was, however, not accepted. A petition of a more cautious nature, from which everything likely to offend had been carefully eliminated, was presented to the King by Mr. Kirby, the president. His Majesty replied to the prayer of the petition, ’that the Society already possessed his Majesty’s protection; that he did not mean to encourage one set of men more than another; that, having extended his favour to the Society incorporated by charter, he had also encouraged the new petitioners; that his intention was to patronize the arts; that the Society might rest assured his royal favour should be equally extended to both, and that he should visit the exhibitions as usual.’ This reply was gracious enough: but it was not ingenuous. The King was not as good as his word. He did mean ’to encourage one set of men more than another.’ He visited the exhibition of the Incorporated Society in 1769 for the last time. In the same year he presented the funds of the Society with L100, his last donation. Meanwhile his visits to the Royal Academy were constant, his preference for that institution clearly manifested; between 1769 and 1780 he presented to its funds from his privy purse upwards of L5000.

The Incorporated Society, shut out from studying in the Royal Academy, determined to open an art-school for themselves and their pupils. Application was made to the Academy for a return of the properties which Mr. Moser had carried away it was now alleged, under false pretences, from the St. Martin’s Lane Academy. It was intimated that payment should be made for the chattels in question, or that they should be restored. The Royal Academy, however, took no steps in the matter. Tired of waiting, the Incorporated Society at last fitted up at great expense a new studio for themselves at premises in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, occupied in more modern times by the Cyder Cellars.

Early in 1769 the Academy opened its art-schools in Pall Mall; Reynolds presiding, read his first discourse. One grave defect in the Academy’s constitution was then in a measure remedied. The art of engraving was recognised: a law was passed, by which not more than six engravers could be admitted as ‘associates of the Royal Academy.’ In April the first exhibition was held. The number of works exhibited was 136. Among these were four portraits by Reynolds, seven by Côtés (some of them in crayons, in which he was supposed to excel), and three by Gainsborough. West sent two pictures-the ‘Regulus,’ of which mention has already been made-the firebrand work which brought about indirectly so much mischief and discussion-and a ‘Venus lamenting the Death of Adonis.’ There were also landscapes by Barrett, Gainsborough, Sandby, Serres, Wilson, and Zucarelli, and ’poetical and historical works by Cipriani, Bartolozzi, and Miss Kauffman. The exhibitors were fifty in number; Mr. Pye, in his ‘Patronage of British Art,’ divides them into, ’Members of the Royal Academy, 33; non-members, having no interest in the revenue, 17.’ A glance at recent catalogues will demonstrate the changed proportion now existing between exhibiting members and exhibiting non-members, as compared with the first exhibition of the Royal Academy. By this exhibition a clear profit of nearly L600 was realized. A sum of about L150 was expended in charity; the surplus was applied towards the general expenses of the Academy. These, however, so far exceeded the receipts as to necessitate a grant from the privy purse to the amount of L900. The King and Queen visited the Academy exhibition in May, accompanied by a guard of honour. From this incident arose the practice, still existing, of stationing sentries at the doors of the Academy during the exhibition.

In addition to a charge of sixpence for the catalogue, visitors were required to pay one shilling for admission to the exhibition. In explanation of this charge, the following curious advertisement preceded the list of pictures: ’As the present exhibition is a part of the institution of an academy supported by royal munificence, the public may naturally expect the liberty of being admitted without any expense. The Academicians, therefore, think it necessary to declare that this was very much their desire, but they have not been able to suggest any other means than that of receiving money for admittance to prevent the rooms being filled by improper persons, to the entire exclusion of those for whom the exhibition is apparently intended.’

This advertisement, which was repeated in the Academy catalogue of 1780, would seem at the first sight to suggest that the Academicians had failed to comprehend their exact position. Or had the King in his enthusiasm for their cause led them to believe that he intended to defray their expenses wholly from the privy purse without aid from the public? However this may be, it has long been understood that the amounts taken at the doors of the exhibition for admission, and the sales of catalogues, form the real support of the Academy. A gross income of at least L10,000 is thus produced, half of which amount, as clear profit, the Academy is enabled every year to add to its ever increasing store of wealth.

Concerning the destinies of the rival institutions but brief mention must suffice. Their downfall dates from the rise of the Royal Academy. Still, they died lingering deaths. The Incorporated Society struggled gallantly though vainly against the superior advantages and the royal preference enjoyed by the Academy. In 1772, the Society built the large room, the Lyceum, in the Strand, at an outlay of L7500. But in a year or two the decrease in its revenues compelled it to part with the building at a sacrifice. In 1776, the Society held no exhibition. In 1777 and 1778 it exhibited at a room in Piccadilly, near Air Street. In 1779, it again did not exhibit. In 1780, it appeared once more at its old quarters in Spring Gardens. But its existence now was of a very intermittent kind. In 1781 and 1782 it made no sign. In 1783, and again in 1790, it held exhibitions at the Lyceum. In 1791, it made its farewell appearance in public at the rooms in Spring Gardens. In 1836, Mr. Robert Pollard, the last surviving member of the Society, being then 81, handed over its books, papers, letters, documents, and charter, to the Royal Academy. This was the formal surrender of the Incorporated Society; but in truth the struggle had been decided against it long and long before.

The Free Society dragged on its existence, making feeble annual exhibitions until 1779 inclusive; but at that time it had long outlived public notice. In 1769, it had built a room next to Cumberland House, Pall Mall. But this, ill-fortune probably compelled it to surrender, as in 1775 its exhibition was held in St. Alban’s Street. The provident, praiseworthy, modest aims of the Free Society ought to have saved it from ruin-ought to have excited public sympathy on its behalf. But this was not to be. The Royal Academy was left master of the field. In the success of the King’s exhibition, the older institutions were forgotten and lost.