New Title | The Origins of the Royal Academy

Posted in books by Editor on October 15, 2012

From The Royal Academy:

Charles Saumarez Smith, The Company of Artists: The Origins of the Royal Academy of Arts in London (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), 192 pages, ISBN: 9781408182109, $32.

On Friday 9th September 1768 an almighty row broke out within the Society of Artists. At its heart was a disagreement over the practice of art in Britain, and no amount of good humour on the part of the Society’s ‘jolly president’ could ‘persuade the disputants to lay aside their mutual Bickerings, and drown their Heartburnings in bumpers of wine’.

From this eruption emerged the Royal Academy of Arts.

An elegant and often amusing day-to-day account of these events and the two years that followed, The Company of Artists reveals the opposing models of a continental and a British art academy that divided leading artists of the day. As he explores their attempts to outmanoeuvre their fellows and win the support of King George III, Charles Saumarez Smith brings to life the characters involved and shows how they shaped the new Royal Academy of Arts, thereby changing the practice and perception of art in Britain for good.

Former director of the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith is Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts. His previous publications include The National Gallery: A Short History (2009), The National Portrait Gallery (1997) and The Building of Castle Howard (1990).

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In Charles Saumarez Smith’s blow-by-blow account of the early days, I recognise the Royal Academy as it still is today. The big ego’s. How to teach art. The status of drawing. Whether or not art stems from genius, ambition or sheer hard work. Everything that is still important and good about the Royal Academy was discussed and debated in those first few weeks.
Christopher Le Brun, President, Royal Academy of Arts

An enthralling behind the scenes look at the egos, the politics and the good and bad intentions that led to the founding of one of our most enduring cultural establishments.
Loyd Grossman, Broadcaster and heritage campaigner

In this short, neat, thorough and readable history, Charles Saumarez Smith, the current secretary and chief executive of the RA, has attempted to identify [the Royal Academy’s] unique quality… Saumarez Smith is smitten, as you will be after reading this touching and passionate love letter.
Brian Appleyard, Literary Review

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Note (added 17 October 2012) — On Thursday, 25 October, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM at Sotheby’s New York (570 Lexington Avenue), Charles Saumarez Smith will be presenting remarks on the project and signing copies of the book. RSVP to Andrew Gardner at a.gardner@sothebysinstitute.com.

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