The St. Martin’s Lane Academy

Tonight, I was asked to say a few words to a group who were about to have dinner in the Royal Academy Schools.   I thought they might find it interesting to have a look at the picture which Johann Zoffany painted of the St. Martin’s Lane Academy not long after he arrived in London from Germany in 1760.   I hadn’t looked at it carefully myself.   What it shows is the most important academy in London before the Royal Academy itself.   It was based in a courtyard off St. Martin’s Lane, was much more democratic than the Royal Academy (the subscription was two guineas for the first year and a guinea and a half thereafter), and more casual, a drop-in centre for evening classes in drawing.   The person in the front looking out at the spectator is George Michael Moser, a Swiss artist who was committed to the community of artists and became the first Keeper of the Royal Academy.   In the background, putting equipment away in a cupboard, is John Malin, who was the first member of staff of the RA.

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Ⓒ Royal Academy of Arts

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2 thoughts on “The St. Martin’s Lane Academy

  1. Paul Boucher says:

    I hesitate to comment to YOU on such matters! but Tessa Murdoch shared interesting information an early drawing academies in Art and Artists, June 1985 during the tercentenary year of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
    Apparently the earliest recorded was set up by the Huguenot Balthazar Gerbier during Charles I ‘s reign. There was another in Hag Lane, Soho started by another Huguenot, Abraham Meure in the 1690’s.
    And it seems that the St Martin’s Lane Academy was also set up by Huguenots (Chéron, Guernier, Berchet, Vanderbank et al) and was the first place to have a female model for life drawing (1722) – outrageous!

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