Life Room

We had a party the night before last in the Life Room of the Royal Academy Schools.   I found myself trying to explain what is special about it.   It’s nothing to do with the architecture of the space, which is utilitarian mid-Victorian, part of the undercroft of the Royal Academy.   It is more due to its continuous use, the generations of students who have been taught to draw from the living model.   It is also due to the absence of any self-conscious reverence for the room’s history:  it has been battered and used by generations of students.   This is increasingly rare in historic interiors.   They are preserved and protected and coddled, but not used.   And then there is the ghost of previous studios:  the time when the drawing studio was in the dome of the National Gallery;  before that, in Somerset House;  before that, in Pall Mall;  and originally, in an alleyway off St. Martin’s Lane.   The room contains the memory of previous students, flicking bread at one another, and of previous spaces, back to Bologna and the Academy of St. Luke’s in Rome.

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4 thoughts on “Life Room

  1. Since hearing your brief and intriguing history of this room, I’ve been searching for clues regarding the magnificent Horse, which apparently also has a significant history. Did it once belong to George Stubbs? I would be grateful for any insight you might provide.

    • Have been trying to check from the relevant literature its real history, but without success. I think it’s only associated with Stubbs because of his known interest in the anatomy of the horse. Likewise, it’s sometimes said – I assume apocryphally – to be a cast of Wellington’s Copenhagen. I will let you know if and when I find out more.

      • I’ve got some more information for you, kindly supplied by Nick Savage, the RA’s Director of Collections. The horse was apparently only acquired in 1919, so much later than the other casts, from W. Frank Calderon, who, before the first world war, had run a ‘School of Animal Painting’ which apparently had ‘a unique collection of casts and anatomical drawings’. Copenhagen was apparently buried with appropriate military honour at Stratfield Saye.

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