The Royal Academicians

It’s time now to catch up on all the things I didn’t have time to do in the week.   One of them is to identify the sitters in Henry Singleton’s big painting of The Royal Academicians in General Assemby which now has pride of place in our new Collections Gallery.   So far as I can find, this can only be done by reference to a published Key to the Royal Academicians, which was produced by Charles Bestland to accompany the original engraving (there is no key provided in the Gallery, nor in the recently published book about our History and Collections).

Benjamin West is easy, sitting in pride of place on the President’s Chair in a cocked hat, painted in 1795 three years after he had become President and after turning down a knighthood in the expectation that he would be made a life peer.   The figure immediately to his right is Sir Francis Bourgeois, described in the key as ‘Painter to His Majesty and to the Kg of Poland’:-


On the left are three figures (6,8 and 10 in the key) – Sir William Beechey, Portrait Painter to His Majesty;  Francis Wheatley;  and Joseph Wilton, now aged 73 and Keeper of the Schools, wearing spectacles:-


Standing proudly underneath Laocoön is Benjamin West’s fellow countryman, John Singleton Copley


And next door to Copley, Robert Smirke, architect of the British Museum, and John Opie, the Cornish painter:-



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