The Summer Exhibition Chronicle

Last night the Paul Mellon Centre published an online account of the history of the Summer Exhibition year-by-year with a description of the artists who entered, the key works, and, where possible, the press and public response, each year written by a different author ( It is going to be an absolutely invaluable resource, not just for the history of the Royal Academy, but for the study of changing fashions in British art as a whole, starting with a description by Mark Hallett, the Mellon Centre’s Director, of a portrait of William and Penelope Welby by Francis Cotes which appeared in the first exhibition which opened on 26 April 1769 in Lambe’s Auction Rooms on Pall Mall. I wrote the entries for 1949 because I was interested to find out what works were exhibited in the year that Alfred Munnings gave his memorably bigoted speech ( and for 2008, the first year that I attended Summer Exhibition committee meetings ( Today is Varnishing Day, as we embark on the opening arrangements for the 250th. Summer Exhibition and, this year only, The Great Spectacle, a survey of the whole history of the exhibition, beginning with a history painting, Hector Taking Leave of Andromache by Angelica Kauffmann, exhibited alongside three others by her in 1769.


4 thoughts on “The Summer Exhibition Chronicle

  1. pbmum says:

    I do hope the unsigned letter criticising Tracey Emin’s room in 2008 was written in green ink!
    We always enjoy the Kirsty Wark coverage of the exhibition on BBC2. Hope that is due to happen again this year. In fact I think that was what originally prompted us to visit in person having previously never thought of it as something to do.

    Best wishes,


  2. We are now in the UK and spent the afternoon on Wednesday at the RA. All your wonderful photos made it so much more interesting to see in reality. We even noticed the ping pong table!

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