The Company of Artists: The Origins of the Royal Academy of Arts in London


Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury / Modern Art Press (15 Oct 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1408182106
ISBN-13: 978-1408182109
Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 19.5 x 25.3 cm
*Shortlisted for the Berger Prize 2013

On the wintry afternoon of Monday 28 November 1768, an architect and three artists were granted an audience with George III at St James’s Palace; their mission, the foundation of a Royal Academy of Arts in London.

This book is the first day-by-day account of the events that led up to that meeting and what happened immediately afterwards. In its telling, it reveals the strong personalities involved, the rivalries and intrigues that divided them, the competing ideas about the teaching and exhibition of art, and the problems of governance that forged the Royal Academy, and continue to reverberate within it today, some 250 years later.

“A specialist in 18th.-century patrician taste, [Saumarez Smith] has written a
slow, lavish, meticulous history of the RA„

Financial Times

“Saumarez Smith…turns a dry-as-dust subject, the creation of a bureaucratic organisation, into a lively and good-humoured study of how to get things done amid the machinations of committee politics and delicate creative temperaments.„


“It is to the art community what The First Three Minutes is to the science world.„

Finch’s Quarterly Review

“The RA endures, like the American Constitution, as a testament to the
enlightened genius of the 18th century.
Saumarez Smith is smitten, as you will be after reading this touching and passionate love letter.„

Literary Review

“The Royal Academy grew out of an argument between fractious artists.   In this handsome volume, its current director reconstructs the debate about British art and its institutions that led George III to patronise the project in 1768.   Presented as a day-by-day account, it counterpoints humorous observation with serious insight into the artistic politics of Georgian London.„


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