Royal Academy Chronicle The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769–2018 search Menu


Annual Dinner -
The Annual Dinner assembles Academicians, Associates, and privileged guests-including members of the royal family, ministers, nobles, and scholars-for a formal banquet before the opening of the Summer Exhibition.
Associate Engraver (AE) -
From 1768 until 1853, engravers were not eligible to be elected as full Royal Academicians and were instead known as Associate Engravers. In 1853, following protests, the new class of Academician Engraver was created. In 1928, it was decided there should always be at least two engraver Academicians and two Associate Engravers at any time. Today, the minimum is eight and they are now known as printmakers.
Associate member of the Royal Academy (Associate /ARA) -
Associate status was created in 1769 in order to generate a pool of artists from which to elect full Academicians. In June 1991, Associate Membership was abolished and all ARAs were automatically made RAs.
Beef tea -
A hot beverage made from beef extract, which is offered to the Academy’s Hanging Committee to help them with their labours. According to Royal Academy tradition, it is laced with sherry.
The Bunk -
An area within the vaults of Burlington House, below the galleries and adjacent to the great goods lift. Used as a base of operations by the Academy’s Art Handlers and as storage for works submitted by artists for Summer Exhibition selection.
Burlington House -
The premises of the Royal Academy of Arts since November 1868 and the current location of the Summer Exhibition.
Chantrey Bequest -
A trust fund set out in the will of Francis Chantrey to be used to establish a public national collection of art, through the acquisition of works purchased at the Annual Exhibition. The bequest became available to the Academy in 1875 and the first purchases were made in 1877. Most of the works purchased by the fund are held in the Tate collection.
Coordinator/Senior Hanger -
The work of preparing for and hanging the Summer Exhibition is overseen by one Royal Academician. Traditionally, the most senior serving member of the Academy was appointed as the “Senior Hanger”. In 2003, the Academy's Council decided that this was no longer feasible due to the increased workload of the Summer Exhibition. The role of Coordinator was created: a Royal Academician who would be appointed by the President, after consultation, to take charge of the direction of the annual display.
Diploma Work -
Once elected to the membership, Academicians donate a work that is usually representative of their practice to the Academy's collection. Academicians are formally referred to as “RA Elect” and are not handed their Royal Academy diploma, signed by the sovereign, until they have submitted a diploma work.
Doubtful -
The term applied to artworks that have successfully passed initial appraisal by the Selection Committee. Very few works are marked as “Accepted” at this first stage, though many are Rejected (and marked with an X). Doubtful works are then made available to the Hanging Committee.
General Assembly -
The General Assembly is a meeting held three times a year for all elected Royal Academicians where they vote on the appointment of the President, new members, and on any proposed changes to Academy rules.
Hanging Committee -
Officially, together with the Selection Committee, the Hanging Committee is part of the Committee of Arrangement responsible for the Summer Exhibition. With the help of a team of porters, the Hanging Committee oversees the arrangement and display of works in the Exhibition. The members are drawn from the larger Selection Committee.
Honorary Royal Academician (Hon. RA) -
Artists who do not work in the United Kingdom may be elected as Honorary Royal Academicians. In 1868, the General Assembly approved a motion to create a class of Honorary Foreign Academicians. In 1933, “Foreign” was dropped from the title. They have no role in the governance of the Academy, but are encouraged to submit work to the Summer Exhibition.
Instrument of Foundation -
The document outlining the original scheme for the establishment and government of the Royal Academy of Arts. It laid out the blueprint for the Summer Exhibition by establishing “an Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures and Designs, which shall be open to all Artists of distinguished merit.”
The “Line” -
Designed by William Chambers for the Great Room at Somerset House, the line was a moulding that ran around the room at the height of roughly eight feet. A wooden framework extended from the line, tilted forwards by about 17 degrees to join the coving above, on which paintings could be hung and still squarely face the viewer below. Paintings were positioned above or below the line, not across it, and a painting was “on the line” when its frame met the moulding.
Old Somerset House -
The premises of the Royal Academy of Arts from 1771 until 1775, when the building was demolished. In 1771, George III made rooms available in Old Somerset House on the Strand for the Academy's antique and life classes, a lecture room, library, and administrative offices. The Annual Exhibition was never held there; between 1771 and 1779, it continued to be held in rented exhibition rooms in Pall Mall.
Pall Mall -
The premises of the Royal Academy from December 1768 until early 1771. Formerly a private print warehouse owned by George III's librarian on the south side of Pall Mall. The first Annual Exhibition was held here in 1769 and the last in 1779.
President of the Royal Academy -
The President is the official representative of the Royal Academy in public, and its leader. Presidents are elected by the General Assembly and, since 1996, can serve for no longer than ten years. Although they chair the Council, and usually the Selection Committee, the President only votes on issues arising when a vote by members is tied.
Private View -
A chance to view the Exhibition before its opening to the public. There are several opportunities to do this, including one for royalty, one for buyers, and another one for the press.
Royal Academician (Academician / RA) -
The artist members of the Royal Academy. Any artist under the age of seventy-five and working in the United Kingdom is eligible to become a Royal Academician. Royal Academicians nominate and vote on new members, can serve on the Council, and take part in various committees. Royal Academicians do not need to submit work intended for the Summer Exhibition to the Selection Committee. There are currently eighty Royal Academicians. As well as painters, there must always be at least fourteen sculptors, twelve architects, and eight printmakers.
Royal Academy Council -
Today made up of thirteen Royal Academicians, the Council is responsible for the direction and management of the Academy and is chaired by the President. Included at meetings are the institution's officers-the Keeper, Secretary, and Treasurer-along with other Academicians, who serve on rotation.
Royal Academy Illustrated -
An illustrated guide to a selection of exhibits. Published by Walter Judd from 1916 to 1940, by William Clowes & Sons between 1948 and 1961, and by the Royal Academy from 1962 until 2012, since then, it has been rebranded Summer Exhibition Illustrated.
Selection Committee -
Officially, together with the Hanging Committee, the Selection Committee is part of the Committee of Arrangement responsible for the Summer Exhibition. The Selection Committee, which draws its members from the Council and newly elected Academicians and is chaired by the President, decides which works to accept and which to reject. All submissions are brought before the Committee and, as each work goes by, members indicate their preference for acceptance or rejection. Traditionally, the Committee's decision was marked in chalk on the back of each work.
Senior Academician -
Academicians automatically become Senior Academicians when they reach the age of seventy-five. They cannot take a seat on the Council or committees, but still form part of the General Assembly and submit to the Summer Exhibition.
Skied -
Works hung at the top of a gallery's walls and thus far from the public's gaze are frequently described as having been “skied”. There is a grand tradition of complaints concerning the disposition of pictures in the Exhibition and victims of skying include Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable.
Somerset House (New Somerset House) -
The premises of the Royal Academy of Arts from 1780 to 1837. New Somerset House, designed by William Chambers, was a public building and funded by parliamentary grants. The Academy was housed in the part of Somerset House that is now home to the Courtauld Gallery, with the Porter's Lodge and Life School to the right of the entrance hall; the Antique Academy, Assembly Room, and Library on the first floor; and on the top floor, the cavernous Great Room, an exhibition space three times larger than that which the Academy had used at Pall Mall.
Summer Exhibition Catalogue -
A full list of exhibits, which, since 1780, has listed the works according to the order in which they are hung throughout the galleries. Each catalogue contains a map, a list of works, and an alphabetical index of contributors.
Trafalgar Square -
The premises of the Royal Academy of Arts from 1837 until 1868. From early 1837, the Royal Academy occupied the east wing of the National Gallery building designed by William Wilkins on Trafalgar Square. Through a shared entrance with the National Gallery, the Royal Academy had five exhibiting rooms on the first floor and spaces for sculpture and casts, the Council Room, the Library, and the Keeper's quarters on the ground floor. Some functions of the Academy still operated from Trafalgar Square until 1874.
Varnishing Day -
A chance for Academicians to make minor amendments to their works, and to add a coat of varnish, while they hung on the walls, just before the exhibition opened. Initiated in 1809, it originally lasted only one day; it was extended in 1825 to four, abolished in 1852, and then reinstated in 1862. Varnishing days precede the Annual Dinner and Private View.