Royal Academy of Arts


1768 – The Royal Academy of Arts was founded on 10 December 1768 and comprised painters, sculptors and architects.

1769 – The first Annual Exhibition originally opened on 26 April 1769 so it was a spring exhibition for some years rather than a summer one.

1770 – The first Annual Dinner takes place in 1770. It remains a glittering occasion to which artists, collectors, politicians and aristocrats are invited.

The Annual dinner marks the opening of the exhibition. Sir Joseph Banks was invited although sometimes gout prevented him from attending.

1771 – The Royal Academy moves to new premises in Somerset House on the Strand, although the Annual Exhibition continues to take place in Pall Mall until 1779.

1779 – The North Wing of the new Somerset House is completed and the Royal Academy becomes its first resident.

1780 – The Annual Exhibition takes places at Somerset House for the first time.

1787-  Three hundred artists contribute 650 works to the exhibition, which receives 50,000 visitors.

1809 – The tradition of ‘Varnishing Day’ is formally established whereby Members are allowed to add finishing touches to their canvases in the galleries once arrangement of the pictures has been completed.

1837 – The Royal Academy moves to new premises on Trafalgar Square, occupying the East Wing of the newly built National Gallery.

1867 – The Royal Academy signs a 999-year lease, granted by the Government, of Burlington House on Piccadilly. A peppercorn rent of £1 per year is agreed, provided that the Academy funds the building of accommodation for the Schools and a suite of exhibition galleries according to the designs of Sydney Smirke.

1868 – The Royal Academy celebrates it centenary.

1869- The first Annual Exhibition is held at Burlington House.

Sources: Royal Academy of Arts Guide for The Great Spectacle – 250 Years of the Summer Exhibition held 12 June – 19 August 2018 and Dr James Taylor, FRSA.