The Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee Year is coming to an end and the Royal Collection Trust, which is responsible for the care of The Royal Collection and manages the opening of all the official residences of H.M. The Queen has announced a generous gift of 97 works on paper made to Her Majesty from the Royal Academy of Arts at London. It has been generously contributed by 93 Academicians, members of the Royal Academy of Arts, including David Hockney who has given his up to the minute iPad ‘diamond jubilee’ drawing. Now as it becomes an integral part of The Royal Collection this portfolio of donated art works will go on display next autumn alongside an exhibition by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1664). The shows The Genius of Castiglione and The Royal Academy Diamond Jubilee Gift will be at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace from 1 November 2013 to 16 March 2014.
Founded by George III in 1768 The Royal Academy has given two previous gifts to the Queen during her long reign. The first portfolio was given to mark the Coronation in 1953 and the second for her Silver Jubilee in 1977. This portfolio contains prints, drawings, photographs and contemporary images all produced in oil, watercolour and mixed media.
Academicians are all practicing painters, sculptors, engravers, printmakers, draughtsmen and architects elected by their peers. Past Royal Academicians include its first President, the renowned and fashionable painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), along other well-known and highly regarded painters as his sometimes ‘thorny’ colleague the landscape and portrait painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) and the English Romantic landscape painter John Constable (1776-1837).
Then there was the all round early nineteenth century genius John Mallord William Turner and the mid Victorian charismatic and very private President of the Academy Sir Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896) the first painter in English history to be given a peerage in the New Year’s Honours List of 1896. Leighton dramatically died the very next day ensuring that he was also the shortest Baron on record as his peerage expired at his death.
Some of the works by the ‘painter of light’ Turner from the Tate will be a major exhibition coming in 2013 to the National Gallery of Australia at Canberra in an exhibition that will celebrate its centenary year.
The Academy’s first exhibition was held in premises in Pall Mall in 1739 attracting many visitors as during the eighteenth century viewing art was exceedingly fashionable. Visiting houses of the great and famous to gaze longingly at their private collections was a pastime of the great and those concerned with modern trends and the time on their hands to do so. Jane Austen’s heroine Elizabeth Bennett was ‘caught out’ by Mr Darcy visiting his house with her aunt and uncle who were conducted around by his housekeeper. It was considered an important aspect of the giving of hospitality and the education of the public at large.
The Royal Academy of Arts moved into new premises in the Strand block of Somerset House in 1780, which was designed by neoclassical architect Scottish born Robert Adam‘s great rival Sir William Chambers. The popularity of their exhibitions was immediate, apparently even dogs were admitted in those days with their owners, and this meant that one of the consequences of all this popularity was that their famous art school was founded. Attracted by the success of art in London a great many ‘foreign’ artists also visited, with some settling in and staying on, eventually becoming citizens. The Royal Academy of Arts is an independent institution. It is quite unique in that it is privately funded by those whose purpose it is to promote the ‘creation, enjoyment and appreciation for the visual arts’. This is constantly stimulated by offering various exhibitions, a well thought out and considered plan of education through its highly regarded art school – the oldest in Britain. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspect of its aims is its active encouragement of ongoing and continuing debate.
Since 1867 the Academy has been based at Burlington House in London’s Piccadilly, where its Summer Exhibition is an annual highlight of the London art scene and an essential date for art aficionados.
It hosts annually approximately 10,000 exhibits from new, emerging and established artists.
It’s an impressive building, originally designed as a house in town for Lord Burlington and his family that, with additions over the years since, today has a wonderful and very atmospheric space in which to display great works of art.
There are up to 80 Academicians and a number of Senior Academicians who are over 75.
The current President of the Academy is Christopher Le Brun (1951 – ) who has also contributed to the gift with his ‘The Complete Journey’ painted in 2011 the year he became the Academy’s 26th President in a period of 244 years. His works are also in galleries all around the world including the Tate Gallery, the British Museum, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, MoMa New York and the Art Gallery of NSW.
Current members of the Royal Academy include his colleagues Lord Foster of Thames Bank, Sir David Chipperfield, Tess Jaray, Anish Kapoor, Allen Jones, David Mach and Alison Wilding.
Nine Academicians, including Olwyn Bowey, Bernard Dunstan and David Tindle, have contributed to both the Silver and Diamond Jubilee portfolios.
The Diamond Jubilee portfolio contains Professor Tracey Emin’s HRH Royal Britannia, a monoprint portrait of The Queen, and sculptor John Maine’s Westminster Abbey, a drawing of the Abbey’s Cosmati Pavement, the very spot in the Abbey where The Queen was crowned.
The architect Michael Manser has contributed a drawing and photograph of The Queen’s Suite, Heathrow Airport, which he designed in 1988.
Other highlights of the portfolio include: Gillian Ayres, Festive 1; Basil Beattie, Janus Series; Olwyn Bowey, Susie; Sir Anthony Caro, Seated Figure; Maurice Cockrill, Untitled; Eileen Cooper, Couple; David Hockney, 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee, iPad drawing ; Anish Kapoor, Untitled; Sonia Lawson, Twin Forms; Leonard Manasseh, Daylight; David Nash, Yellow; Humphrey Ocean, Birds at Ngong; Grayson Perry, Design for Kenilworth AMI; Tom Phillips, Sixteen Appearances of the Union Jack; Richard Long, A Day’s Walk Across Dartmoor; Dhruva Mistry, Head; Joe Tilson, For Her Majesty The Queen a PC from Venice, San Pantalon, Veniesia.
The Royal Collection is among the largest and most important art collections in the world. It is also one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact. Comprising almost all aspects of the fine and decorative arts it is spread among some 13 royal residences and former residences across the UK, most of which are regularly open to the public.
Her Majesty has an active policy of allowing access to all these wonderful works, which she and her trustees of The Royal Collection Trust ensure are safeguarded and secured as well as conserved and preserved for generations to discover and also learn from.
The Royal Collection is held in trust by the Sovereign for her successors and the nation, and is not owned by The Queen as a private individual.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012