The Royal Academy of Arts, London, is one of the worlds oldest institutions to discuss and raise the profile of art. It was founded in 1768.
The First AcademiesEdit
The first academies were founded in Italy during the 15th centuries. The model was the ancient academies founded by Plato. However, little is understood of their purpose.
The Florence Academy of Fine Arts was founded in 1563, with Michelangelo a nominal member. its purpose was well defined, as a forum of acedemic discussion and as a place of learning. Eventually its teaching programmes were dropped. This was follwed in 1593 by the Accademia Di San Lucia in Rome and the Bologna Academy.
The Italian Academy model was introduced into France by Cardinal Richelieu in 1634 as The French Academy.
The Birth of The Royal AcademyEdit
Richelieu's French model which tied the academy directly with the state would have been unpopular after the English Civil War. Small academies sprang up during the 18th century but were not a great success. The most important of these was St Martin's Lane Academy in London, which was headed by Hogarth. The private nature of the St Martin's Academy, which was primarily concerned with teaching and enhancing the status of art was the model for The Royal Academy.
The Academy was founded in 1768 with provision for 40 members. This was increased in 1769 to 20 Associates. The Academy was not tied to state control but enjoyed royal patronage from its foundation. George III was had a keen interest in art and the royal patronage gave the Academy much more social esteem than the small private academies could ever have achieved.
The first president, Joshua Reynolds established it as a school. Its yearly exhibitions enhanced the role that British art played in the world.
Murray, Peter and Linda Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists 1959 London [] Staff-RA Schools-Royal Academy of Arts