Royal Academy Summer Exhibition How To Enter

Information about the 2012 exhibition will be available from early January.

If you would like to submit work, you will be able to purchase an entry form from early January – 9 March 2012.

Background to the Summer Exhibition

Held annually since the Royal Academy’s foundation in 1768, the Summer Exhibition is a unique celebratory showcase for art of all styles and media, encompassing paintings, sculpture, photography, prints, architectural models, film, and artist’s books. Historically, the exhibition has also provided an opportunity for Royal Academicians, many of whom are internationally renowned, to show their work.

Following long Academy tradition, the exhibition is curated by an annually rotating committee of Royal Academicians who are all practicing artists and architects. Any artist may enter work for selection – over 12,000 works are submitted for consideration every year and around 1200 are exhibited. The Academy works hard to encourage a diverse range of artists to enter and, as a result, well over 100 artists are included every year who have not previously exhibited in the Summer Exhibition. The show provides an unrivalled opportunity for exhibitors to sell their work and have it seen by the 200,000 visitors that the exhibition draws during its three-month run; all artists are strongly encouraged to enter work that is available for sale.

Over £65,000 will be given in prizes; awards include The Charles Wollaston Award for the most distinguished work (£25,000), The Jack Goldhill Award for a sculpture (£10,000), The Hugh Casson Drawing Prize (£3000), The British Institution Awards for students (4 prizes of £1000), The Rose Award for Photography (£1000), The Sunny Dupree Family Award for a Woman Artist (£3500) and the Bovis Lend Lease/Architects Journal Awards for Architecture (£15,000 in total). All exhibited works are eligible for the relevant prizes.

Things you never knew about the Summer Exhibition

Over £70,000 prize money, including the £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award, is awarded each year at the Summer Exhibition.

The Summer Exhibition was first held in a warehouse on Pall Mall from 1769 to 1779.

136 paintings were exhibited in the 1769 Summer Exhibition, 672 in 1792, and 815 in 1805. The figure exceeded 1,000 in 1820 and reached 1,500 by 1845.

Over 60,000 visitors attended the Summer Exhibition when it moved to the Great Room of Somerset House (now home to the Courtauld Institute) in 1780.

Following a press campaign fig leaves were applied to classical statues of male figures in Somerset House after the 1780 Summer Exhibition.

Gainsborough withdrew paintings from the 1784 Summer Exhibition because he was unhappy with the way they were to be hung.

In 1822 Wilkie’s Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Gazette after the Battle of Waterloo was roped off to prevent its being damaged by the 90,000 people who wanted to see it. This happened again in 1858 to protect Frith’s Derby Day.

Turner painted some of his late masterpieces, including Rain, Steam and Speed — The Great Western Railway, in the Summer Exhibition itself. Varnishing Day was traditionally used for varnishing and touching up paintings in the galleries just before the exhibition opened to the public. An onlooker recalled him ‘standing very close up to the canvas, [he] appeared to paint with his eyes and nose as well as his hands’.

Millais first exhibited Christ in the House of his Parents in the 1850 Summer Exhibition. The Times described it as ‘plainly revolting’ and Dickens thought the Christ Child ‘a hideous, wry-necked, blubbering, red-haired boy in a nightgown’.

The first Summer Exhibition to be held in Burlington House, the Academy’s current home, was in 1869. Of 4,500 submitted works 1,320 were accepted.

The Academy’s move to Burlington House had an impact on the development of the arts in the latter half of the 19th century. Rules restricting the display of whole-length and life-sized half-length portraits were lifted because of increased wall space. Landscape artists, finding that work under 6 feet long was often lost on the wall, began painting much larger canvases as a result.

‘Royal Academy Pictures’, the first illustrated Summer Exhibition catalogue, was printed in 1888.

From 1903 onwards Royal Academicians were restricted to exhibiting 6 paintings each, and other artists to 3 paintings each.

A suffragette attacked Sargent’s portrait of Henry James in the 1914 Summer Exhibition.

Augustus John resigned from the Academy in 1938 when Wyndham Lewis’s portrait of TS Eliot was not included in the Summer Exhibition.

The hanging of one Gallery by one Academician was first tried in 1976 when Peter Blake filled Gallery II with work by leading contemporary artists of the day, such as Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, RB Kitaj, Joe Tilson, Ivor Abrahams and Norman Adams. All later became Royal Academicians.

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