The Scottish Academy was founded in 1826 at a meeting of 11 artists in Edinburgh. Its aims were :
1. To have an Annual Exhibition open to all artists of merit
2. To open an Academy of Fine Arts to instruct students free of expense
3. To open a Library devoted to the Fine Arts
4. To provide charitable funds for the benefit of less fortunate artists
5. To admit Honorary Members eminent by their talents.
The membership included Academicians (RSA), Associates (ARSA) and Honorary Members (HRSA). The first President was George Watson RSA (1767-1837).
The first Annual Exhibition was held in 1827, and as the Academy developed in stature its membership increased in the disciplines of painting, sculpture and architecture. By 1830 the Academy had begun to acquire books and prints for its library and in 1840 opened its Life School which aimed to improve the training of artists in Scotland. The Academy was granted a royal charter in 1838 and from thenceforth has been known as the Royal Scottish Academy. (rsa)
In 1850 Prince Albert laid the foundation stone of a new building on The Mound in Edinburgh, which was to house the newly formed National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy. The RSA first held its Annual Exhibition in its new galleries on the eastern side of the building in 1855 and these continued here until 1910. The RSA also had its Council room, Library and Life School in this building.
During the late 19th Century it became clear that art exhibition and art education provision in Edinburgh had become overtly complex and muddled. A Government Report of 1903 was followed by a Parliamentary Order of 1910 which transferred the Academy to new premises in an adjacent building, previously called the Royal Institution. (In return for being given a new home the Academy gifted 96 paintings and sculptures and about 2,000 drawings to the National Gallery of Scotland.) Renamed the Royal Scottish Academy this building has been the venue for the Academy's Annual Exhibitions since 1911. Art teaching was transferred to the newly established Edinburgh College of Art, and from this period onwards the Academy became less active in this role. Instead the RSA now assists young artists through scholarships and awards, and every year it mounts a very popular Annual Students' Exhibition.
In 1948 the Academy began to mount a series of special exhibitions for the Edinburgh International Festival. During the 1950's and 1960's memorable exhibitions included Degas (1952), Braque (1956) and Rouault (1965). In recent years the Academy has widened its membership to include printmakers, has its own shop, trading under RSA Enterprises, and the Friends of the Royal Scottish Academy offer much support to its activities.
The Royal Scottish Academy library
contains an eclectic mix of books and catalogues on the fine arts and architecture.
Its particular strength is in Scottish material of the 19th and 20th centuries,
and it contains a complete set of RSA Annual Reports and Annual Exhibition catalogues.
The Royal Scottish Academy archive contains documents pertaining to the RSA as an organisation such as the Minute Books of Council and Assemblies, the Registers of the RSA Life School and photographs of many of its members. The archive also includes an extensive letter collection, dating from 1826 onwards. In addition the archive holds documents relating to other Edinburgh based art organisations, such as the Academy of St. Luke and the Society of Artists, and also an extensive collection of letters, documents, photographs and memorabilia relating to the painter, William Gillies.
The Royal Scottish Academy does not provide a valuation service.
The Royal Scottish Academy library, archive and art collections may be consulted by researchers on weekdays, 10.00 - 13.00 and 14.00 - 16.30. Space is extremely limited and it is essential to make an appointment in advance by writing to the RSA, The Dean Gallery, 73 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3DS.
The Academy administers a number of gifts
and bequests, which it has received over the years from both benefactors and
members. Many of these are for the benefit only of members of the Academy. Others
are for students or people exhibiting in Academy exhibitions.
The Exhibition Fund was established in 1911 by Sir James Guthrie PRSA for procuring meritorious and representative works of art from the Annual Exhibition.
The Maud Gemmell Hutchison Bequest created in 1991, set aside monies to be used by the Academy for a prize for the best colour drawing of animals, as a memorial to her late brother, George Jackson Hutchison.
The Meyer Oppenheim Prize Fund was established in 1972. From 1983 onwards an annual grant is received from the Meyer Oppenheim Trust to provide a prize for a work in any medium by an artist not having attained his or her 35th birthday on Receiving Day for the Annual Exhibition.
The Miss M O Taylor's Trust Fund was established in 1924 by the Will of Miss M O Taylor. With the residue of her estate, she wished a Fund to be established for the relief of impoverished authors, actors, actresses, artists and musicians who have achieved some measure of success in their field and are of sufficient standing to deserve the title. Application forms from the Secretary.
The Thorburn Ross Memorial Fund was established in 1914 by gift from Miss Jessie Smith Ross, in memory of her father Robert Thorburn Ross and her brother Joseph Thorburn Ross ARSA. The income is to be applied for purchase, by special committee of the Academy, of paintings exhibited in the Annual Exhibition or of portraits of the President or public or eminent persons for which the committee will have power to order commissions.
The John Kinross Fund was established in January 1954 in the form of a Trust to be known as The Royal Scottish Academy John Kinross Bequest. In 1981, Mr Kinross's son proposed an extension to the scope of use of the Fund. As a result, during the summer of 1981, selected students were sent to Florence to study. Since then, part of the income has been utilised to provide students in their final or post-graduate years at the four Scottish Colleges of Art with the opportunity to study for several months in Florence. Application Forms are available only from Heads of Departments in the Colleges in February each year.
The Royal Scottish
Academy started to acquire its collection in 1831 when it decreed that all members,
on reaching the status of Academician, must deposit a Diploma Work. This should
be a piece of work representative of their output in the discipline of painting,
sculpture or architecture. Today the Diploma Collection contains 164 paintings,
27 sculpture and 38 architectural drawings or models by Academicians past and
present. The 30 images of Diploma Works reproduced here form a broad cross section
of the whole Diploma Collection, covering all the disciplines and spanning the
decades from the 1820s to the present day.
Other facets of the RSA's art collections include : recent works by recipients of RSA scholarships (e.g. John Kinross Scholarship, Alastair Salvesen Trust); portraits of artists; copies of Old Masters; twentieth century material bought through specific funds; and mixed collections received through gifts and bequests. The largest single bequest was that of William Gillies. Received in 1973, it contains over a thousand paintings and drawings by this artist and many others by his friends and contemporaries