Muse: A Search for Beauty (Paintings from the RSA Collections)

RSA Friends’ Room
Mondays 10 - 5 or by appointment (0131 225 3922)

The aim of Art is to present not the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance; for this, not the external manner and detail, constitutes true reality. Aristotle


Portrayal of the female in art resonates with the discovery of what is below the surface – emotional, mysterious and beautiful – in the human character. While representations of men have often been designed to reinforce positions of power and demonstrate importance, chivalry or status, it could be argued that depiction of the female offers the true means for an artist to connect with their expressive nature.


To help focus the theme Muse views the female figure through the eyes of the male artist. The Royal Scottish Academy’s collection of portraiture from the late-Georgian era to the present day provides rich pickings with which to examine artists’ exhaustive attempts at understanding and revealing the anthropomorphic ideal of truthful beauty. The atmosphere generated from the sometimes intimate and often extended bond between artist and muse is a key part of a portraits success and through validation by fellow academicians the portraits in the RSA Diploma Collection take on a further level of artistic meaning.


From the Scottish master Henry Raeburn, via opulent, decorative and honest portrayals in the 19th and 20th Century from the likes of Robert Hope, John Aiken and David Foggie, to contemporary experimental interpretations such as those by Calum Colvin, the exhibition charts the responses in Scotland to that constant source of artistic inspiration, the muse.