Selecting Committee, Royal Academy, circa 1892

1 portrait

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tademaback to top

Whole-length, seated behind table, with ten other sitters and two art handlers, fifth figure from left.

Sir Thomas Brockback to top

Head-and-shoulders only visible, almost full-face, seated fourth from the left, between Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederic Leighton.

John Callcott Horsleyback to top

Whole-length, first seated figure on the left, recognizable by his white hair and ‘chin curtain’ beard.

Frederic Leighton, Baron Leightonback to top

Seated at a round table holding small hammer in right hand and resting left hand upon arm of chair, in the centre among thirteen figures in a row. Leighton is seated at a table in the middle of a row of artists who stare intently at the work held up before them by two art handlers. He is flanked by John Everett Millais to his left and Thomas Brock to his right. By 1882 Leighton had been the President of the Royal Academy for four years, after his election to the position in 1878; he would remain so until his death in 1896. The artist was widely respected in this role and considered a particularly efficient and progressive figure-head for the institution. In 1885, the Magazine of Art described Leighton as, ‘with the exception of Sir Joshua Reynolds … the most skilful administrator and most enlightened President that the Academy has ever had’.[1]

Despite his prestigious status in his later years, Leighton’s initial relationship with the RA was far from easy. After the glowing reception accorded his first submission to the institution in 1855, Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is Carried in Procession in the Streets of Florence, his subsequent entry was a disaster. The Triumph of Music (1856) decidedly underwhelmed Academicians and was ‘exceedingly badly hung, so that one can scarcely see half of it (indeed I believe, only the figure of Orpheus)’.[2]

Elizabeth Heath

Footnotesback to top

[1] MA, 1885, p.236.
[2] Letter from F. Leighton to his mother, 7 May 1856; quoted Barrington 1906, vol.1, p.247.

Henry Stacy Marksback to top

Half-length, leaning forwards slightly, profile to left, in the act of examining a submission, standing between the seated figures of John Callcott Horsley and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Btback to top

Half-length, head in profile to left, sixth figure from left, seated between F. Leighton and W.H. Thornycroft.

Sir William Quiller Orchardsonback to top

Standing, far right, wearing top hat. Elected a Royal Academician in 1877, Orchardson was ‘extraordinarily loyal’ to the institution and a diligent performer of his duties. According to his daughter, he was ‘a severe but very kind and most interesting critic. It was quite exciting when he was on the Council and Hanging Committee of the Royal Academy; who was in and who was out and were there any new men? All told under promise of extreme secrecy, of course….’ She went on to quote her father as saying:

being on the Council was quite easy; all you had to do was to sit still and wave your hand to the carpenters [handlers] to pass on the pictures as fast as they could bring them up. Pictures of genius or of outstanding merit were accepted without hesitation or discussion. It was the doubtful ones that caused all the trouble. When several pictures were all more or less bad it was very difficult to choose the least bad; it was then that the personal equation – the favouritism and unfairness the Academy was accused of – might possibly come into play.[1]

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

[1] Gray 1930, p.123.

John Pettieback to top

Head-and-shoulders, profile to left, seated at the extreme right below standing figure of William Quiller Orchardson. The drawing is apparently taken from life.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Sir (William) Hamo Thornycroftback to top

Whole-length, seated, legs crossed, in front row, second from right.