Royal Academy of Arts, London, the national academy of art of England, founded in 1768 by George III at the instigation of Sir William Chambers and Benjamin West. Sir Joshua Reynolds was the Academy's first president, holding the office until his death in 1792. His Discourses defined the scope of the Academy. The king himself chose the original 36 Academicians and fixed the number at 40. Until 1867 their successors were elected by the Academicians only and since that date by the Academicians and associates, whose number was increased from 20 to 30 in 1876, together. Since its inception the Academy, a notably conservative body, has maintained biennial exhibitions—one being of the works of masters of the past and one of contemporary art; has maintained a free school (women students have been admitted only since 1861); and has administered funds (partly derived from its exhibitions) for the relief of distressed artists and their families and for prizes and scholarships. In 1867 the academy was given a lease of 999 years on Burlington House and the adjoining gardens, where its galleries and school have since been erected.
See W. R. M. Lamb, The Royal Academy (2d ed. 1952).
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