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Book Description
A significant run of the Royal Academy annual exhibition catalogues, from the sixteenth in 1784 to ninety-third in 1861, and also including a rare early type facsimile reprint of the first exhibition catalogue from 1769. The set provides a wealth of historical information, most notably an interesting insight in to the changes in taste from the portraits and the “Grand Style” of Reynolds in the late eighteenth to the arrival of Millais and the Pre-Raphaelite’s of the mid nineteenth century. In amongst the series are many individual highlights including several artists first exposure to major art patrons - for instance in the twenty-second number, the Summer Exhibition of 1790, we find exhibit ‘644 View of the Archbishop’s Palace, Lambeth’ by one ‘T.W. Turner, Maiden Lane, Covent Garden’. This is, in fact, the first picture exhibited at the Academy by Joseph Mallord William Turner, RA (1775 – 1851), completed when he was only 15 years old. A further 60 years on we find his final exhibits, four pictures of Dido and Aeneas, in the 1850 exhibition a year before his death, three of which can now be seen together again in the current exhibition ‘Late Turner’ at Tate Britain. Particularly noteworthy amongst the paintings is his ‘The departure of the fleet’: ‘The artist finished the canvas on the walls of the RA, and curators and conservators have tried to determine which areas Turner might have adjusted at the final moment. This question is made difficult by changes in surface appearance over time. Could the three areas of red paint highlighted in this illustration have been added on Varnishing Day?’ (see http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-the-departure-of-the-fleet-n00554) ‘Although contemporary art could be found in numerous other venues, there was only one official showcase for the achievements of modern British painters, sculptors and architects; so it is hardly surprising that each year’s offerings at Somerset House came under especially intense scrutiny. Even if they had to pay to gain access, contemporary viewers none the less regarded these events as their own public property and as valuable barometers of the country’s progress and well-being. The Exhibition also provided a glamorous social occasion, where everyone who was anyone had to see and be seen. In a period of profound and disturbing change, the Royal Academy’s visitors found a fashionable refuge under the aegis of high visual art, but also a place where the aesthetic went hand in hand with a remarkably broad spectrum of topical concerns’ (Solkin: Art on the Line. The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1838, p. xi).
Dealer Notes
[Together with:] THE EXHIBITION OF THE ROYAL ACADEMY, MDCCLXIX. The First. [London] Printed by William Bunce, Printer to the Royal Academy. [1825].

No. 16. lacking two pages of the ‘List of Exhibitors’ (I-Z) at end, No. 18 missing pages 17-20 and with the ‘List of Exhibitors’ in duplicate, and No. 22 with loss to final leaf, otherwise apart from some dust-soiling in places, all catalogues complete and in clean state throughout.
Author [ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS].
Date 1784-1861
Binding bound in late 19th century library buckram, spines lettered in gilt, with the stamp of the ‘Society of Writers of the Signet’ on upper covers; a desirable set of this lengthy run.
Publisher [Various]
Condition See notes.
Pages 79 catalogues in four volumes, 4to.

Price: £2750.00

Offered by Pickering & Chatto

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