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Detail from Zoffany's The Academicians

The Royal Academy aimed to revive British arts and crafts

The early years of the Royal Academy

The landscape artist Joseph Farington is perhaps the best source for the day-to-day running of the Royal Academy during the reign of George III. Born in Leigh in Lancashire in 1747, he trained under the Welsh artist and one of the founder members of the Academy, Richard Wilson (1714-1782), and became an Academician himself in 1785. From 1792 until his death in 1821, Farington kept a comprehensive diary, now in the Royal Library, which contains details of his social and business activities as well as providing an intriguing insight into society gossip and the lives of artists in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century London.

One of Farington's later endeavours, beyond his work as an artist, was to compile an extensive history of the Royal Academy's first 50 years of existence. Unfortunately, he died before he could publish such a history, yet his meticulous record keeping through the diary and through several of his surviving papers, also in the Royal Library, give a unique insight into the history, politics and activities of the Royal Academy and the patronage of its artists by the Royal Family.

George III, King of the United Kingdom (1738-1820)

The Establishment of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727-85)

Design for a medallion

Thomas Sandby (1721-98)

Old Somerset House

Johan Joseph Zoffany (Frankfurt 1733-London 1810)

The Academicians of the Royal Academy

Joseph Farington (1747-1821)

Diary, Volume 6