Art on the Line

The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780–1836

Edited by David H. Solkin

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On May 1, 1780, England’s Royal Academy of Arts opened its twelfth annual exhibition, the first to be held in the magnificent rooms of William Chambers’s newly built Somerset House. For the next fifty-seven years, the Great Room of Somerset House effectively defined the center of the London art world--the place where viewers had to see and be seen, and where artists fiercely vied for the attention of potential buyers. Such great exhibition performers as Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Lawrence, John Constable, J. M. W. Turner, and David Wilkie sharpened their skills during these stimulating decades. In this extensively illustrated book, seventeen renowned experts revisit and assess the Somerset House years, a period of great achievement and central importance in the history of British art.

The book’s contributors view the Somerset House phenomenon from a broad range of perspectives. They deal with the physical nature of the exhibitions, the audience, the role of the press, the Royal Academy’s place within the larger world of urban entertainments, and how the conditions of display shaped and even transformed patterns of art production. In addition, they explore such topics as the tactics of exhibitors in different genres of painting, the exhibition histories of works in other media, and the impact on foreign artists and observers of an increasingly self-confident national school of British art.

David Solkin is reader in history of art at the Courtauld Institute, University of London. He is the author of Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England, published by Yale University Press.

“Without exception, the essays are first-rate. All are amply illustrated. Highest recommendation.”—Choice



“This is an excellent, multifaceted history of the great annual exhibitions put on by the Royal Academy in London when Somerset House was its home. . . . Recommended for all art history collections.”—Library Journal (starred review)

ISBN: 9780300090918
Publication Date: November 10, 2001
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
288 pages, 9 1/2 x 11 1/4
180 b/w + 70 color illus.
Painting out of the Ordinary

Modernity and the Art of Everday Life in Early Nineteenth-Century England

David H. Solkin

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