The Royal Academy of Arts was founded by George III in 1768. The 34 founding Members were a group of well-known artists and architects, including Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir William Chambers, and their aim was to raise the profile of British art and architecture. Its home since 1867 has been Burlington House, an impressive, listed building in Piccadilly. 

The Academicians are all practising artists across a range of disciplines: painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, engraving and architecture. The first president of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, laid the foundation of the collection by donating his famous Self-Portrait. Since then, each elected Member has been required to donate what has become known as a Diploma Work. These Diploma Works include paintings by Turner, Constable and Hockney, and sculpture by Flaxman, Hamo Thomycroft and Phillip King. The current President of the Royal Academy is the architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw.

The Academy has held an annual Summer Exhibition of works for sale, from both new and established artists, ever since its creation. This huge exhibition takes place for two and a half months and attracts visitors from all over the world.

Touring paid, temporary exhibitions take place in the Sackler Wing or main galleries and feature all the big names: Van Gogh, Degas, David Hockney and so on. These exhibitions are incredibly popular and get very busy, particularly over the weekend, so prior bookings are strongly advised, unless you want to queue!

The John Madejski Fine Rooms are the former state rooms of Burlington House and can be visited on free guided tours, which also include a visit to The Tennant Gallery. The tours last an hour and focus on selected works from the RA Collection of British art from the last 250 years, whilst also giving an insight into the history of the Royal Academy and Burlington House. The works on show here change approximately three times a year.

The Royal Academy of Arts is a beautiful, grandiose venue, particularly renowned for its impressive touring, temporary exhibitions, which always attract the crowds. The Academy also has a long established architectural history and for anyone with an interest in this discipline, it is a must-see.

Royal Academy of ArtsSarah Brooks' review of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.5