This event runs from 21st Sep 2018 to 17th Nov 2018

Art galleries and museums across the country are joining the Royal Academy to celebrate 250 years of making, debating and exhibiting art at the Royal Academy.  Arts institutions across the country are joining the RA to take a look back at their history, and celebrate the artists and architects who have shaped the RA. Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is delighted to be a part of this celebration.

This exhibition  will explore the historic and at times uneasy relationship between the Royal Academy and the medium of watercolour, showcasing watercolour paintings by Royal Academicians past and present.

For 250 years watercolourists have felt slighted by the leading art institution in the country, the Royal Academy (RA). Yet, as the new exhibition WatercolouRA250 at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery shows, many leading Royal Academicians were, and are, talented watercolour artists. This includes famous names such as Paul Sandby, J. M. W. Turner, Thomas Gainsborough, right through to today’s Academicians Humphrey Ocean, and the RA’s own President Christopher Le Brun.

Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s new exhibition, WatercolouRA250, displays a range of amazing watercolours painted by RA members, yet this art form is not mentioned in the RA’s new book, published to tell the 250 year history of the organisation. Given Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s own 125th anniversary this year, as well as its efforts in building a new watercolour collection, it seemed only appropriate that we highlight the relationship between the RA and the art of the watercolour.

The Royal Academy has refused, throughout its history, to exhibit watercolours and to accept skill in that art form as the basis for admission to its ranks. Only those who practiced painting in oil, architecture, sculpture and printmaking could be elected to the RA. In the 18th century it was felt that watercolours, also known as tinted drawings, were a lesser form of art. Famed artists such as J.M.W. Turner, whose painting of Dover features in the display, demonstrated great skill in watercolours. Humphrey Ocean RA, Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy and contributor to the exhibition, argues that it is Turner’s watercolours that distinguish him as an artist, but that it was his oil paintings that got him elected to the RA.

Two new watercolour societies, The Royal Watercolour Society, and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, were formed at the turn of the 19th century in response to the Royal Academy’s disapproval of watercolours. An ongoing rift developed between these watercolour societies and the RA that continues that this day. The glorious work on display in WatercoloRA250 will encourage visitors to question the need for this rift given the high number of Academicians who are also watercolourists.

Thanks to funding from the Royal Academy’s RA250 event, support from The Art Fund, as well as assistance from the auctioneers, Toovey’s of Washington, the Museum has been able to supplement its own collections with over 30 watercolours on loan from Sussex based galleries and private lenders including; Towner Art Gallery, Worthing Museum & Art Gallery, Christ’s Hospital Museum, and The Bishop Otter Art Collection.

Image: Paul Sandby  - Landscape with Castle,  Worthing Museum & Art Gallery

Alongside the exhibition, the Museum will host children’s art workshops, as well as two fascinating talks by leading historians of the watercolour, which will take place at The Capitol, Horsham:

Timothy Wilcox - 11 October 7.30pm:

Watercolour in Britain in the 20th century: mainstream or margin?

To book call The Capitol on 01403 750 220 or reserve online

Greg Smith - 18 October 7pm:

Thomas Girtin: A Royal Academy and The Republic of Watercolorists

To book call The Capitol on 01403 750 220 or reserve online

Click here for more information on the RA250.