The Scottish Academy was founded in 1826 at a meeting of 11 artists in Edinburgh. Its aims were :
The membership included Academicians (RSA), Associates (ARSA) and Honorary Members (HRSA). The first President was George Watson RSA (1767-1837). The first Annual Exhibition was held in 1827, and as the Academy developed in stature its membership increased in the disciplines of painting, sculpture and architecture. By 1830 the Academy had begun to acquire books and prints for its library and in 1840 opened its Life School which aimed to improve the training of artists in Scotland. The Academy was granted a royal charter in 1838 and from thenceforth has been known as the Royal Scottish Academy. (RSA)
In 1850 Prince Albert laid the foundation stone of a new building on The Mound in Edinburgh, which was to house the newly formed National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy. The RSA first held its Annual Exhibition in its new galleries on the eastern side of the building in 1855 and these continued here until 1910. The RSA also had its Council room, Library and Life School in this building.
During the late 19th Century it became clear that art exhibition and art education provision in Edinburgh had become overly complex and muddled. A Government Report of 1903 was followed by a Parliamentary Order of 1910 which transferred the Academy to new premises in an adjacent building, previously called the Royal Institution. (In return for being given a new home the Academy gifted 96 paintings and sculptures and about 2,000 drawings to the National Gallery of Scotland.) Renamed the Royal Scottish Academy this building has been the venue for the Academy's Annual Exhibitions since 1911. Art teaching was transferred to the newly established Edinburgh College of Art, and from this period onwards the Academy became less active in this role. Instead, the RSA assisted young artists through a programme of scholarships, awards and exhibition opportunities.
In 1948 the Academy began to mount a series of special exhibitions for the Edinburgh International Festival. During the 1950's and 1960's memorable exhibitions included Degas (1952), Braque (1956) and Rouault (1965). From 19xx to 2007 the RSA presented the RSA Annual Student Exhibition, which allowed all graduating and postgraduate students at the Scottish schools and colleges of art to exhibit one work of art. This changed its historical format in 2008 to become the RSA New Contemporaries, a curated show that selects around 60 of the finest graduates in Scotland.
The Royal Scottish Academy building was fully refurbished as a world class exhibiting space and re-opened its doors in 2003. Sharing the exhibition galleries with the National Galleries of Scotland, the RSA offices continue to be housed here, presenting a year round programme of exhibitions and invigorating scholarship & award initiatives.
In 2005, the RSA Charter was revised with a number of significant amendments. The Academy widened the traditional remit of painting, sculpture, printmaking and architecture to accept artists working in all media, reflecting the diversity of contemporary artistic practice today. Associate Membership (ARSA) was also abolished introducing only one level of membership of the Academy. Full status of Royal Scottish Academician (RSA) was gained on deposition of a Diploma work into the RSA Collection and this did not affect the Honorary Membership.
The Royal Scottish Academy has a proud tradition of promoting excellence in contemporary art in Scotland. Led by eminent artists and architects it supports the creation, understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts through exhibitions, artist opportunities and related educational talks and events. Re-establishing itself as a leading organisation for the visual arts in Scotland, it has successfully garnered a reputation for the strength of its engaging and diverse exhibitions and the fantastic opportunities it offers both established and emerging artists.
Revised aims of the Royal Scottish Academy:
The friends of the RSA