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History of the RBA

A group of painters met at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on May 21st 1823, to form the ‘Society of British Artists’, whose manifesto stated, ‘This organisation was not formed to rival existing societies but that every Member was to be at liberty to assist and support any other society.’

Landscape by Thomas Heaphy (1775 – 1835)

Artists at this time were the equivalent of the celebrity stars of today, feted by the aristocracy and royalty and collected by the powerful industrialists of the day.

The elite amongst these were sometimes granted membership of the Royal Academy, but as the membership was limited to fifty members made up of sculptors, printmakers and architects as well as painters, the election of a new Academician was dependent upon the death or resignation of an existing incumbent.

The birth of a new society was inevitable and £1000 was raised for such a purpose. The Society’s new galleries were created in Suffolk Street only a short distance from the Royal Academy in Somerset House. These galleries were designed by the fashionable Regency architect John Nash.

The Society began with just twenty-seven members under the Presidency of Thomas Heaphy, plus a complement of five Honorary Members. It took until 1876 for the numbers to reach fifty.

The progress of the Society was hindered by financial problems caused by the innovative roof designed by the architect John Nash, which began to collapse not long after the galleries were opened.

Although the Society was granted a Charter in 1846 it was not until Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Year of 1887, under the leadership of James McNeill Whistler, that the Society won the right to the prefix ‘Royal’. Whistler raised the profile of the Society by setting standards of acceptance, which attracted the attention of not only London’s aristocracy and fashionable society, but also of both Monet and Alfred Stevens, who became Honorary Members.

In the years that followed, the Society attracted many painters and sculptors of note including Walter Sickert, Philip de László, LS Lowry, Henry Moore, Peter Greenham, Sir Roger de Grey, Carel Weight and Colin Hayes.

In 1970 the RBA transferred its assets to become the main contributor to the Federation of British Artists at Mall Galleries.


Officers & Council

Mick Davies PRBA Hon RBSA


President: Mick Davies PRBA Hon RBSA
Vice President: Meg Dutton VPRBA PVPRE
Hon. Secretary: Brenda Davies
Hon. Treasurer: Francis Drasar FCA
Membership Secretary: Austin Cole

Directors and Custodian Trustees

Mick Davies PRBA Hon RBSA
Nick Tidnam PPRBA NEAC


Henry Jabbour
Susie Perring
Guy Portelli
Callum Stannard
Will Taylor
Anthony Yates

Other Appointments

Keeper: Michael Harrison

Society Trustees

Mick Davies PRBA Hon RBSA
Terry Watts


Wei Shao, RBA Patron
Hidetoshi Kushida, CEO Qualiart
Anthony Lester Hon RMS FRSA
Liam Culver
John Culver
Michael Harding
Roger Austin
Betty Lutyens-Humfrey
Dominic Chapman
Colin Gardner BSc (Hons)
Philip Harris

Special Thanks to our Patron

Patron of the Royal Society of British Artists Mr Shao Wei

Mr Shao was born in Shandong Province, China. He studied Philosophy at Beijing University and Music Theory at the Central Academy of Music. He is a collector and promoter of Chinese and Western Art.


Joining the RBA

The Following Criteria Apply

Before you may apply to become a Candidate it is essential that you have had several pieces of work accepted and shown at 3-4 of our annual exhibitions so members are aware of the quality of your work.

Find out how to enter our Annual Exhibition by clicking here:

Should the Membership Committee so decide, you will be contacted by the Membership Secretary, and you will be put forward as a candidate. (3 attempts may be made to obtain membership)

You are encouraged to strengthen your application with a portfolio of supporting works and sketchbooks.

Election is by a majority ‘blind’ vote of all members present at the AGM which takes place at the close of the annual exhibition.


Members vote for candidates to membership if they feel confident of the type and quality of work likely to be shown in the future. (You should show both vision and individuality in your work)

Once a member you are entitled to show 5 works (or 3 sculptures) at the annual exhibition subject to the veto of the Selection or Hanging Committee.

Members must pay an annual subscription.

It is expected that you as a member will play a positive part in the maintenance and development of the society.

If you meet the above criteria applications can be made to