Illustrious Past Members of the RBA

Researched and compiled by Anthony J Lester, FRBA, FRSA

Since its foundation in 1823, the Society of British Artists (became Royal in 1887) has been a magnet for some of Britain’s most celebrated artists.  A peruse through the Society’s exhibition catalogues reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of British virtuosity.

Listed is a small selection of artists who were members of the Society:

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James McNeill Whistler

(1834-1903)

RBA Member 1884, RBA President 1886-1888

He showed Arrangement in Black, No.2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth and A Little Red Note: Dortrecht, in the Society’s 1884 Winter Show.  Reviewing the exhibition, The Times (3 December 1884) wrote:

“Mr Whistler’s ‘Arrangement in Black – Portrait of Mrs. Louis Huth’ (299) will, of course, attract the most attention of any work in the gallery.  Artistic society was startled a week ago by the news that this most wayward, most un-English of painters had found a home among the men of Suffolk Street of all people in the world; and this portrait and a small water-colour sketch are the evidence which he gives of his attachment to his new abode.

There is no need to discuss at this date a style of art which has long been familiar to visitors to the Salon and the Grosvenor; it is enough to say that the portrait is successful among Whistlers – it will please the impressionists and the lovers of fine tones, and it will give some little satisfaction to those who dissent from the artist’s theories so much as to hold that a picture is none the worse for giving some evidence of work.”

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Sir Frank Brangwyn, RA

(1867-1956)

RBA Member 1890 and he was President from 1 December 1913- 21 October 1918.

Although he received some tuition from his architect father, he was primarily self-taught. Brangwyn’s reputation was international – his remarkable artistic versatility can be admired at the Brangwyn Museum, Dijver 16, 8000 Bruges, Belgium

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Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, ARA

(1833-1898)

RBA Member: October 1890, Honorary RBA Member: 1893.

He exhibited at the RBA between 1890 and 1898

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Ronald Ossory Dunlop, RA, NEAC

(1894-1973)

RBA Member 1930.

He exhibited four works priced between £20 and £48. He went on to exhibit well over 160 works, one of the most expensive being his 1942 painting Twickenham: Study of Figures in Landscape, priced at £150.

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Walter Richard Sickert, RA

(1860-1942)

Elected RBA President 1928 - 1930

He first exhibited at the RBA in 1884, the subject being Portrait Sketch.  Reviewing the 169thExhibition The Times (26 March 1928) wrote: “His election to the office is, indeed, matter for congratulation, and with his technical soundness and extremely tolerant attitude towards artistic ideals quite different from his own he should call out the best of which the society is capable.  Whistler was too flippant for native prejudice, Sir Alfred East too decorative, and the late Mr. Solomon J. Solomon, though he set a good standard in oil painting of the seductive kind, was not sufficiently aware of the time of day”.

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Jack the Ripper's Bedroom, c. 1907

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Sir Alfred East, RA

(1848-1913)

RBA Member 1883 and President from 1906 - 1913

RBA Member 1883, the year he showed Crail, Fifeshire: Evening, after rain, a watercolour priced at £15-15-0. He was President from June 1906 until his death on 28 September 1913.

Image: Sir Alfred East by Philip de László, 1907

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John Duncan Fergusson

(1874-1961)

RBA Member 1903.

Regarded as one of the major artists of the Scottish Colourists School of painting, he first exhibited three works with the RBA in 1901. In the 1908 exhibition he had 14 works exhibited, ranging in price from £4 to £18 – today his best paintings can exceed £500,000 at auction

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Lawrence Stephen Lowry, RA

(1887-1976)

RBA Member 1935

First exhibited winter 1934 (Street SceneLancashire Villageand Street Scene, each priced at £31-10-0).  One of his most important works, The Regatta, was included in the summer 1951 exhibition priced at £250. Lowry’s painting The Football Match, bought for £250 in 1951 sold for £5.6 million in 2011 at Sotheby’s

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Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, ARA

(1889-1946)

RBA Member 1931

He exhibited 90 works between 1932 and 1946, with prices ranging from £4-4-0 to £105. In 2017 his oil painting A Dawn sold at Sotheby’s for £1,869,000

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Leslie Charles Worth, PRWS

(1923-2009)

RBA Member 1951.

One of the finest watercolourist of his generation. He served as the Society’s Keeper in charge of their historic collections.

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John Minton

(1917-1957)

RBA Member 1950

Last exhibited in 1953 (John Bowler, £31-10-0; Spencer Churchill, £63)

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Lucy Elizabeth Kemp-Welch

(1869-1958)

RBA Member 1902
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Philip de László

(1869 - 1937)

President March 1930
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Hesketh Hubbard

(1892-1957)

 RBA President 1950
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Lord Frederic Leighton, PRA

(1830-1896)

RBA Member 1870
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Anne Redpath, OBE, ARA

(1895-1965)

RBA Member 1946
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David Roberts, RA

(1869 - 1937)

RBA Member 1825

Exhibited from 1824 to 1836

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Edward Brian Seago

(1910-1974)

RBA Member 1946
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Dorothea Sharp

(1874-1955)

RBA Member 1906
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Dame Ethel Walker, ARA

(1861-1951)

RBA Member 1931 [Associate Member 1921]

Portrait d'Edgard Tytgat

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George Frederic Watts, RA

(1817-1904)

 RBA Member 1888
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Sir John Kyffin Williams, KBE, RA

(1918-2006)

Welsh landscape painter who is widely regarded as the defining artist of Wales during the 20th century.

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Carel Victor Morlais Weight

(1908-1997)

 RBA Member 1934

THE RBA HAS ALSO ATTRACTED ARTISTS FROM ABROAD, INCLUDING:

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Giorgio de Chirico

( 1888 – 1978)

Became an RBA Hon Foreign Member in 1948 and a solo exhibition was held at the RBA London [summer 1949]

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Claude Monet

(1840 – 1926)

Exhibited four pictures, each priced at £160, in the winter show of 1887/8.

Honorary RBA Members

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, RA, OM

( 1888 – 1978)

Winston Churchill

( 1874-1965)

Hon RBA 1948

Sir George Clausen, RA

( 1852-1944)

Hon RBA 1923

Donald Hamilton Fraser, RA

( 1929-2009)

Hon RBA

William Powell Frith, RA

( 1819-1909)

Hon RBA 1880

William Holman Hunt

(1827-1910)

Hon RBA 1898

He exhibited ‘May Morning: On Magdalen Tower, Oxford ‘ in 1898 and ‘Piazza Della Constituzione, Athens, By Night’ in 1902

Leonard William Joseph McComb, RA

( 1930-2018)

Hon RBA

Sir John Everett Millais, PRA

(1829-1896)

Hon RBA 1896

Sir Henry Moore

(1898-1986)

Hon RBA

OTHER IMPORTANT ARTISTS WHO EXHIBITED WITH THE RBA INCLUDE:

Michael Ayrton

(1921-1975)

Multitalented artist who was a sculptor, painter, printmaker, book illustrator, theatrical designer, film maker, broadcaster, writer and art critic. First exhibited at the RBA in 1950 (The Shepherd, £210)

John Farleigh, CBE

(1900-1965)

Exhibited 11 works between 1948-1950