Step inside the Royal Academy

Take an online guided tour around the building, home to art and artists since 1867.

By Royal Academy of Arts

When you step off London's famous Piccadilly and stroll through the Annenberg Courtyard, you'll find yourself at the Burlington House entrance of the Royal Academy. Let's take a look around...

On the ceiling of the Front Hall are oil paintings by the studio of Benjamin West PRA. Painted around 1779, the round work in the centre is The Graces unveiling Nature, and each of the paintings surrounding it represents one of the four elements. Clockwise from the top, you can see 'Earth', 'Fire', 'Water', and 'Air'.

Through these doors are the Main Galleries, which host major temporary shows of historic and contemporary work, and the annual Summer Exhibition – the world's largest open submission art show.

On the left is the Tennant Gallery, which hosts free displays related to the RA Collection. This photo was taken last year; find out what's currently on display.

This is the Architecture Wall: an 11-metre-high display of small details from buildings by each of the architects that were among the Royal Academicians in 2018, including Farshid Moussavi, David Adjaye, Norman Foster, and David Chipperfield.

From the structural to the decorative, from interior details to external façades, the elements show the way today’s architects approach design, the materials they use and the attention to detail within these projects.

This artwork is Sarah Pickstone's The Rainbow, part of her display An Allegory of Painting, which was at the Royal Academy over 2018 and 2019 (details).

The artwork is a reinterpretation of (and homage to) Angelica Kauffman's Colour (details), which you can see in the Collection Gallery at the RA. Kauffman was one of only two women among the Royal Academy’s founders in 1768, and was one of the most influential artists of the 18th century.

Read Sarah Pickstone discussing Kauffman's life and legacy

Up these stairs are the Fine Rooms – an ornate suite of rooms not usually open to the public. They were originally designed as entertainment and hosting rooms for the building's first resident, the Earl of Burlington. Today they're used as chambers for gatherings of the Royal Academy's artists, and a place to display treasures from the RA Collection.

Explore the Fine Rooms online

The RA Café is adorned with murals created by Royal Academicians through the ages...

This is Leonard Rosoman RA's Upstairs and Downstairs (details), painted in 1986. He began working on the mural in his studio but eventually had to move it on-site, where he worked after the restaurant had closed for the night.

The mural shows two happenings at the Royal Academy: a private view of the Summer Exhibition, and the then-unseen world of the RA Schools tucked beneath the galleries.

Since the transformation of the RA's home in 2018, the RA Schools have been opened up like never before, and you can explore them later in this tour too.

This is Harold Speed RA's 1898 oil painting, Autumn (details).

At the back here is An Artist's Progress (details), an oil painting by Gilbert Spencer RA.

The mural charts Spencer's journey from childhood (left) to the Slade School of Art (middle), and his election to the Royal Academy (right).

When exhibited at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition in 1959, the work was not very well received – one critic reviewed it under the heading "The Worst Picture of the Year", while another wrote that "If anything was calculated to warn youngsters against a career in art, this should surely achieve it."

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London’s Royal Academy of Arts has been championing artists and architects for more than 250 years, and doesn’t intend to stop now. Explore their Collection, stories and spaces.
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