Legal status Registered Charity
|Type Arts Society|
|Location Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5BD|
Key people HM The Queen (Patron) Robin-Lee Hall PRP (President) Simon Davis VPRP (Vice President)
The Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP) is an art society based at Carlton House Terrace, SW1, London.
The Society is a registered charity run by its members to promote, the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of portraiture through its annual exhibition, education and debate.
The Society is a member of the Federation of British Artists and a registered charity.
The Royal Society of Portrait Painters was founded in 1891 by 24 artists who were dissatisfied with the selection policies of the Royal Academy for its annual exhibition in London. They formed themselves, as the Society of Portrait Painters, into a new body to be concerned solely with portrait painting. The Society was formed of members elected on the basis of the quality of their work.
The first exhibition of the Society was held in 1891. The catalogue of that exhibition shows that its committee then consisted of Archibald Stuart-Wortley (Chairman), Hon. John Collier, Arthur Hacker, G. P. Jacomb-Hood, S.J. Solomon, James Jebusa Shannon and Hubert Vos. The other members listed were Percy Bigland, C. A. Furse, Glazebrook, John McLure Hamilton, Heywood Hardy, Hubert von Herkomer, Henry J. Hudson, Louise Jopling, T. B. Kennington, W. Llewellyn, W. M. Loudan, Arthur Melville, Anna Lea Merritt, F. M. Skipworth, Mrs Annie Swynnerton, W. R. Symonds, Mary Waller, Edwin A. Ward, Leslie Ward (better known as "Spy"), and T. Blake Wirgman.
Other early members included Sir John Everett Millais, George Frederick Watts, John Singer Sargent, Augustus John and James McNeill Whistler. Women were eligible for membership from the start, and Dame Laura Knight was one such member.
At the Coronation Exhibition of 1911, which marked its 20th anniversary, it was announced that King George V had conferred on the Society the status of a Royal Society, and it has been known as the Royal Society of Portrait Painters since then.
The Times said on 22 April 2006:
The Annual Exhibition
The Society holds an Annual Exhibition, which takes place every year at The Mall Galleries, The Mall, by Trafalgar Square, London.
The main annual portrait exhibition is formed of about 220 works and is in two parts: a cohort of work by our distinguished members and works by non-member artists who have successfully competed to be included in the show. The exhibition aims to include the best of a wide variety of styles in painted and drawn media.
Prizes awarded by the Society include the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture, the Prince of Wales Award for Portrait Drawing, the Changing Faces Prize, the Burke's Peerage Foundation Prize and the de Laszlo Foundation Prize.
The People's Portrait Collection
The People’s Portraits Collection owned by the Society was mounted in 2000 as a millennial exhibition. The idea was to represent ordinary people from all walks of life, and thereby offer a picture of the United Kingdom as it moved from the 20th century into the 21st. Each portrait is donated by a member.
The Collection has been housed at Girton College (one of the 31 constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge) since 2002 as a long-term loan, and is open to the public every day.