SOCIETY OF ARTISTS OF GREAT BRITAIN

1760 - 1791

The Society of Artists arose from proposals to establish an academy and annual exhibition of contemporary British art during the 1750s, but unable to obtain royal or parliamentary support, most leading painters, led by those associated with the Foundling Hospital, decided to organize an exhibition themselves in the rooms of William Shipley's Society of Arts, later Royal Society of Arts, which had been founded in 1754. Disagreements with the Council of the Society of Arts, particularly over admission fees and the hanging of works, resulted in the principal painters finding an alternative venue in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross in 1761. The Society of Artists of Great Britain, which had begun as a loose association of artists had held their first exhibition in April 1760 and the following year held their second exhibition at Christopher Cock's Auction Rooms in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross when the Spring Gardens faction, led by Francis Hayman (1708-1776), adopted the title Society of Artists, to differentiate them from Shipley's Society, and were incorporated as such, by royal charter, in 1765. Leading members seceded from the Society in 1768, a move leading directly to the formation of the Royal Academy of Arts. After the formation of the Royal Academy in 1769 the Society of Artists of Great Britain continued its schedule of exhibitions until 1791, while those who remained with the older 'Society of Artists' now called themselves the 'Free Society of Artists' (17611783) but the Society of Artists went into decline and was dissolved 1791.