Petworth's Royal Academicians: 10 champions of British art

The North Gallery at Petworth House

The Royal Academy was founded in 1768, the nation's first real art school and principal exhibition space. Celebrating the 250th anniversary, Petworth is shining a light on ten works by founders and members of this prestigious institution, gathered by the 3rd Earl of Egremont in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Please be aware that from 2  to 25 January selected state rooms are closed to allow for important conservation. Additional rooms are open for the Prized Possessions exhibition on 26 January

During this time The North Gallery and Chapel remain open as well as the Estate Offices and Historic Kitchen in the Servants' Quarters.

To see the full extent of the state rooms please return from 26 March.

George O'Brien Wyndham, third Earl of Egremont (1751-1837, in the North Gallery, 1839 by Thomas Phillips (1770-1845)

Petworth's 3rd Earl of Egremont famously supported contemporary British artist by both collecting their works and by uniquely encouraging them to stay at the house, where they could drawn inspiration from its collections, surrounding landscape and collegiate atmosphere.

In this sense Petworth became an unofficial academy of art during his reign and it was this ethos that garnered Petworth the title as 'that House of Art' by John Constable in 1834.

The majority of living painters and sculptors who visited Petworth or were represented in the collection, were also members of Britain's primary art establishment of their day: the Royal Academy.

Fete in Petworth Park by William Witherington

Egremont's passion for collecting culminated in his construction of the North Gallery in the mid-1820s. This pioneering display space combined both paintings and sculpture, and contemporary and historic works, in a way which was unparalleled at this date. The inclusion of prominent Royal Academicians was central to this scheme.

The North Gallery

Visit the North Gallery like never before and see 10 works by founders and members of the Royal Academy from the Petworth collection. Each will be highlighted with information on the painting and the artist behind it.

It's also an opportunity to fully explore the space and discover the Molyneux Globe, quite possibly the earliest English terrestrial globe in existence, as well as antique sculpture that was central to the 3rd Earl's plan for comparing and contrasting living artists against historic works.

Though the room might seem overcrowded by our standards, believe it or not, this design and the merging of sculpture and painting, chosen by the third Earl, was revolutionary at the time. As you wander the North Gallery today, you are seeing it just as visitors like Turner did over 200 years ago.

As part of the exhibit you'll find J. M. W. Turner's Ships bearing up for Anchorage, 1802. By the age of 15 Turner became a regular exhibitor at the annual RA exhibitions and became a fully elected member in 1802 at the age of 27 and eventually becoming the Professor of Perspective. Turner was regularly invited to Petworth and used the room above the Chapel as his own studio.

Catherine 'Kitty' Fisher (d.1767), 1759 by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)

Petworth's 3rd Earl of Egremont famously supported contemporary British artist by both collecting their works and by uniquely encouraging them to stay at the house, where they could drawn inspiration from its collections, surrounding landscape and collegiate atmosphere.

Diomed and Cressida from William Shakespeare's 'Troilus and Cressida', 1789 by Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807)

Another important work is Diomed and Cressida from William Shakespeare's 'Troilus and Cressida', 1789 by Angelica Kauffman. In 1768 Kauffman was one of only two female founder members of the Royal Academy. More incredibly, there were no other women elected until Dame Laura Knight in 1936.

The Chapel

The Chapel at Petworth House

Meanwhile in the Chapel, a remnant of the medieval manor house, see the room lit with additional lighting. You can also enjoy historic music and new for this winter, access to the Chapel gallery. We are also running highlight talks about the history of the Chapel and how the room was used by the family.