Royal Academy of Arts | library, archive, and collections
The Royal Academy has an important collection of books, archives and works of art accessible for research and display. A large part of these collections have been digitised and can be investigated through the Collection website.
The first president of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, gave his noted self-portrait, beginning the Royal Academy collection. This was followed by gifts from other founding members, such as Gainsborough and
The library of the Royal Academy is the oldest institutional fine art library in Britain. For more than 200 years it has served the needs of students and teachers in the Academy Schools and provided an important source for the history of British art and architecture. The library contains some 65,000 books, including an historic book collection of approximately 12,000 volumes, acquired before 1920, reflecting the early teaching philosophy of the Academy Schools. The archive forms one of the world's most significant resources for the historical study of British art since 1768.
The photographic collection consists of photographs of Academicians, landscapes, architecture and works of art. Holdings include early portraits by
Among the paintings decorating the walls and ceilings of the building are those of Benjamin West and Angelica Kauffman, in the entrance hall (Hutchison 1968, p. 153), moved from the previous building at Somerset House. In the centre is West's roundel The Graces unveiling Nature c. 1779, surrounded by panels depicting the elements, Fire, Water, Air and Earth. At each end are mounted two of Kauffman's circular paintings, Composition at the West end, and Painting or Colour and Genius or Invention at the East end.
The most prized possession of the Academy's collection is