Picture research and download by George P. Landow; text transcription by Jacqueline Banerjee (who has added links, and some extra paragraph breaks for ease of reading on the screen).

Taking in Day at the Royal Academy, 1866.

We engrave on page 381, in continuation of a series of illustrations of characteristic London incidents and of the aspect of London streets, under various circumstances, a scene in Trafalgar-square which annually occurs on (generally) the second Monday and Tuesday of April. During those days are delivered the pictures and sculptures intended for the Royal Academy exhibition of the year, which invariably opens to the public on the first Monday of the following May. On those days vehicles of all kinds, the van of the picture-frame maker specially constructed for the reception of pictures, and containing the contribution of several artists collected in London, or received as London agent from the country, or the occasional cab of all-work, together with some shy-looking youths and gentlemen of foreign appearance, who are acting as their own porters, may be seen discharging at or making their way towards the right-hand steps of the portico of the building in Trafalgar-square known as the National Gallery, but about half of which is occupied by the Royal Academy of Arts — now virtually, we may say, under notice to quit.

It is, however, on the last day, Tuesday, that the stream of pictures sets in most steadily, gradually becoming more and more continuous as the day wears, and constantly increasing till the neighbouring clock of St. Martin's strikes twelve p.m. After the last stroke of the hammer of that fateful hour-bell not another picture is admitted. We have known an instance of a poor artist making his appearance on the following morning with one small painting (all he proposed to offer for exhibition), but, although ready to rave that it had been detained through no fault of his, it was resolutely rejected.

Of course, during the delivery, as long especially as the daylight lasts, the occasional glimpses ot the pictures afforded on their removal from the various conveyances attract a number of loiterers and gamins, whose critical remarks are not always flattering to the artist-contributors, yet whose esthetic sensibilities and keen interest manifested, it must confessed, under most unfavourable circumstances, contrast forcibly with the general apathy of the fine lords and ladies invited to the "private view." The reasons why many artists detain their pictures to the last moment are that they may give some final finishing touches or that they may show them to the numerous visitors who, following the Continental custom, now make the "round of the studios," even on the very "sending-in days." We may add that among the crowd in Trafalgar-square may be occasionally noticed anxious artist-faces watching still over the safety of that which represents months of toil, and on which, perhaps, not only hopes of fame but of bread depend. But the artist cannot follow the ofspring of his industry and talent far. At the top of the steps it is whisked out of sight by dusty, heated, and unceremonious porters, who, happily, if a recent regulation is cerried out, dare no longer accept the considerable bribe: formerly so overtly received and expected.

It should be generally known that, owing to the cruelly insufficient space for what has become our great national exhibition, a proportion of the contributions amounting, we believe, of late years, to no less than two thirds, cannot possibly be hung! Therefore, the fortnight which elapses from the sending in of the works till the non-academic "outsider" can learn whether they are "accepted," "rejected," or "doubtful," must be a most anxious time. Indeed, till the exhibition actually opens, he cannot be quite sure of his fate; for only last year, we understand, as many as 150 pictures marked "accepted" were ultimately excluded, there proving to be no space available for hanging them, available for hanging them.

The public should be reminded, also, that the Academicians and Associates, according to a rule made by and for themselves, but which is unauthorised by their Instrument of Foundation, and for which it would be difficult or them to produce a moral justification, claim the best places (for eight works if they choose to send so many) from each member and Associate. Want of accommodation can, however, hardly be pleaded in excuse for a system which renders it almost impossible for a "committee," with the best intentions, to perform their onerous and responsible duty to the outside contributors under fair and reasonable conditions. We have it on indisputable authority that the pictures are not singly taken from the mass and fully exposed to the view seriatim — injury to the frames being so much dreaded! On the contrary, having been placed by the carpenters standing one before the other, their faces to the wall, and thus extending far into the room, the hangers simply walk along the avenues left between each row of pictures (the names of the artists, be it remembered, being, according to rule, legibly written on the backs); and as they walk, by inclining each picture forward it is pretended that a sufficient view of it can obtained to decide on acceptance or rejection. There are other objections we could make to the method of hanging, but this one appears to be so grave that we sincerely hope it may be removed the committee appointed to select and hang the pictures just sent in for exhibition — namely, Messrs. Cope, Horsley, and Faed.


"Taking in Day at the Royal Academy." Illustrated London News Vol. 48 (January-June 1866): picture, 381; text, 390. Hathi Trust. Contributed by the University of Michigan. 24 July 2018.

Created 24 July 2018