Royal Society of Portrait Painters

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The Royal Society of Portrait Painters is a British association of portrait painters which holds an annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. Members use the initials "RP" after their names.


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, and is, formed of members elected, on the basis of the quality of their work, by existing members. Members have an automatic right to display paintings at the annual exhibition, but most of the exhibits are selected, in addition, from non-members of the society who submit their best recent portrait work for show.

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 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 Society is a member of the Federation of British Artists and a registered charity.

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  1. ^ The Times 22 April 2006, previewing the 2006 exhibition.

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