The London Art Market - A British Institution Subscriber’s Pass, 1805
The London Art Market - A British Institution Subscriber’s Pass, 1805
The London Art Market - A British Institution Subscriber’s Pass, 1805
The London Art Market - A British Institution Subscriber’s Pass, 1805
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The London Art Market - A British Institution Subscriber’s Pass, 1805

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54mm x 43mm

 

Gilt bronze. In the form of an artist’s palette bearing the Prince of Wales’s feathers in relief and inscribed ‘British School’ / ‘126’. 

The present pass is a subscriber’s pass to the selling exhibitions held by the British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts. Founded 1805 by a circle of 125 connoisseurs under the patronage of the Prince of Wales, the Institution was basically a private club formed to promote the art of the British School as opposed to the art of Continental Schools of painting.

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Mostly known as the Pall Mall Picture Galleries or British Gallery, the Institution mounted two types of annual exhibitions. The first was open to the public and showcased the work of living British artists (or artists living in Britain); and the second featured Old Master works borrowed from the collections of the subscribers - the latter being the first of any such temporary exhibitions anywhere in the world. Both quickly established themselves as popular parts of the London social calendar; and helped foster the development of the primary art market in London.

However the Institution’s conservative taste led to tensions with edgier artists, as surplus funds were used to buy paintings for the nation that reflected the interests of the 125 Governors, Directors and Subscribers, paying sums between 100 guineas (56 of them, 35 at 50g., 11 at 10g.) down to one guinea annually. In 1805 the initial subscribers consisted of ‘One duke, five marquesses, fourteen earls, two viscounts, nine lords, two bishops, four ladies, seven baronets, twenty-two members of parliament, five clergymen and above fifty private gentlemen, bankers and merchants’. The institution ceased in 1870 when their old master exhibitions were adopted by the Royal Academy.