Linda Adcock, Lucy Bell, Michael Checketts, Kay Edwards, Chris Glanville, Paul Hawdon, Ronald Hellen, Melvyn King, Mary Millar Watt, M J Mott, Daphne Sandham, Ivy Smith, Robin Warnes, Joceline Wickham
The show is listed on the RA 250 website here.
Born at Dedham, Essex in 1924, daughter of John Millar Watt and his wife Amy Maultby née Biggs. Educated in Cornwall and Devon and in 1939 attended the St Ives School of Art under Leonard Fuller (1891-1973), who first opened his school in 1938. During the War she relocated to Bath and worked as a draughtsman for the Charts Department of the Admiralty. After the war the family removed to Knightsbridge in London and she completed a five-year Diploma at the Royal Academy Schools 1947-1952, earning silver medals for painting and drawing and a David Murray scholarship for landscape. Mary’s work consists largely of portraits, remarkable for their range, demonstrating her dexterity in so many media and she is somewhat, an artistic polymath.
It was Peter Greenham whose sympathetic teaching made me follow him from the Byam Shaw to the R.A Schools when he was appointed to run the Schools. Working in the Life room, unchanged since the early days of the Schools' history was a great experience; and I specially remember talks by Stanley Spencer, an inspiring influence, and by John Minton, not long before he killed himself. He was a cult figure for some of us.
At that time in the mid-fifties we were aware that more radical ideas were being explored at the Royal College, often influenced by the new generation of young American artists like the abstract impressionists - Pollock, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Pop artists - and the Kitchen Sink School was taking off in the UK too, counteracting more traditional ways of working. The RA Schools appeared to ignore these influences, and some students felt restricted by what they saw as out of date academic teaching. John Hoyland was one of them, holding forth to admiring students while he criticised the kind of instruction we got from the Schools - his bright red crew-cut hair showed his affinity with those first trendy Americans from across the Pond.
After a time four of us from the RA Schools joined together and shared the rent of a room above a grocer in the Gloucester Road, as a studio. We spent our time there rather than in the Schools, working on commissions or painting each other and friends - attending the Schools for lectures, and putting our work in for prizes and exhibitions, or joining the other students for evening social events, accompanied by skittle groups with wash boards - I'm not sure how we got away with all this non-attendance. I managed to get married before completing my course too, which led to commissions for murals and portraits, away from the Schools altogether.
Although I continued painting after I had children, it was later, when I discovered printmaking, that I found new ways of working and was greatly encouraged in this by another contemporary RA student, Ian Tyson, who founded the Tetrad Press. Ian used to complain about the inadequate facilities for printmaking while at the RA, but later he persuaded me to experiment with printmaking and I found it led to a new approach to painting for me, each feeding ideas to the other.
I looked through my old diaries and found one quite interesting event I had quite forgotten, which probably happened at regular intervals: the banquet after the Queen's visit, known as The Queen's Supper.
A banqueting table was laid the full length of the corridor, seating 100, covered with flowers and candles. It wasn't attended by her Maj herself, but followed her visit to the RA and we were given a proper banquet with red wine and beer accompanying several courses, all waited on by what I called 'Butlers' - I suppose I meant proper waiters. We toasted the Queen and speeches were made by Sir Henry Rushbury R.A. - then Keeper, Bernard Fleetwood-Walker R.A., and Peter Greenham, R.A. (he succeeded Henry Rushbury as Keeper). Rushbury's son-in-law Tom Taylor got up to do an impromptu cabaret of Spanish dancing with John Copnall at the end of the formalities.
We all retired to the canteen after, where the school jazz band had climbed onto the counters and we jived away the night and felt we had been treated in a satisfyingly elitist manner, being pupils in such an august Institution.
We also got ourselves hung regularly in the Summer Exhibition: our names were known to the judging panel. The first time I got chucked out was after I was married and - just that once - used my married name!
I was at the Royal Academy Schools from 1967 – 70, having come from Chelsea Art School. Peter Greenham was the Keeper (Principal) and lived with his wife and young family in the Keeper’s House. He would come round the studios in the evenings, wearing his slippers. Walter Woodington was the Curator (Administrator) and Josephine Harris was the secretary. Her office was at the top of rickety narrow wooden stairs. These three ran the Schools. There were only about 60 students over three year-groups, perhaps 40 painters and 20 sculptors. It was a very wide social mix, from titled students with landed estates to working class stone-carvers from Kennington.
First year students spent the whole of the first term life-drawing, in the original life-room with anatomical casts on the wall. Our tutor was Charles Mahoney, a very thin man. The second term was spent still-life painting in one of the back studios. After that we could decide for ourselves what we wanted to do. I painted (my tutor was Edward Bawden, who was very deaf) but also etched (taught by Alistair Grant and Alf Dunn) and made linocuts (the tutor was Gertrude Hermes).
1968 was the 200th anniversary of the Royal Academy and a film was made for the BBC, directed by Alfreda Benge, who had recently been a student of the Film School at the Royal College. 1968 was also the year of student unrest, and the RA Schools had its minor version. We all gathered in the life-room, and cruelly made a list of all the tutors we thought were useless, and submitted it to Peter Greenham. Nothing more was heard of it. 1970 was the 21st year of the Young Contemporaries, and the exhibition was held at the Royal Academy. This was the second year it was selected by students, and I was chosen to be the RA Schools' representative, alongside those from the Slade and the Royal College, helped by Maurice Bradshaw, head of the Federation of British Artists. My painting was in the show and won the Kasmin Gallery Prize, which I think was £25.
It was a marvellous place to study, the small numbers made it a very friendly environment, and the institution was supportive. We were opposite Green Park, next to Soho and Berwick Street Market, and all the galleries of Bond Street and Cork Street, where was also the Queens Bar, a lovely Italian sandwich bar, where you could get cream cheese and anchovy sandwiches, or cream cheese and banana. Some of us carried on going there for years afterwards.
One memory of my first year at the Schools was an incident that involved Humphrey Brooke, the recently resigned Secretary of the RA. Humphrey had served as secretary from 1952 to 1968 but if rumours were right, he had fallen out with other powerful figures at the RA and departed with bitter words and in something of a strop. It was in this fractious state of mind that Humphrey imprudently attended a student exhibition at the RA. Perhaps he thought it might be an opportunity for reconciliation, we shall never know. Whilst storm clouds were building in Humphrey’s world, below in a studio in the Schools one student was slapping another coat of battleship grey paint on to a large, already grey, canvas, in fact the whole canvas was one expanse of grey paint. The painting and Humphrey were set to collide. The grey painting was duly exhibited, and all would doubtless have been well but Humphrey, the worse for the complimentary wine, and probably finding that the evening was not going as he had hoped, and that the RA had not collapsed without his guiding hand, looking round found in the grey painting something that triggered his pent up spleen and to the shock and horror of all, in a sweeping move, threw his glass of wine over the grey masterpiece.
The incident was quite a talking point for quite a few weeks. The student (AC), I don't think was upset at all but enjoyed a certain celebrity for a time. To be fair to Humphrey he wrote and apologised to all for his inexcusable behaviour but the damage was done and if he had hoped for a recall to the RA, in some capacity, it was not to be. There are lessons for us all in the incident, none of us is irreplaceable and don't make rash decisions when drunk as something is bound to upset you.
Peter Greenham was the major presence in the Schools during my time there. He would appear silently in the Life Room or main corridor in an off-white matching jacket and trousers and wearing slippers. If teaching drawing, he would gently tap you on the shoulder and take your place and proceed to produce a seemingly effortless, superbly observed drawing at the side of yours, which now appeared in comparison, feeble, bungled and inadequate. Sadly many are the occasions at a later date I have casually rubbed out his drawing and kept mine, how I wish now I had rubbed out mine and kept his! An example of his generosity and assistance to students was when in my last year, I and two other students, Martin Cook and Roger Ackling (now so sadly dead), had the idea to start a Summer School for amateur painters. Peter Greenham not only offered to loan us some of the Schools’ studio equipment if required but also to use his name as an advisor and also talked William Scott and Walter Woodington into lending their names as well and later, with some arm twisting, even got the President, Tom Monnington, to allow his name to be used as Patron, although one did sense that Monnington had major misgivings about developments and could see hazards and the possible dark shadow of scandal attaching to his and the RA’s good name if things had become unruly. Monnington may have had good reason for concern, for we envisaged a light touch with the artistic tuition during the day and a lively social atmosphere during the evenings. We called our enterprise “Wessex Studios”, headed notepaper with a pencil motif was designed and printed, as was a small catalogue, with a brief biography of the three directors and Sir Thomas Monnington being given prominence on the front. But it all came to nought. We spent too much of what little money we had on board meetings (we were directors after all) in the Queen’s Head at the end of Burlington Arcade or the Yorker Bar opposite the RA in Piccadilly, both establishments sadly now gone. We even had a memorable launching party. But it all fell apart, through what I can only say was lack of financial control and director mismanagement. To my lasting shame, I decamped to Hastings owing Martin £30 (repaid later) and Wessex Studios was no more. How Tom Monnington must have given a huge sigh of relief!
Christopher Glanville studied first at Heatherly School of Art under the tuition of his father Roy Glanville RBA, RSMA (1914-65). Thereafter at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting, and at the Royal Academy Schools in Burlington House. His work has been widely exhibited in London including Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions, Frost and Reed, WH Patterson, and with the NEAC at the Mall Galleries.
I loved my time at The RA Schools, I loved being a student right in the centre of London hidden away underneath the pomp and splendour of the Royal Academy. It seemed like we were members of an exclusive underground art tribe with our paint spattered flares and shaggy hair watched over benevolently but with a touch of benign neglect by a more senior tribe of elderly Royal Academicians and tutors.
For much of my time there I worked in a small studio at the very end of the building. It seemed as if not many tutors penetrated that far and sometimes we didn’t see anyone for days. Fred Dubery was an occasional and welcome visitor, he always had something helpful and to the point to say and he was amusing and good company too. Edward Bawden was already very deaf so conversations were a bit one sided but I remember that he was also helpful and any criticism was constructive.
I suppose that one of my most vivid memories of the schools is of the rigorous and compulsory stint of life drawing in the first term. Sitting for hours on those hard uncomfortable benches in the life drawing room, made me aware of the generations of past students who had gone through the same experience. Being expected to work all day everyday in the life room took some adjusting to as I'd just had a gap-year. At the end of the term we had to lay out the work we had done on trestle tables in the corridor for the tutors to see; all overlooked by the looming casts of the classical sculptures.
The rest of the course was far less formal. Although we had personal tutors as well as visiting artists, we were given freedom to explore our ideas, a good preparation for working independently once we left the schools. Of all the tutors who had most influence on my work, it would have to be Roderic Barrett. He remained a close friend until his death. The friendships I made in my time at the Academy are probably the most enduring and important legacy for me.
One evening, Daphne Sandham and I were accidentally marooned in my studio on the third floor of the Ostler’s cottage – the porter had forgotten to give his customary call before locking up!
Earlier in the day, Daphne had bought the makings for pasties for our evening meal and as neither of us wanted to spend a night of hunger and discomfort in the studio we decided to make our escape by using the newly installed fire escape mechanism. I donned the harness, took a firm grip of the rope and launched myself out of the window, sailing gently down through the night shadows into the passage below. My main concern was for the sharp railings rearing up from the dark, but I missed them with room to spare and then sprinted round to the entrance to catch (and admonish) the porter before he left the building. Not so much "All because the lady loved Milk Tray", as "All because the students loved their Cornish pasties".SHORT FUSE
The 1970s were dangerous times in London due to the IRA bombings. A fellow student and I were working in the library (now the Friends Room) when we went off for a coffee, leaving his briefcase on the desk in full view.
The next thing we heard was the news that a suspected bomb had been found in the library and that a brave porter had carried it out to a skip in the ally. We rushed through vaults to find about a dozen students and RA staff standing at a distance from the skip and who all started yelling at my friend as he rushed forward and lifted out his case, "It's a bomb", they all cried, "No, it's my ******* briefcase" he replied.
We often were visited by RA's, there was a list up on the wall of the porters' lodge with dates when various RA's would be calling in so that we could catch a word with one if we needed advice. Several students were interested in egg tempera and Mr Greenham arranged for Mr Tindleto come and give us a demo.
But the great thing was the practical advice, Ruskin Spear walking through the back studios stopping by my large coarse primed canvas and saying "Run some sandpaper over it and your brushes will last longer" or stopping by someone else in the studio who was staring at a large new canvas not able to start and him dipping a rag in the dirty turps jar, and scrubbing over the pristine canvas declaring "that'll take the grin off it!!"
One venerable RA in our second term gathered up a group of us and took us to the sluice room to show us how to clean our brushes, a bar of hard soap and hot water. When a student asked "What about turps subs?" he said "They are hog hair, you wouldn't wash your own hair with turps now would you?"
The last day being all called down to a final meeting in the canteen where Mr Barrett told us "Now go and register with the tax office as schedule D self employed before you start earning money, and with the National Insurance start paying your stamp- you'll thank me when you go for your pensions"
And the best and very generous bit of advice from several "Go and see so and so at such and such gallery and tell them that I sent you!"
Robin Warnes studied at Canterbury for a Degree in Fine Art from 1974 to 1977, then studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1977 to 1980. In his work he explores the flatness of painting whether he is working in paint or pastel. The layering of the medium is an important part of the synthesis of flatness and the refinement of the image.
The interview - They sent me down on the train from Loughborough with another big painting (they must have thought it was better than the ones that had been sent on before) I was a bit self conscious with it in tow and I was nervous and very shy. Just after I arrived a man in an old grey suit wearing a pair of slippers shuffled up to me in the corridor and asked me what books I read. I didn’t read fiction then so I told him I preferred real life stories and the bible. That was the interview and the man was Peter Greenham, the Keeper of the Schools. I didn’t find that out till I went there. I also saw another man called Walter Woodington who was very posh sounding and a bit odd.
Buying Canvas - Going to the shop, Russell and Chappell, in Soho was an experience, first was the trek there crossing the red light area, then queuing in this antiquated shop with its rolls and rolls of canvas and finally buying, paying and waiting for the change took an age. There was no till as such, it had to go into some sort of antiquated tube system, and back complete with receipt. Better to get off cuts out the bin, have the right money then leave.
The prizes - There was an exhibition that you could enter work in the second year called the premiums. I think Peter Greenham gave the prizes to the students that were hard up. I got a few as I was a single parent and didn't get a grant. The best one was the green shield scholarship (nothing to do with stamps or premium bonds). It came from Canada, I'll never forget the day the cheque arrived for that one.
The toilets - the space was massive, the doorman's wife was the technician and set up a workshop in there and I used to go in there to stretch my canvasses on the floor. It was nuts because we were all squashed into the studios and would have been better off painting in the loos.
The zoo pass - The RA schools had a zoo pass so you could get in for nothing. My friend and I used to take the bus up to Regent's Park and spend the day there drawing. It usually started to rain but there was always the giraffe house which I loved. I don't think any other students used the pass, in fact I think they did away with it after a time.
The famous life room - The life room was compulsory for the first term, that was all day every day. I was told before I went there that they would teach me to draw when I went there. Occasionally a tutor would come round and do a smaller drawing in the corner of your page and not actually say anything much! I think I can say though that my drawing skills did improve after that term but those benches in that room sure were uncomfortable.
These are some of my memories I have some of my drawings still, one awful life one with Leonard Macombs drawing in the corner and one or two zoo drawings.
1 In my time at the Academy one of the most influential tutors I experienced was Norman Blamey. I doubt that I really appreciated him at the time but on leaving I found that his teachings had given me a confidence and resource that allowed me to explore freely without feeling that I had to come up with a restricted mannerism.
His approach to drawing was, I think, unique. It was based upon highly analytical observation that sought to use light to balance structure, form and space.
At the time I felt that he was sometimes derided by other tutors at the Academy but he appeared not to be phased by this. A little of his spirit of tolerant indifference towards those of contemporary notoriety has, I think, instilled itself in me.
2 The Print Rooms comprised of an etching area and a larger area devoted to screen printing and lithography. They seemed confused places with, I suspect, little thought for health and safety. However, they were places that gave me refuge from the sometimes claustrophobic studio atmosphere. I went there to play with printmaking methods as I have always found printmaking is a way of being a step removed from the immediacy of painting. I also went there to chat and was grateful for the friendship of Lawrence and Jackie the technicians and Peter Freeth who used to teach on a Monday. Peter has remained a life-long friend and mentor for me.
Once a week Alistair Grant, Head of Printmaking at the Royal College of Art used to turn up with Alf Dunn his second in command at the RCA. If there were no students around to teach they seemed to disappear rather quickly, although, if caught, they would be very helpful and friendly. I liked the fact that they came from the RCA and were a breath of fresh air. Alistair once arranged for me to visit the RCA print department as I was having problems printing a large etching. This was very helpful and I have used the techniques I learnt there for printing my large etchings ever since.
Through the print room I also got to know Norman Stevens who was always very positive about my work. It was, I think, with his support that I won the Christies Print prize at the RA Summer Exhibition in 1985. I once helped him out by printing a couple of his etchings for a London exhibition because he could not find anyone that would do it for him. Rather trusting of him to ask me, since as a student I had never done anything like that before. His untimely early death removed a great supporter and friend from my life and I would have loved to have known him better as I emerged into the real ‘art’ world.
My memories of the RA Schools in the 1980s are of really enjoying the opportunity of being able to paint and draw all day, including Saturday mornings and into the evenings, particularly as there had been a gap of two years after completing my BFA at Ruskin School of Art, Oxford. It was a case of third time lucky! I remember taking a while to find my direction, although my drawing benefitted from the first term in the life room. I did prefer after that working in the life painting studio, less formal and you could work closer to the model.
It would feel quite surreal in the lunch break to step from the quiet subterranean atmosphere of the casts corridor, through the darkness of the vaults to the bright chattering crowds in the RA entrance hall upstairs and to wander around the current shows. Chagall, The Glories of Venice and A New Spirit in Painting with all the East German painters and Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff's London series stand out in the memory.
Peter Greenham was coming to the end of his time as Keeper in my first year. Edward Middleditch who took over was not there for long as he was not well. Norman Adams took over in my third year and brought a fresh sense of direction. He was the tutor who has been the strongest influence on my work. He encouraged me to think more about the importance of colour over everything else. Otherwise I generally preferred to work away on my own or go out and draw with others. A group of us were allowed on the top floor of London Weekend Television to draw for several weekends which provided lots of ideas for paintings.
I enjoyed, as most people did, the Schools social life, particularly the regular bar nights in the canteen and it helped counteract living in a largely unknown city.
I felt more confident as a painter at the end of the three years and was lucky enough to be funded by a David Murray Travel Scholarship to go off and paint for a month which was a good start to the next phase.
It seemed a turbulent time, 3 Keepers in 3 years and my year had a number of strong conflicting personalities. There was a lot of influence from the Slade and when Norman Adams took over it was the Royal College.
Norman Blamey set a standard which was very high. He didn't just tell you the work's faults he demonstrated with drawings that were mesmerising in their clarity and precision. I said to him 'You don't make many mistakes'. He replied 'It's all a mistake'. Another phrase of his I like to remember is 'I think it's all getting a little bit too casual'.
Getting to see exhibitions was such a privilege. The Venetian show was particularly memorable.