Art review: Ages of Wonder: Scotland’s Art 1540 to Now, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh
The Scottish Academy was founded in 1826, but the rival and better connected Royal Institution for the Promotion of the Fine Arts succeeded in blocking this bunch of mere artists in their quest for official status. It was not till 1838 that the Academy was granted its Royal Charter to become the Royal Scottish Academy. That was short-sighted of the Institution. It needed the artists and when they deserted it en bloc for the new Academy, it was doomed and the RSA soon took over the exhibition rooms in the building that is now called the RSA, but was then still called the Royal Institution. The Academy was an artists’ collective. Primarily an exhibiting society, it was also a teaching organisation, but sporadically. The long-established Trustees Academy – which continues in Edinburgh College of Art – already occupied the teaching role, so instead of focusing on it, the RSA began collecting to secure the best art of past and present as examples to the young.
In 1859 the Academy moved to share the new National Gallery building on the Mound to the south. Then in 1910, the northern building, completely remodelled, was given to the RSA for its exclusive use, dislodging the Trustees Academy, which became part of the new College of Art, the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which had all lived there cosily together for most of a century.