The Great Spectacle:
250 Years of the Summer Exhibition

Sarah Victoria Turner, Mark Hallett

Publicaton Date
June 2018
Standard Number
Royal Academy of Arts, London
224 pages, 26.5 x 23 cm

The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is one of the largest and world’s longest-running annual display of contemporary art. Ever since 1769 the Academy’s exhibition rooms have been packed for some two months each year with thousands of paintings and sculptures by a multitude of leading artists.These ground-breaking spectacles have provided artists with essential competition, inspiration and publicity, capturing the hearts and minds of millions of visitors.

This book takes the reader on a fascinating journey telling the story of these exhibitions. Many cherished works of British art were first shown on the walls of the RA: portraits by Reynolds and Gainsborough, the expansive landscapes of Turner and Constable, and the Pre-Raphaelites, who caused such critical and cultural impact. Chapters on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries look at the RA’s relationship with British modernism, and explore the many changes that have taken place in Summer Exhibitions of recent decades.

Professor Mark Hallett is Director of Studies at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and author of Reynolds, Portraiture in Action (2014). Dr Sarah Victoria Turner is Assistant Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. Dr Jessica Feather is an Allen Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

About the authors

  • image001-2 (1)

    Director at the Paul Mellon Centre

  • Märit Rausing Director at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London