Royal Society of Portrait Painters

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The Royal Society of Portrait Painters
The Royal Society of Portrait Painters.png
TypeArts Society
Legal statusRegistered charity
Key people
Queen Elizabeth II (Patron)
Richard Foster PRP (President)
Simon Davis VPRP (Vice President)

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP) is an art society based at Carlton House Terrace, SW1, London.

The Society is a registered charity run by its members to promote, the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of portraiture through its annual exhibition, education and debate.

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


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 formed of members elected on the basis of the quality of their work.

Centenary Catalogue Cover - The Royal Society of Portrait Painters

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, Augustus John and James McNeill Whistler. Women were eligible for membership from the start.

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 Annual Exhibition[edit]

Entrance to Mall Galleries, the Mall, London
Entrance to Mall Galleries

The Society holds an Annual Exhibition, which takes place every year at the Mall Galleries, The Mall, by Trafalgar Square, London.

The main annual portrait exhibition is formed of about 220 works and is in two parts: a cohort of work by our distinguished members and works by non-member artists who have successfully competed to be included in the show. The exhibition aims to include the best of a wide variety of styles in painted and drawn media.[2]

Prizes awarded by the Society include the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture, the Prince of Wales Award for Portrait Drawing, the Burke's Peerage Foundation Prize and the de Laszlo Foundation Prize, the Smallwood Architects Prize and the Contemporary Arts Trust Award.[3]

The Society also holds portrait demonstrations, workshops, talks and tours.

Portrait Commissions

To encourage patronage for this genre, it runs a commissions service to help those wishing to commission a portrait to choose the right artist and to assist them throughout the commissions process. This service is based at their Carlton House Terrace Offices but can be accessed online.


The People's Portrait Collection[edit]

The People’s Portraits Collection owned by the Society was founded in 2000 as a millennial exhibition. The idea was to represent ordinary people from all walks of life, and thereby offer a picture of the United Kingdom as it moved from the 20th century into the 21st. Each portrait is donated by a Member and Members continue to add to this collection.[4]

The Collection has been housed at Girton College (one of the 31 constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge) since 2002 as a long-term loan, and is open to the public every day.[5]




  1. ^ The Times 22 April 2006, previewing the 2006 exhibition.
  2. ^ "The Royal Society Of Portrait Painters". The Royal Society Of Portrait Painters. The RP. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  3. ^ "The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Prizes & Sponsors". The Royal Society of Portrait Painters. The RP. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  4. ^ "The People's Portrait Collection". The Royal Society of Portrait Painters. The RP.
  5. ^ "Girton College". Retrieved 20 July 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′23.35″N 0°7′49.66″W / 51.5064861°N 0.1304611°W / 51.5064861; -0.1304611