The Royal Academy was founded in 1768 by a group of leading artists and under the patronage of George III. However, the Academy did not receive any state subsidies and was very much under the control of the artists in the form of forty Academicians and twenty Associates (later increased to thirty). The Academy ‘s first president, Joshua Reynolds, established it as a school to train artists in drawing, painting, sculpture and architecture.
Artists who trained at the Royal Academy include: William Blake, Thomas Lawrence and J. M. W. Turner. The first Academy was housed in Pall Mall (1768-1771) but moved to Somerset House (1771-1837) until the British government took over the rooms for office space. It shared premises with the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square until it moved to Burlington House in 1868.
The Royal Academy also gave an opportunity for artists to exhibit and sell their work at an annual Summer Exhibition. The work displayed is chosen by the Royal Academy Selection Committee. The Summer Exhibition held from May to August, became an important feature of the national and international art world.
In 1936 Laura Knight became the first woman to be elected to the academy since the original women members, Angelica Kauffmann and Mary Moser.