Barry's Proposals for Hanging Pictures at the Royal Academy Exhibition, 30 December 1775

Source: MS Royal Academy A/SEC/2/7/1, Royal Academy, London.

Cover: Mr Barrys
Proposal & Plan
for Arranging
The Exhibition 1

The Minutes of the Royal Academy record these proposals on 30 December 1775.

Barry served for the first time on the Royal Academy's Hanging Committee for exhibitions in 1775; the other two members were Richard Cosway and Thomas Sandby (1723?-98).2 These were his proposals for the next exhibition in 1776; they are written in his hand but are not signed.

Full display

Mr Barry's Proposal: a Plan for Arranging the Exhibition

As one material intention in the institution of our Annual Exhibition must have been to give the Exhibitors that comparative rank & consequence that their abilities entitle them to; and as there have been frequent dissatisfactions & complaints with respect to the disposition often adopted in aranging arranging the pictures &c the following motion is submitted to the judgment of the Academy the Academy3 by James Barry.

That all pictures whatever exceeding the height of a half lenght length be placed above the line.4

That on the day when judgment is passed on the pictures to be retained for Exhibition or to be rejected, all the Academicians shall have the liberty of being present; and that the rejection of such works as are offered for Exhibition does depend upon the majority of the votes of such Academicians as chuse choose to attend & to give their votes on this occasion.

That all the Academicians, or such as chuse choose it, may be permitted to draw lots for the choice of a situation for one work. The first distribution being marked out on the wall, they proceed to a second & after (if thought proper) to a third distribution in the same manner.

That all the works of the Academicians except the before mentioned, & of all the other Exhibitors be left (as they have hitherto been) to the discretion of the Council to place them where they may think most proper.

If it should be thought proper the benefits of this plan might be even still further extended to those of our Exhibition who are not Academicians. The Authors of such works of Art as the majority of the Council, or the majority of the Academy may deem worthy of it, shall be invited by letter, if residing in Town, or if at a distance some person of the Academy shall be appointed for them, to draw lots for the choice of places at the same time with the Academicians.5

It is apprehended that many good consequences may be derived from this method, & that many objections which lie against the present practice will be in grat great measure removed by it; as in the first place, each Academician will have no reason to think himself unfairly dealt with in at least two or three situations (whichever is fixed upon).

2.dly every History, Portrait, Landscape or other painter may chance to have an opportunity of situating himself (if he chuses chooses it) in the neighbourhood of some other in his own walk, so as to afford both to himself & to the publick a fair view of his comparative excellence or deficiency.

3.dly There being four officers of the Academy, to wit the President, Secretary, Treasurer & the Keeper who as a part of their office have also a care in the disposition of the pictures &c in the Exhibition. Three of these Gentlemen being permanent in their office, they are of course according to the present practice the principal & permanent Agents in the hanging of pictures &c in the Exhibition. This has been a source of much inquietude, & the situation of those Gentlemen in this instance, must be as undesirable to themselves as it is offensive to others; dissatisfied people will always take this occasion of calling their judgment or their integrity into question, and good men would wish to remove themselves from the very shadow of any suspicions injurious to their Character. Besides if in illegible future times the successors of the present Gentlemen who so worthily fill those offices, should from interested or other views have any improper partialities for or prejudices against any particular Academician, & should they confederate for such dishonest purpose, by passing the present motion into a Law, such confederacy would be rendered inefectual ineffectual ; and the Exhibition will remain as it ought, a feild field of generous contention, established upon equitable principles, & where Eny Envy, Pique or any other unjust, base motive (that might hereafter arise amongst us, & that have always arisen amongst men where their passions & interests are concerned) will have no opportunity of exerting themselves with any success.