The RWA gets taken over

Kids in Museums dayStudents from Bristol School of Art were at The RWA for Kids in Museums Takeover Day recently -and, from the feedback we received, it looks like we have some future curators, artists and critics in our midst!

The gallery welcomed a group of 16 Foundation Art and Design Diploma students as part of a national event celebrating children and young people’s contribution to heritage sites.

The students took a tour through the 163 Annual Open exhibition and the Academician Candidate exhibition, analysing this year’s work and developing their critical evaluation skills.

“Today really opened my eyes about what it’s like to work in a gallery. There are roles involved that I didn’t even know existed! I found the day really informative and it will help me in future when I’m applying to exhibit my own work. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to learn all of this anywhere else,” said one student.

Learning to judge
During the day we held a mock-selection process for academician candidates, where the students were asked to assess the work of artists and consider their applications as if they were selecting new academicians. It produced some interesting insights from the students.

“My favourite part of today was being involved with the academician candidate selection process,” said Georgina Murray. “We looked at their work in depth and then had discussions to share our thoughts. Throughout the day I was constantly re-evaluating. We then all sat together reading the statements, exhibition descriptions and artist CVs. I thought I had already made my decision but after reading it all, my mind was changed. I truly felt that I was being tested but also felt that I was really lucky to be a part of something so important to the artists.”

“I found it really enlightening to go through the step-by-step selection process involved in choosing the new Academicians. It gave me a much better idea of the requirements and level of skill expected of applications,” said Maria Kate Betts.

Subjective vs. objective
As part of the day’s activities, students were encouraged to consider their decision making process and separate the subjective and objective. It certainly provoked some debate among the students.

“Given this rare opportunity to delve into the underbelly of the Royal West of England Academy we were able to analyse this historical institution from an insider’s perspective,” said Alexandra Fraser. “Looking at the varied pieces that were submitted, it is unclear how you are meant to judge the best work, with the experience of art being so subjective.

“Various questions arose: How does the curation of the pieces affect our experience of them? Are we supposed to take the work at face value? To what extent are we to include artist’s statements about their work in our evaluation of it? How should the artist’s CV be used in support of the application? How should we consider media? Is it OK to vote for as photographer because we want more photography in mainstream galleries?

“When it came to voting, I could only rely on my personal aesthetic and emotional response to the works. It was interesting to see that we all voted very differently, the work had affected us in different ways. It was fascinating to have a peek into a traditional institution of art and have an opportunity to reflect on my own evaluation and experience of the art of others”.

“Art is a subjective thing, so I can understand that to judge with a consistency is a tough thing to do,” said Maxine Cole. “It was wonderful getting an insight into process of choosing a new RWA Academician. It’s given me a better idea of what the judges are looking for and the process they go through to make their decisions. Consequently, I think this will really help me decide what I should put forward when I submit work in the future.”

Overall, feedback from the students was extremely positive and we look forward to taking part in next year’s event!

You can see what other galleries and museums did for Takeover Day by following the hashtag #TakeoverDay on Twitter.

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Kids in Museums Takeover Day

kids in museumsOn Friday 20 November, the RWA will be taking part in a national event that celebrates children and young people’s contribution to museums, galleries, arts organisations and heritage sites, Kids in Museums Takeover Day.

We will be welcoming a group of 12 Foundation Art and Design Diploma students from our neighbours, Bristol School of Art (part of South Gloucestershire and Stroud College).

The students will be accessing the RWA’s permanent collection archive, exploring this year’s Academician candidate show and looking around the 163rd Annual Open Exhibition. They will learn about the process involved with becoming an Academician and will vote for their own preferred candidates, explaining how and why they came to their decisions.

“The idea behind this activity is to help students develop their critical evaluation skills and for the RWA, it will be a great opportunity to hear the views of a younger audience. We’re really looking forward to strengthening our link with the college, which we hope to continue to develop in the coming months and years,” said Joel Edwards, Learning and Participation Manager at RWA.

Students will be tweeting live during the day and you can follow the action on Twitter via the hashtag #TakeOverDay.

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November: Artwork of the Month

Each month we choose a work of art from our Permanent Collection to showcase on the RWA landing. This month’s work is Jenny by Leila Faithfull, oil on canvas.

Jenny has been chosen by Stephen Jacobson VPRWA. Stephen was elected as an Academician in 2008 and has been Vice President since 2013. Living and painting in Portishead, his work is inspired by the vastness of the skies he sees from his windows. He initially trained in Manchester and Liverpool, studying graphic design and illustration, before undertaking a Post Graduate course in painting at the Royal Academy Schools. 

'Jenny' by Leila Faithfull, oil on canvas. (c) Royal West of England Academy; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘Jenny’ by Leila Faithfull, oil on canvas.
(c) Royal West of England Academy; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

There is a mystery surrounding this painting. The bequest, or purchase details, are unknown. Leila Faithfull was not an Academician and little is on record about her background.

For years the picture was entitled ‘Faithful Jenny’ as this was how it seemed to appear on the back of the canvas. When the BBC ‘Your Paintings’ website was launched, detailing all the pictures in British public collections, the RWA received an email from Leila’s granddaughter clarifying the name of the artist and correct title. I have been unable to trace further details of this information…

The small amount of background we have of the artist describes her as having been born in Woolton, Liverpool in 1896, the daughter of Sir James Reynolds, a businessman and Conservative MP. She studied at the Slade School of Art and at La Grande Chaumière in Paris. She was commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee to paint scenes of English rural life and The Imperial War Museum holds some of her work. There seems to be no trace of any pictures executed subsequent to this period. She died in 1994.

This painting of around 1938 shows ‘Jenny’ confronting the viewer in an almost defiant manner but with a hint of sadness in her eyes. This pose is invariably compelling and demanding of one’s attention. One wonders at her relationship to the painter, whether a family member, an acquaintance or a stranger she met in the coastal area where the painting is set. The backdrop may be a hint of her activities or preoccupations. It seems to indicate an industrial dock rather than a fishing port. The technique is typical of Faithfull’s work. The use of a light, delicate and transparent application of paint is reminiscent of ‘dry’ watercolour. Faithfull has used an almost monochromatic palette and the figure is backlit creating even lighting on the features and drawing the viewer to the eyes.

Stephen Jacobson VPRWA

Jenny is on display on the landing until 29th November.

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Enticing evenings of art at Twilight Tuesdays

20649081442_3fdee2bca4_kAs the festive season draws near and the days grow shorter, the RWA is giving art lovers a precious gift this month – the gift of more time to enjoy art!

Throughout November the gallery will open until 8.30pm on Tuesdays, giving you more opportunity to enjoy our biggest exhibition of the year, our 163rd Annual Open Exhibition. This year over 2300 works were submitted for consideration by over a 1000 artists, nationwide, before being selected and curated by an expert panel of artists and curators. The show is an eclectic mix of work by unknown, emerging and established artists in a variety of medium; there is something to suit all tastes.

We’ve also got some fantastic events on to whet your artistic appetite…

10 November

Twentieth Century Scandals lecture series: Blasphemy

Join art historian David Cuthbert as he delves into some of the modern and contemporary art world’s most sensational episodes in a series of informative and entertaining lectures. This week he’ll be looking at The Black Christ of Ronald Harrison; Andreas Serrano and Piss Christ; George Grosz and Max Ernst

Admission price: £10 per lecture

Creative Gym: Moments of Joy…with Jenny Blackwood

Flex your creative muscles at our weekly Creative Gym, where you’ll get the chance to create your own art works. Jenny Blackwood’s session will encourage you to dig into your memory bank to inspire new works of art.

You will be using drawing, collage and writing to create a unique artwork that represents you at your most joyous! Bring your happy memories, from photos to ticket stubs, stamps to souvenirs.

Admission price: £10 per session

17 November

Twentieth Century Scandals lecture series: Tabloid Hysteria!

David Cuthbert continues his journey into last century’s most shocking art escapades, this week focusing on The Armory Show 1913; Carl Andre and ‘the bricks’, and Tracey Emin’s Bed.

Admission price: £10 per lecture

24 November

Creative Gym: String Art Workshop with Let’s Make Art

The last of our Creative Gym workshops focuses on the unique skill of string art. String art has its origins in the ‘curve stitch’ activities invented at the end of the 19th Century to make mathematical ideas more accessible to children. It was popularised as a decorative craft in the late 1960s through kits and books.  Come and make your own in this fun, practical workshop led by Alice Hendy and Karen Davies.

Admission price: £10 per session

Twentieth Century Scandals lecture series: Repression

David Cuthbert’s final lecture in the series looks at Entartete Kunst 1937; Alfred Munnings and ‘This So-called Modern Art’, and the Bulldozer Exhibition, Moscow 1974.

Admission price: £10 per lecture

Want more information? Visit or call the gallery on 0117 973 5129 to book tickets.

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The affordable way to buy art

© Rebecca Harley

© Rebecca Harley

Interested in buying a piece of art but don’t have the cash right away? With the Own Art initiative, you can spread the cost of your purchase over ten months with an interest free loan.

If you love art but thought you couldn’t afford to take home a piece of your own, think again! It’s now easier than ever to indulge your passion for beautifully crafted artwork with Own Art.

You can walk away with your purchase right away, but pay for it over time without incurring any borrowing fees. This applies to any pieces priced between £100 and £2,500 for sale at the RWA.

“This is a fantastic scheme which makes art accessible for many more people, so we hope that lots of our visitors will take advantage of it and support the brilliant creative artists we work with,” said Alison Bevan, Director of the RWA.

For more information about Own Art, please email or ask in the gallery.

Own Art is an Arts Council England initiative operated by Creative United, a registered trademark of Creative Sector Services CIC a Community Interest Company, in partnership with Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and our credit provider Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance.

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We’re on the Front Page!

The Linguist Magazine coverKarine Leroux, one of our long-time volunteers, is a professional translator who specialises primarily in art. She has recently written an article on translating art texts for the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ magazine, The Linguist, in which she explains what it takes to be an art translator and how volunteering at the RWA forms part of her CPD activities. A couple of photos of our 162nd Annual Open Exhibition illustrate the article and, as it is the cover story, the RWA gallery is also on the front page.

To read Karine’s article – and find out what she’s secretly up to while on duty – go to page 6 of the online version of the magazine.

If you wish to get in touch with Karine regarding the article, you will find her contact details on her website.

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Twilight Tuesdays are back!

Twilight Tuesdays at the RWA presents:


Fun, informal art-making workshops – an alternative to the step class and the treadmill!

This Is Me…with Jenny BlackwoodMan
Let’s Make Art
with Alice Hendy & Karen Davies
Drawing activities with Sam Church
Painting with Sophie Rae
Moments of Joy…with Jenny Blackwood
Printmaking with Sophie Rae
Let’s Make Art
with Alice Hendy & Karen Davies


A series of 7 lectures by David Cuthbert exploring some of the art-world’s most sensational episodes.

THEFT & FORGERY – Including the theft of themona thief
Mona Lisa
VANDALISM – Including the Chapman Brothers
and the Goya prints
SEX – Including Eric Gill and the Prospero
& Ariel sculpture
VIOLENCE – Including Viennese Actionism
BLASPHEMY – Including The Black Christ of
Ronald Harrison
TABLOID HYSTERIA! – Including The Armory
Show 1913; Carl Andre and ‘the bricks’
REPRESSION – Including Entartete Kunst 1937;
Alfred Munnings and ‘This So-called Modern Art’
In association with Tangent Books


6:30PM – 8:30PM
Creative Gym and 20th Century Scandals tickets are £10 per session or £65 for all 7 sessions
For further information and to book please pop into the RWA, phone us on (0117) 973 5129 or visit the

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