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Royal College of Art

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The Royal College of Art is the only wholly postgraduate university of art and design in the world - studying and practising art in a design environment and design in an art environment. Its Royal Charter, granted in 1967, specifies that the objects of the College are "to advance learning, knowledge and professional competence particularly in the field of fine arts . . . through teaching, research and collaboration with industry and commerce". The average age of its postgraduate students, studying at Master's and Doctoral levels, is twenty-six. Some come to the Royal College of Art direct from their undergraduate courses, others later in their careers as artists. According to the latest statistics on all graduate destinations from the Royal College of Art's fine art courses between 1992 and 1996, from a total cohort of over 300 graduates an average of 93.9% gained work in directly related employment and at the right level. To qualify, they had to be professional, exhibiting artists. It is a remarkable statistic.

Some universities have opted for a broad "fine art" approach to the teaching of young artists - encouraging them to approach various technologies, media and modes of production from a personal point of view. This approach stresses horizontal rather than vertical divisions. At the Royal College of Art, there are four fine art courses: painting, sculpture, printmaking and photography. Within these courses our postgraduates are encouraged to question the boundaries and push them, but within the confines (if such they be) of a specific discipline. This has been a powerful educational philosophy at the Royal College of Art for many years, in various incarnations, and a number of the works in our Collection bear witness to the results. The College feels that in an educational environment, this is the most effective philosophy - whatever the graduates may choose to achieve with their portfolio of skills after they leave.

Which is where the substantial collection of (mainly) paintings, prints and drawings at the Royal College of Art comes in. There has been, for as long as anyone can remember, an emphasis on innovation and "cutting edge" at the College, but it is also about the past, in particular its own past. The Collection began in earnest in the 1920s at the same time as the then Principal William Rothenstein introduced the concept of the practitioner-teacher (for the first time in British art education) and from 1948 onwards it became part of a sustained attempt to establish and evolve some College traditions. In this way, the Collection is a unique visual archive of a certain kind of fine art education - approached from a variety of perspectives - over the last 80 years and especially the last 50. Let's face it, how many collections can there be where Chris Ofili and Tracey Emin rub shoulders with a Victorian sentimental painter, the founders of modern British sculpture, Britain's greatest living figurative artist and the pioneers of Pop?

If the names of all the artists represented in the Collection were to be embroidered into a tent, the tent would cover a history - not the history but a history - of one of the greatest art schools in the world, and one of the longest lasting continuous experiments in art education ever to have happened. It began in 1837. The Collection does not represent any dogmas about art, except that in order for intentions to be realised, postgraduate students are expected to have the visual language, talent and staying-power to express them.

Professor Sir Christopher Frayling

Works from Royal College of Art

Edward Bawden working in his studio
Eric Ravilious 1930
Self Portrait (Principal 1920-35)
William Rothenstein 1930
Sunset over the Malverns
Paul Nash 1944
Cliffs and Waterfall, Carsaig
Edward Bawden 1950
The Death of Nelson (after Daniel Maclise RA)
John Minton 1952
Mural Studio at the RCA
John Bratby 1954
Earls Court Building Site
Frank Auerbach 1955
Preparation for Entry into Jerusalem
Peter Blake 1956
Portrait of Carel Weight
Robin Darwin 1957
Abstract Composition
Sandra Blow 1961
I'm in the Mood for Love
David Hockney 1961
Portrait of Sir Robin Darwin
Ruskin Spear 1961
Christ at Emmaus
Patrick Caulfield 1962
Country Lane
Carel Weight 1962
Four Square (Four Circles)
Barbara Hepworth 1966
The Witch
John Bellany 1968
Portrait of John Bratby, RA
Jean Cooke 1968
Pointed Torso
Henry Moore 1969
Study for the Human Body: Man turning on the light
Francis Bacon 1974
Power Cuts Imminent
Tim Mara 1975
Graham Crowley 1975
Flat Pack Rothman's
Stephen Farthing 1975
Mary Fedden 1982
Modus Operandi VII
Paul Huxley 1989
Tracy Emin 1989
Public Enemy
Chris Ofili 1992
Large Bronze Head
Eduardo Paolozzi 1994

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