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PAFA celebrates 250th anniversary of London's Royal Academy as only American arts organisation partner
Installation view.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts is recognizing the role Philadelphia’s Benjamin West played in the founding of the Royal Academy and PAFA.

PAFA is the only US arts institution to partner with the Royal Academy, museums, galleries, and art institutions throughout the United Kingdom to celebrate this momentous occasion. BNY Mellon is the anniversary partner of the Royal Academy of Arts as it celebrates its 250th year.

Christopher Le Brun, President, Royal Academy of Arts, said: “This is a great moment in our history. To see so many museums and galleries across the UK and beyond unite in this major programme to celebrate the RA’s 250th anniversary highlights the important contributions the Royal Academicians have made, and will continue to make, in cultural history. We are delighted to work with PAFA as our US partner as they present their celebratory exhibition on Benjamin West PRA, a founding member and twice President of the Royal Academy, who came from Pennsylvania.”

David R. Brigham, PAFA President and CEO, is using this historic opportunity to curate an exhibition exploring the role West played in the establishment of both the Royal Academy and PAFA.

Benjamin West was a major figure in the development of British and American art. He was one of the founders of the Royal Academy in London, its second and longest serving president, and court painter to George III. As the first Honorary Academician of PAFA, he lent his name and reputation to its establishment in 1805. West advised PAFA’s founders on the importance of drawing from casts of ancient Greek sculptures as well as from live models and anticipated that PAFA would help Philadelphia to become the “Athens of the western world in all that can give polish to the human mind.” Three generations of American painters traveled to London to study with West, including PAFA founders Charles Wilson Peale and his son Rembrandt Peale, and many of those artists created the iconic works of the New Republic.

Brigham says, “This exhibition helps us to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, which in many ways was the model for the establishment of PAFA in 1805. Benjamin West is the bridge between the two institutions and played an important role in advising PAFA’s founders, and from the court of George III contributed to the creation of American national identity through the artists who trained in his studio and returned to the newly established United States.”

The exhibition features more than sixty painting, drawings, prints, sculptures, manuscripts and books.

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