Enthusiasm for the North Wales landscape brought a group of artists together in 1881 and the rest as they say is history...
Ever since the late 18th century British Artists of international fame had painted these mountains and rivers, when political unrest abroad had made the Grand Tour more hazardous than the Welsh roads. After the railways came, artists from Manchester and Liverpool could safely carry their easels and paints to Wales.
By arrangement they met with like-minded Welsh artists at Llandudno Junction. The group thus formed called themselves the Cambrian Academy of Art. Although they had no permanent gallery, things started with a flourish. They circulated their prospectus to other artists in Wales and their numbers grew.
Official recognition came quickly when Queen Victoria commanded that the Academy be styled as 'Royal' in 1882. To further their reputation they made four eminent English artists honorary members and looking South they organised a huge exhibition in Cardiff, with a catalogue of over 200 pages.
In 1885 they were back at Llandudno Junction making fresh plans, local land-owner Lord Mostyn, offered them the lease of his neglected Elizabethan mansion, Plas Mawr, in Conwy, partly occupied then by a junior school. Their achievement here was to restore Plas Mawr, making it one of the outstanding examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain.
Plas Mawr gave style to the social side of the Academy's activities, but it did not make a good gallery, almost as though the ancient stones tied them to the past. In 1896 they extended their hanging space, building an annexe, the Victoria Gallery. Work from non-members was now included in their exhibitions and the Annual Summer Exhibition started here.
In 1934 Augustus John become their president until 1939. After the Second World War the Academy went from strength to strength, more recently with the enthusiasm of two forward looking artists from Cheshire, Jack Shore and Ray Fields, as presidents. In 1994, the Academy had its greatest opportunity for a new flourishing start. It broke its connection with Plas Mawr and moved to a purpose built gallery, a few yards from Plas Mawr, whilst renewing contacts with galleries in the South.
Sir Kyffin Williams the eminent Welsh artist and late president of the RCA encouraged other distinguished artists, both from the South and North of Wales to accept invitations to become members.
The Academy holds nine exhibitions per year and has an extensive and lively education programme. The Academy is honoured to have HRH Prince of Wales as Patron and Honorary Artist Member of the Royal Cambrian Academy.
Myfanwy Kitchin RCA 1917 - 2002
No one knows the true definition of Welsh Art, but if it exists, it can be seen at the Royal Cambrian Academy.
Roll of Honour
Presidents of the Royal Cambrian Academy from 1882 to the present day.
- Edwin Arthur Norbury 1882-1885
- Henry Clarence Whaite 1885-1912
- Sir Cuthbert Cartwright Grundy 1912-1933
- Augustus Edwin John 1934-1937 First Welsh President
- Richard George Hinchcliffe 1938-1942
- James Scringeour Mann 1942-1946 Maritime Artist
- Owen Bowen 1946-1954
- Henry Percy Huggill 1954-1957
- Samuel John Milton Brown 1958-1960 Maritime Artist
- E Grainger Smith 1960-1961
- Alfred Peter Burgess Sharrocks 1962-1962 Book Illustrator
- William McAllister Turner 1962-1967
- Alfred Peter Burgess Sharrocks 1967-1969
- Kyffin Williams 1969-1976
- Jack Shore 1977-1983
- Ray Fields 1983-1992
- Kyffin Williams 1992-2006
- Maurice Cockerill 2006-2010
- Ivor Davies 2010-2014
- Jeremy Yates 2014-2020
- Ann Lewis 2020-
The RCA has exhibition catalogues dating back to its foundation in 1881, many of which are available elsewhere on this website. The Academy would be happy to try and assist with any research or queries you might have about a particular artist or painting, please contact the gallery with your query.
More extensive archive material is held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, including details of paintings sold. National Library of Wales