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About the RCA

Our History

Enthusiasm for the North Wales landscape brought a group of artists together in 1881. 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, these few artists from Manchester and Liverpool could safely carry their easels and paints to Wales.

By arrangement they met some 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. They exhibited only in North Wales, but had it in mind to extend their membership to the south as well.

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. The 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.

It 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, especially 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 now has a purpose built gallery of its own, a few yards from Plas Mawr. It has renewed contacts with galleries in the South. The well known Welsh artist, Sir Kyffin Williams, our late president, and other distinguished artists, both from the South and North of Wales, accepted invitations to become members.

No one knows what the true definition of Welsh Art is, but if it exists, it can be seen at the Royal Cambrian Academy.

Myfanwy Kitchin RCA 1917 - 2002

Since moving to its purpose-built gallery in 1992, the Royal Cambrian Academy has continued to flourish. The Academy now holds six major exhibitions per year and has an extensive and lively education programme. The President of the Royal Cambrian Academy is the artist Jeremy Yates. Vice President is printmaker Ann Lewis. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales is Patron and Honorary Artist Member of the Royal Cambrian Academy.

Plas Mawr, Conwy

Archive material

The RCA has exhibition catalogues dating back to its foundation in 1881 and would be happy to assist with any research or queries you might have about a particular artist or painting. Please contact the gallery for further details

More extensive archive material is held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, including details of paintings sold. National Library of Wales


RCA gallery now
Llanechermedd by Sir Kyffin Williams, inset
Royal Cambrian Academy, Crown Lane, Conwy. LL32 8AN. 01492 593413 ©2014 All rights reserved
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