The subject of the 1956 Christmas card was chosed from the records of Benjamin Franklin's association with the Society in view of the 200th anniversary on September 1st 1956 of his election to membership and of the 250th anniversary of his birth, which was celebrated in January 11th 1956. The designer, Miss Anna Zinkeisen, has reconstructed a meeting held on February 3rd 1759, of the committee responsible for fine art competitions, at this meeting selected candidates were interviewed for confirmation of their awards. The minutes of the meeting give a list of those who were present, and from contemporary portraits Miss Zinkeisen has been able to select those shown: Judges: Benjamin Franklin (seated), William Chambers (standing behind chair), Edward Hooper and James 'Athenian' Stuart (looking at figure drawn by Richard Cosway). Candidates: William Peters (being examined by Benjamin Franklin), Richard Cosway and Henry Pingo (seated at end of room). 25,000 copies sold.
Painted by Anna Zinkeisen, T R Crampton is third from left, wearing an Inverness cape. Awarded the Society's gold medal in 1846 for his invention of the narrow-gauge locomotive engine. Working from engravings and records preserved at the Science Museum and in the archives, the artist has reproduced not only the design but also the original colouring of the engine. 34,000 copies sold.
Painted by Anna Zinkeisen. In 1758 the Society of Arts offered prizes for what were known as 'ship's blocks', i.e. scale models of ships, in order to 'ascertain by experiments the principles on which a good vessel is founded'. Water resistance and resistance to rolling were two of the main qualities it was desired to test. It was not until 1761 that sufficient models had been submitted for the prizes but that year six entries, 4 32-gun frigates and 2 74-gun ships, were tried at Peerless Pool, near Old Street, in the City of London. 26,500 copies sold.
On 18th December 1850, Charles Dickens, Vice President, in the Chair, Mr W Bridges Adams read his paper on Railway Influence and Extension. The Adelphi had been an area of mystery for Charles Dickens in his unhappy childhood and David Copperfield, in the same predicament, would wander about the district, finding excitement in the strange inhabitants of the riverside. In the foreground of the painting Dickens is surrounded by his characters and in the background he can be seen arriving at the Society. 31,000 copies sold.
William Shipley is shown selling winter fuel to the poor at summer prices in a street called the Drapery, in the centre of the town, where he had lodgings and a studio for his professional work as an artist and drawing master from 1747 until 1753. He is being assisted in his calculations by some of the richer Northampton residents who had, after some years' canvass, agreed to subscribe to his fund. The success of his scheme to defeat the Northampton fuel profiteers made Shipley persevere with his plan to raise a national fund for rewarding useful inventions and artistic excellence and in 1753 he came to London with the express purpose of founding a Society of Arts. 28,200 copies sold.
In 1793, the Society's Gold Medal was adjudged to Captain William Bligh RN, Master of HMS Providence, for his success, the previous year, 'in conveying from the Islands in the South Sea, to...the Islands in the West Indies subject to the Crown of Great Britain, the Breadfruit Tree, in a growing state'. The picture depicts the scene of Bligh's arrival in the West Indies, where in fact he delivered a great variety of plants, in addition to breadfruit, at St Vincent's and Jamaica. Bligh is the officer in the central foreground, carrying a telescope. Bligh had first visited the South Seas as Captain Cook's sailing-master in the Resolution in 1772-74 and it was during this expedition that the breadfruit trees was discovered at Otaheite. His first attempt to transplant it, whilst Master of the Bounty in 1788-89, ended in the notorious mutiny. a hydrographer and botanist of distinction as well as a thoroughly competent seaman, he was in later life elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. After his unhappy experiences as Governor of New South Wales in 1808-1810, he returned to England, was promoted to Flag rank and died in December 1817. 39,000 copies sold.
In 1872 the Society offered prizes for improvements in the design of London cabs. Many of the leading cab proprietors and builders of the day put forward their vehicles. These were submitted to extensive testing, including a journey in procession from Kensington to the City and back, by a special committee of the Society, which suggested detailed practical improvements to six of them. Eventually four of the improved cabs were awarded prizes of £30 each. The picture shows the scene in the grounds of Malborough House on 1st November 1872, when the Prince of Wales, President of the Society, inspected the winning cabs. The Journal reports that His Royal Highness 'expressed himself pleased with the vehicles' and 'gave an order for one for use at Sandringham'. The Prince is depicted in the left foreground with members of the Society's Council and on the extreme right is seen the Princess of Wales with her children. 49,500 copies sold.
The Society signed the building agreement with Robert and James Adam on 21st March 1772, and the foundation stone of the House was laid (at its west end) exactly a week later. The work was finished 'most justly and faithfully' to the specifications in April 1774 and the Society took occupation during the following June. The building with pilatered facade which close the view at the end of John Street still survives virtually unchanged. Adelphi Terrace (on the extreme right of the picture) was demolished in 1936. In the group appearing in the left foreground Robert Adam is displaying his design for the front elevation of the House to Members of the Society, whilst his brother James, also carrying plans, points toward the site. 56,700 copies sold.
The Society signed the building agreement with Robert and James Adam on 21st March 1772, and the foundation stone of the House was laid (at its west end) exactly a week later. The work was finished 'most justly and faithfully' to the specifications in April 1774 and the Society took occupation during the following June. The building with pilatered facade which close the view at the end of John Street still survives virtually unchanged. Adelphi Terrace (on the extreme right of the picture) was demolished in 1936. In the group appearing in the left foreground Robert Adam is diplaying his design for the front elevation of the House to Members of the Society, whilst his brother James, also carrying plans, points toward the site. 56,700 copies sold.
Part of the 1999 collection for sale.Designed by Trickett and Webb Ltd, photography by Andrea Jones
Image used to illustrate text from lecture entitled 'Populism versus elitism in the arts' by John Tusa 13/12/1999