On 5 August 1823 George IV issued a ‘Warrent’ for the Charter of Incorporation of the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts (RHA). The purpose of this new organisation was to cultivate the fine arts in Ireland. Those fine arts were considered to include painting, sculpture and architecture. Four architects had been included on a list of possible members of a proposed arts academy in 1820, and two architects, Henry Aaron Baker and Francis Johnston, were among the fourteen ‘trusty and well beloved subjects’ listed as the first members of the new Academy in the 1823 Charter.
Since its establishment architecture has remained central to the RHA’s activities. Architects have been included amongst the body of academicians. They have received training in the Academy School and have exhibited in its annual exhibitions. The RHA’s first Professor of Architecture, Henry Aaron Baker, was appointed as early as 1829. Twelve notable architects have succeeded to this post. Architects have served as Secretary of the RHA and as Treasurer, and six architects have also served as RHA President. These were Francis Johnston, Sir Thomas Deane, Sir Thomas Drew, Raymond McGrath, Arthur Gibney and Desmond McMahon.
This exhibition features portraits of the six Architectural Presidents, in the main from the collection of the RHA, alongside exemplars of their architectural output, in the main from the collection of the Irish Architectural Archive. Individually, each has made a substantial contribution to the practice of architecture in Ireland, and each has also contributed significantly to the history and development of the RHA.
In celebrating these Architectural Presidents, this exhibition seeks not just to highlight the impact of these six individuals but also the importance of architects and architecture more widely to the first 200 years of the RHA. In doing so, it also recognises the reciprocal contribution of the RHA to the field of architecture in Ireland.
The IAA is grateful to the RHA for its support and assistance in presenting this exhibition. The assistance of the RIAI is also acknowledged.
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