Royal Society of Portrait Painters

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters
Established 1891
Type Arts Society
Legal status Registered Charity
  • Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5BD
Key people
HM The Queen (Patron)
Robin-Lee Hall PRP (President)
Simon Davis VPRP (Vice President)

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP) is an art society based at Carlton House Terrace, SW1, London.

The Society is a registered charity run by its members to promote, the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of portraiture through its annual exhibition, education and debate.

The Society is a member of the Federation of British Artists and a registered charity.


The Royal Society of Portrait Painters was founded in 1891 by 24 artists who were dissatisfied with the selection policies of the Royal Academy for its annual exhibition in London. They formed themselves, as the Society of Portrait Painters, into a new body to be concerned solely with portrait painting. The Society was formed of members elected on the basis of the quality of their work.

Centenary Catalogue Cover - The Royal Society of Portrait Painters

The first exhibition of the Society was held in 1891. The catalogue of that exhibition shows that its committee then consisted of Archibald Stuart-Wortley (Chairman), Hon. John Collier, Arthur Hacker, G. P. Jacomb-Hood, S.J. Solomon, James Jebusa Shannon and Hubert Vos. The other members listed were Percy Bigland, C. A. Furse, Glazebrook, John McLure Hamilton, Heywood Hardy, Hubert von Herkomer, Henry J. Hudson, Louise Jopling, T. B. Kennington, W. Llewellyn, W. M. Loudan, Arthur Melville, Anna Lea Merritt, F. M. Skipworth, Mrs Annie Swynnerton, W. R. Symonds, Mary Waller, Edwin A. Ward, Leslie Ward (better known as "Spy"), and T. Blake Wirgman.

Other early members included Sir John Everett Millais, George Frederick Watts, John Singer Sargent, Augustus John and James McNeill Whistler. Women were eligible for membership from the start, and Dame Laura Knight was one such member.

At the Coronation Exhibition of 1911, which marked its 20th anniversary, it was announced that King George V had conferred on the Society the status of a Royal Society, and it has been known as the Royal Society of Portrait Painters since then.

The Times said on 22 April 2006:

Of the country’s two major annual portrait exhibitions, the one at the National Portrait Gallery in June might be better known, but the one at the Royal Society is surely the more glittering, as it is to the society that many of the country’s powerful institutions go to commission portraits of their leaders.[1]


The Annual Exhibition

The Society holds an Annual Exhibition, which takes place every year at The Mall Galleries, The Mall, by Trafalgar Square, London.

The main annual portrait exhibition is formed of about 220 works and is in two parts: a cohort of work by our distinguished members and works by non-member artists who have successfully competed to be included in the show. The exhibition aims to include the best of a wide variety of styles in painted and drawn media.[2]

Prizes awarded by the Society include the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture, the Prince of Wales Award for Portrait Drawing, the Changing Faces Prize, the Burke's Peerage Foundation Prize and the de Laszlo Foundation Prize.[3]


The People's Portrait Collection

The People’s Portraits Collection owned by the Society was mounted in 2000 as a millennial exhibition. The idea was to represent ordinary people from all walks of life, and thereby offer a picture of the United Kingdom as it moved from the 20th century into the 21st. Each portrait is donated by a member.[4]

The Collection has been housed at Girton College (one of the 31 constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge) since 2002 as a long-term loan, and is open to the public every day.[5]



  • Alastair Adams PPRP
  • Jane Bond RP NEAC
  • Jason Bowyer RP PPNEAC
  • Paul Brason RP
  • Keith Breeden RP
  • Peter Brown RP NEAC PS ROI Hon. RBA
  • George Bruce PPRP
  • David Cobley RP NEAC RWA
  • Anthony Connolly RP
  • Saied Dai RP NEAC
  • Sam Dalby RP
  • Simon Davis VPRP RBSA (Vice President)
  • Frederick Deane RP
  • Andrew Festing PPRP MBE
  • Richard Foster RP
  • David Graham RP
  • Valeriy Gridnev RP PS ROI
  • Robin-Lee Hall PRP (President)
  • Geoffrey Hayzer RP
  • Sheldon Hutchinson RP
  • Andrew James RP (Hon. Treasurer)
  • Brendan Kelly RP
  • Peter Kuhfeld RP NEAC
  • Leonard McComb RA Hon. RP
  • June Mendoza AO OBE RP ROI Hon. SWA
  • Anthony Morris RP NEAC
  • Michael Noakes RP
  • Tom Phillips RA Hon. RP
  • Anastasia Pollard RP
  • David Poole PPRP ARCA
  • Mark Roscoe RP
  • Susan Ryder RP NEAC
  • Tai-Shan Schierenberg Hon. RP
  • Melissa Scott-Miller RP NEAC (Hon. Secretary)
  • Stephen Shankland RP
  • Jeff Stultiens RP
  • Benjamin Sullivan RP NEAC
  • Jason Sullivan RP
  • Michael Taylor RP
  • Daphne Todd OBE PPRP NEAC
  • Jason Walker RP
  • John Walton RP
  • Emma Wesley RP
  • Toby Wiggins RP (Hon. Archivist)
  • Antony Williams RP PS NEAC
  • John Wonnacott Hon. RP CBE
  • Neale Worley RP NEAC
  • Robbie Wraith RP


  1. The Times 22 April 2006, previewing the 2006 exhibition.
  2. "The Royal Society Of Portrait Painters". The Royal Society Of Portrait Painters. The RP. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  3. "The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Prizes & Sponsors". The Royal Society of Portrait Painters. The RP. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  4. "The People's Portrait Collection". The Royal Society of Portrait Painters. The RP.
  5. "Girton College". Retrieved 20 July 2016.
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