Exhibition Stare Case

circa 1800

Thomas Rowlandson

This print depicts visitors to the Royal Academy falling headlong down the stairs of Somerset House, which is now the Courtauld Institute of Art. The architect who designed the building, Sir William Chambers, claimed it ‘a momument to the taste and elegancy of His Majesty’s reign’.

Extract from the British Museum:

Rowlandson suggests that the architect was more interested in the visual effect of his staircase than in its practical utility. He also plays with two commonplace observations about exhibition audiences: that some female spectators came to be seen as much as to see and that some male spectators were more interested in living flesh than in painted nudes.


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