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Royal Academy of Arts presents From Life

Exhibition preview

FROM December 11, 2017 to March 11, 2018, the Royal Academy of Arts is presenting From Life, a special exhibition project that will take place across two distinct spaces: the Sackler Wing of Galleries and the Tennant Gallery.

From Life will examine what making art from life has meant to artists throughout history and how the practice is evolving as technology opens up new ways of creating and visualising artwork.

Drawing from casts of Classical and Renaissance sculpture and life models was long considered essential training for any aspiring artist, and was once a staple of the RA Schools, Britain’s longest established fine art school.

Beginning with a display of historic paintings and works on paper drawn from the RA Collection, From Life will explore the practice of life drawing, from the origins of the Royal Academy in the 18th century to the present day, whilst also looking to the future.

Historic paintings by artists such as Johann Zoffany will be followed by works in a diverse range of media by contemporary artists, including Jeremy Deller’s Iggy Pop Life Class (2016), Cai Guo-Qiang’s film One Thousand Youngsters Drawing David (2010) and Jenny Saville’s Entry (2004).

From Life will also present work by Royal Academicians who continue to interrogate the practice of working from life, among them Antony Gormley, Chantal Joffe, Michael Landy and Gillian Wearing.

For the first time the Royal Academy will be working with artists exploring emerging technologies, which presents them with new ways to both observe and represent themselves and the world around them. Farshid Moussavi RA, Humphrey Ocean RA, Yinka Shonibare RA and Jonathan Yeo are currently experimenting with virtual reality technologies and creating new artwork for the exhibition using virtual reality platform HTC Vive and artistic software programmes, including Google’s Tilt Brush and MakeVR Pro.

From Life will reveal the creative process in making these new artworks, as well as opening up the exciting potential of future artistic applications of virtual and augmented reality. HTC Vive is supporting the development of these works and Google Arts and Culture is working with artist Jonathan Yeo to create the first physical free-standing sculpture in metal made by using Tilt Brush.

Tim Marlow, Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Arts said: “This is an experimental project that explores everything from artistic process to technological evolution and creative collaboration. In a sense, From Life embodies what an artist-run academy was, is and might become.”

The Royal Academy will be working with immersive content studio Factory 42, which has been commissioned by Sky Arts and Google Arts and Culture to create Virtual Reality experiences looking at individual artists’ practice.

Sky Arts has also commissioned Factory 42 to produce a documentary entitled Virtual Reality: Mystery of Creativity, which explores creating art in a virtual environment and how artists use these cutting-edge technologies to explore the limits of traditional artistic methods. Factory 42 will also create virtual experiences based on each artist’s creative process and their output.

There will also be a series of short films across the Royal Academy’s online platforms, as well as via the Sky VR and Google Arts & Culture apps.

250 free life drawing experiences for 250 years: To coincide with From Life and as part of the 250th anniversary celebrations in 2018, the Royal Academy will be offering free life drawing classes for 250 people of all abilities in the historic Life Room in the RA Schools. Each class will be for a particular group that has a special relationship with either the RA, drawing, or the human body, from members of the Royal Academy’s outreach programmes to nurses and architects. The guest tutors will not be revealed until the life drawing class begins. The project will be documented by online features and videos.

The RA is also inviting the public and Friends of the RA to participate through an open ballot to win 50 places at the following free classes, led by guest tutors who will be revealed on the day. Enter the ballot at

December 13, 2017 (10.30am – 1.30pm) – Exclusive to Friends of the RA
January 24, 2018 (10.30am – 1.30pm) – Open to all

From Life is organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The exhibition is curated by Adrian Locke, Royal Academy of Arts.

The exhibition is accompanied by the book Artists Working from Life, a collection of over 15 interviews with contemporary artists whose practice responds to the traditions of working from life, encompassing sculpture and conceptual art as well as figurative works on paper. The interviews are written by contributors including Caroline Bugler, Martin Gayford, Laura Gascoigne, Angela Kingston, Adrian Locke, Ben Luke, Sam Phillips and Michael Prodger. The book is introduced by an essay on the history of life drawing by Annette Wickham, the Royal Academy’s Curator of Works on Paper.

From Life Gallery

Image: Male torso, 19th century. Plaster cast. 140 × 67 × 60 cm. Photo Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Admission: £13.50 full price (£12 without Gift Aid donation); concessions available; children under 16 and Friends of the RA go free. To book, call 020 7300 8090 or visit

Times: 10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm); Late night opening: Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm).

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD

Matisse in the Studio continues at the Royal Academy of Arts until November 12, 2017.