During the War, the Royal Academy sent its treasures away to Dorset and worked out what it could carry on doing. The Summer Exhibition carried on each year, although some of the trappings surrounding it in terms of social events were abandoned. Numbers of those attending dipped during the early years of the War, but then increased notably during the latter years as public confidence returned. In addition, the RA put on a whole series of temporary exhibitions, in some cases responding to patriotic requests for exhibitions of the type they would not normally have considered. For the first half of the War the President was Sir Edwin Lutyens and when he died he was replaced by the notoriously reactionary, Sir Alfred Munnings.
The Government gave the RA various tasks of an official nature whenever they needed to address the British art world formally. In a sense this rather suited the RA’s vision of its own status. An example would be the request by the Government for the RA to comment on the appropriateness of interning artists who were of German nationality. There were a number of those in the UK at the time the War started.
All in all, the War was an unusual experience for the RA and afterwards it reverted to the type of organisation it had been before the War. Fortunately, Burlington House did not suffer extensive bomb damage in the way that the Tate did; most of the damage was to the glass in the roof lights.
The RA commissioned me to prepare an internal report on the life of the Academy during the War and I should be happy to discuss this in further detail with those interested if they get in touch.