Held every year since 1769, it is the world’s longest-running annual showcase of contemporary art. The new exhibition, The Great Spectacle, will run alongside this year’s main event at the academy in Piccadilly. The wartime prime minister submitted the painting of his home, Chartwell, in Kent, under the pseudonym David Winter in 1947, while Emin’s piece, There’s A Lot Of Money In Chairs, was displayed in 1994.
Mark Hallett, the curator, said that a number of people at the academy knew that David Winter wasn’t just any old member of the public, who can also submit work to the Summer Exhibition. He added: “We wanted to indicate the fact the Summer Exhibition is also a place for amateurs and Churchill is really important to the academy. It is a fascinating painting.”
Other big names among more than 80 works on show include John Constable, JMW Turner, Peter Blake, Zaha Hadid and David Hockney. The show starts in the 18th century with works by Thomas Gainsborough. “We decided right from the start what we wanted to do was a walk-through of the history of the exhibition so then what it was about was really choosing works that dramatised the different stages of the exhibition’s history,” Mr Hallett said.
There would also be several “blockbuster” paintings including David Wilkie’s 1822 painting of Chelsea Pensioners learning of the victory over Napoleon at Waterloo and Pietro Annigoni’s 1955 portrait of the Queen both of which drew huge crowds to the RA. Mr Hallett said: “Wilkie’s was the first real blockbuster painting in the exhibition’s history; they had to put a bar in front of it to keep the crowds away. But the key one is Annigoni’s portrait of the Queen that was exhibited in 1955.
“The surge of visitors to come and see that picture, which was only just after the coronation, has the highest attendance figures we ever had until just a few years ago. These blockbusters have got to have a subject matter that captures the broad public whether it’s the Queen or Waterloo, and have to be a painting that looks visually distinctive and is bold.”
The Great Spectacle: 250 Years of the Summer Exhibition, June 12 until August 19