Victoria King is currently writing a book on the academic training of visual artists in England from the 1700s, which finally evolved to become known as The English School. In tandem with this the spread of renaissance ideas and academic techniques is also being researched, which spread from Italy to France, to the low Countries and eventually to England. The initial art training of artists in England first arose from the anatomy classes offered by physicians some of which over time became prestigious academies, for example The Royal Academy of Arts. 

Sir Hans Sloan (1660-1753) was a physician and naturalist, whose collection was bequeathed to the nation forming The British Museum, and who actively encouraged artists visit to draw directly from his collection.

Also Dr William Hunter (anatomist 1718-1783)) established an Anatomy School and Museum, which become The National Academy of Anatomy 1766.  Dr Hunter was Professor of Anatomy and also acted as a judge at The Royal Academy of Arts London, and was very important in profiling Leonardo’s drawings in England. 

William Shipley (1715-1803) a drawing master, social reformer and inventor, founded one of the very first drawing schools which was based in The Strand, later becoming The Royal Society of Arts established in 1754. Amongst his drawing student’s included painters William Hodges RA, Francis Wheatley RA, Richard Crosway RA, and William Pars ARA.

Many renaissance master artists also visited England at this time, to complete commissions for various patrons and stately homes. Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) completed a commission for Charles 1 to decorate the roof of the new Banqueting House Whitehall, and Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639) worked at the court of Charles 1 competing the ceilings in York House the Strand, and the Queen’s House in Greenwich. 

Concurrently English artists made visits to Italy, specifically to learn from the methods and techniques which Italian artists were incorporating in their work. Just a few examples are Sir Joshua Reynolds and William Turner ……