Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Enterprise Awards 2014

Cultural Impact

An illustration of quaker women

Royal Society of Portrait Painters

Loughborough academic
Alastair Adams, Arts, English and Drama
External Partners
Alastair has worked with many organisations and individuals including the University of London, Cambridge University, Oxford University, Legal and General, the Metropolitan Police and the Supreme Court. The Royal Society of Portrait Painters enjoys on going partnerships with many individuals and institutions including the Federation of British Artists, The National Portrait Gallery, The Understanding British Portraits Network, Changing Faces, the deLaszlo Foundation, the Prince of Wales, the Ondaatje Foundation and the Bulldog Trust.

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters has included celebrated figures such as Augustus John, John Everett Millais and James McNeil Whistler. Today’s Members include artists such as Daphne Todd and Anthony Williams. Its current President – the youngest in the Society’s 122-year history – is Alastair Adams.

Alastair’s role as President informs his research and teaching in Loughborough’s School of the Arts, and his own practice – his most recent work includes the portrait of Tony Blair for the National Portrait Gallery.

Much has been achieved by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters to make art accessible to the public, and further the careers of emerging artists, since Alastair’s tenure. This has included opening the doors to many young artists at the Society’s annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries, submissions for the exhibition running to around 2500 works, with close to 100 exhibited alongside recent portraits by Members. A vibrant outreach programme runs in parallel featuring talks, debates, demonstrations and guided tours to give a deeper insight into portraiture in the context of the wider arts and cultural fabric of the nation.

The Society has held many collaborative debates around portraiture with many practitioners and organisations and in collaboration with Changing Faces. Areas of focus have included facial disfigurement (Face to Face), painted representations of children (Representations of Childhood), photography and drawing (The Lens and the Eye), the relationship between artist and subject (Face Facts) and notions of beauty in representational painting (Finding Beauty). These debates are published online, opening them to wider audience scrutiny by artists, educators, researchers and the public.

Funding for new competitions has attracted a wealth of young artists which has in turn attracted a younger audience. The Society has also begun to exhibit around the country. For example, the 2011 exhibition in Catmose College gallery in Oakham supported art in the National Curriculum and the 2014 ‘Family Familiar’ exhibition in Winchester Gallery reveals portraits of the people that have supported and inspired the featured artists.

The Society has amassed a vast archive since it was founded in 1891 and once Alastair’s tenure is complete, he aims to develop a research project to document this invaluable asset to enable people to trace and reference paintings and the history of commissioned portraiture.


  • Alastair Adams is made the youngest-ever President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2008.

  • New web site is launched that fully reflects the diversity of the societies engagement with its charitable aims and public benefit.

  • Online submission is launched in 2012, to enable larger numbers of artists from further afield to submit their work.

  • Collaborative debates address a range of social issues, drawing a larger audience of high profile artists, organisations and individuals.

  • 1050 emerging artists submit work for the ‘Self’ exhibition and prize in 2013, with a first prize of £20,000.

  • Prize funding secured for Annual Open Exhibition attracts and annual submission in the region of 1400 entries from emerging artists.

  • In 2014 the RP launches a quarterly schedule of year round workshops, portfolio sessions and professional development seminars

Frame from video Play video Film of 2013 finalists in this category


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