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Royal Academy of Arts

  • Art
  • Piccadilly
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Royal Academy of Arts ( John Bodkin)
    John Bodkin
  2. Royal Academy of Arts
  3. Royal Academy of Arts ( Jonathan Perugia / Time Out)
    Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
  4. Royal Academy of Arts (Jonathan Perugia / Time Out)
    Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
  5. Royal Academy of Arts (John Bodkin)
    John Bodkin
  6. Royal Academy of Arts (Jonathan Perugia / Time Out)
    Jonathan Perugia / Time Out

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

For 250 years, Britain’s first art school has been a hotbed of artistic talent. You name ’em, they were an Academician. But the RA’s also got serious pedigree when it comes to putting on big shows, like 2016’s totally incredible ‘Abstract Expressionism’ show. Now, it’s got a big old extension, including its first free permanent collection display – and it’s just as important as it’s ever been.

Written by
Time Out editors


Burlington House, Piccadilly
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Some exhibitions free, ticketed exhibitions vary
Opening hours:
Mon-Thu, Sat, Sun 10am-6pm; Fri 10am-10pm
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What’s on

Whistler’s Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan

  • 4 out of 5 stars

Devoting a whole show to a nineteenth-century model and muse is pretty niche, even by art history standards. But the reverse psychology of this RA exhibition is compelling, and by the end of it what emerges is not just a portrait of the artist, but of the strange morality and tastes of a whole age. James Abbott McNeill Whistler arrived in London from the States – via Paris – in the 1850s and took up with artists’ model Joanna Hiffernan in 1860. He was making prints around the river in the slummy East End but it was his paintings of Hiffernan that defined his early career in the capital. The most famous of these, ‘The White Girl’, later renamed ‘Symphony in White No 1: The White Girl’, shows Hiffernan, her famous russet hair uncoiled, in a long white dress, standing in front of a white curtain, holding a white flower. It’s both stagey and ghostly, and definitely intended to challenge the accepted painterly approach of the time – a large portrait of an unknown, non-society woman without any explanatory historical narrative. And that’s what makes this show, once you get into it, so interesting. Another painting from the same time shows Hiffernan in conversation with two men on the balcony of a Wapping pub. Her hair’s tied up, she’s hatless, she’s in a simple dress of dark green and black. She’s very much not there to be appraised and gazed upon. More importantly, she is shown as the societal equal of her companions. Hiffernan comes across as central to Whistler’s work and life,

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