2019 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy

Art exhibitions can be notoriously hit and miss, but one show that never fails to deliver for me is the annual Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. This annual open-submission art exhibition takes place between June and August every year and is chock full of every kind of art you can possibly imagine. The diversity of the work makes it very less stuffy than your average show and nowhere near as pretentious. The RA Summer Exhibition is a great source of artistic inspiration for the year, so if you’ve never been before then I highly recommend it 🙂

Although the 2019 show is now finished, I’ve pulled together some of my highlights from the exhibition below, so anyone who didn’t visit can live vicariously through me (and judge my taste in art haha). And if you’re new to the Ragged Life Blog then you can see my highlights from the 2018 Show here and the 2017 Show here. See my highlights from the 2019 Summer Exhibition below..


The first room you walk into at the Summer Exhibition is the Wohl Central Hall, which always sets the tone for the rest of the show. This year, the gallery was animal themed with everything from a tiger gilded in Tunnocks teacake wrappers to Banksy’s “Keep Ou”. Who doesn’t love a good animal artwork? You can browse more artworks from the room here.

2019 Summer Exhibition entry room

Not my usual taste, but the sheep below left really took my fancy, and as usual I was drawn to Bill Jacklin’s moody seascape work (below right). Bill is one of the RA fellows whose work was included in this year’s show.


Gallery III is always the largest room in the exhibition and is normally one of my favourite spaces. The scale of the room means it can take a exceptional number of artworks, which is a true feast for the eyes. I love a bold colour palette, so Calum McClure’s “Fissure in Blue” (below) really captured my imagination. At £14,250, it was a little out of my price range though. Plus you’d need a pretty large wall to pull it off!

Curating a show like the RA Summer Exhibition must be so much fun because it breaks down conventional ways of displaying art. Just look at how many artworks are crammed into one space!

A wall full of art at the Summer Exhibition in London

One of the largest paintings in the show was “Hey Wayne on the Meath Estate” (below right) by David Hepher. It wasn’t truly to my taste, but really packed a punch due to the sheer scale of the piece.

Anyone know where the below painting is? Well, I recognised it instantly at the exhibition, as it’s just around the corner from my flat in Wapping. That’s the entrance to Wilton’s Music Hall – the oldest music hall in London 🙂 Artwork by Lucinda Rogers.

Wiltons Music Hall Entrance artwork

Every year, I feature some John Wragg artworks (below centre) in my Summer Exhibition write up and this year is no different. I love his bold backgrounds and vivid portraits. Very much my style! What do you think though?

John Wragg artworks at the 2019 Summer Exhibition


Watch this space because I’ve taken inspiration from the John Maine’s “Ascension” artwork (bottom centre) for a rag rug project I’ll be making in the coming months. Geometric designs work beautifully in rag rug. Hint, it’s not a rug or cushion… ooh!

I hope you can read these properly below, but John Smith’s “Crackers” made me chuckle. Spot the odd one out “Q: Who was elected 45th President of the USA. A: Donald Trump”.

John Smith Crackers artwork at the Summer Exhibition 2019 at the Royal Academy of Arts


Gallery I was relatively minimalist compared to some of the other rooms in the exhibition, but I did enjoy Alison Turner’s “Let them eat cake!” artwork, which was very tongue in cheek and “Glowstick 12” by David Batchelor. This gallery was themed around identity, immigration, demilitarised zones, contested borders, protest, ecological threat, landscape, installation and land art, so was pretty heavy in its subject matter.

Alison Turner's "Let them eat cake!" artwork
"Glowstick 12" by David Batchelor


Every year, one room at the Summer Exhibition is dedicated to architecture. This year, this room included BottleHouse by WSP design. BottleHouse is a prototype for cheap, temporary shelter made out of plastic bottles, which can be assembled and temporarily used in disaster zones or refugee camps. It was an interesting concept that I’d already seen at Ted Talks earlier in the year.

BottleHouse at the RA


In Gallery V, I found the two artworks below very amusing for some reason (you can’t account for taste!) The artwork on the left is called “Eyetest” by Sir Michael Craig-Martin and on the right is “Hunting the Noumenon” by Charles Avery.

Hunting the Noumenon
White wall covered in art at the Summer Exhibition 2019
Wall of art

Below left is apparently Van Gogh. A painting of him, not by him 🙂

Van Gogh painting at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2019

I’m still undecided whether I like “Highland Pathway” (below) by Adrian Wiszniewski. What do you think?

Highland Pathway by Adrian Wiszniewski.


One of my favourite pieces from Gallery VII is Stephen Farthing’s “The Miracle of Flight”, which would be excellent inspiration for a rag rug.

Stephen Farthing's "The Miracle of Flight"
Striped artwork

I also very much enjoyed Jock McFadyen’s “Somewhere in Normandy”. I pick out at least one piece by Jock every year as I very much enjoy his style of painting – to me, they feel very serene.

Jock McFadyen "Somewhere in Normandy"

I also enjoyed “The Charm of England” by Laura Beaumont, which was carved out of an old book and “Writers Block” (below right) by Anthonine Arts-Zetteler.

I really liked the colours in this artwork below by Isabel Rock “Lucky Sailor” even if I wasn’t so sure about the subject matter.

In Gallery VII, Su Blackwell’s “Cutters and Smugglers” piece (below) was easy to miss, but the skill involved in creating such intricate, yet small houses was just wonderful.

Maybe it’s because I love a craggy coastline, but I particularly liked “North Berwick Old Pier” by Simon Burder (below).


One of my favourite aspects of the Summer Exhibition is the curators’ playfulness with colour. Traditionally, most galleries have white walls to showcase artworks, but rooms in the Royal Academy could be any colour. Gallery VIII, for example, had a bright red wall, which really made the artworks pop. I particularly loved Leonardo Ulian’s “Technological Mandala” (below centre), which stood out beautifully against the red.

Leonardo Ulian's "Technological Mandala"
Leonardo Ulian's "Technological Mandala" at the 2019 Summer Exhibition

Another favourite was Jason Thompson’s “Armoury” (below), which is enamel paint and varnish on wood.

Jason Thompson's "Armoury"

And, as every year, I’m drawn to Roberta and Bob Smith’s writing paintings like “My Son Changed My Art” below. I like artworks with a bit of playfulness to them.

What do you think of Leigh Clarke’s “Burlington Bertie” bingo card artwork, also in Gallery VIII. Now if that isn’t fun then I don’t know what is! I also really liked the colourful abstract piece on the right of it. Rag rug inspiration anyone?

Leigh Clarke's "Burlington Bertie" bingo card artwork

The below left artwork is called “Painting Language – 1 to 60 top Google Searches 2018”. It was pretty fascinating to look at up close. The frame photo below right has been submitted to the Summer Exhibition for the past four years, so you can see from the red spots how many were sold each year.

Each year, I pick out a piece by Jennifer Durrant RA like below….

Jennifer Durrant Artwork at the Royal Academy Fellow

Stella Davis’ artwork below is a visual chemotherapy diary “Sore with a bare head”.

Stella Davis' artwork a visual chemotherapy diary "Sore with a bare head".


Gallery IX was curated by Hughie O’Donoghue as an exploration of passions and how to contain them. I’m not sure whether I quite understand what he was trying to get at, but the overall effect was quite pleasant. Here are a few pieces from the gallery.

Gallery IX was curated by Hughie O’Donoghue
Christian from Ragged Life

I’m not sure I quite got Tony Bevan’s “Self Portrait” (below right), but I did like the colours in it. Same goes for Hughie O’Donoghue’s “The Full Heat of the Sun” (below left). The person in the painting looks a little sinister for my taste.


The lecture room was one of my favourites. I really enjoyed Stephen Chambers’ Fashion house series. Look carefully enough and you’ll see which is which.

Lecture Room at the 2019 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy in London
Birds artwork


The 2019 Summer Exhibition had a number of sculptures across the rooms and although I’m never the biggest fan of sculpture (although I do love Henry Moore), here are a few I picked out…

Sculpture at the 2019 Summer Exhibition

There was something immensely pleasing about Nigel Hall’s “Quartet” sculpture below…

Nigel Hall's "Quartet"


And because we all need a laugh from time to time, here are some of my “is that art?” highlights from the show… Rod Melvin British Artists series (below). Why oh why are the textiles at the show always so questionable?!?

“Tattooed Babies” by Sian Toogood… Hmmm….

"Tattooed Babies" by Sian Toogood

And God only knows what this is supposed to be…

Strange art at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2019


I could while away hours and possibly days looking around the entirety of the exhibition. Even though I went twice, I’m sure I missed plenty. I hope you enjoyed my little summary and do let me know which artworks you liked best by commenting below.

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As always, happy rag rugging!

Elspeth x

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[…] the past five years, I’ve religiously visited the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London every year. It’s the largest open submission art exhibition in the world (anyone […]


[…] always on the look out for design inspiration and one of my favourite places is the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It’s there that I came across John Maine‘s […]

Gina Ferrari
4 years ago

I’ve been really disappointed by my last couple of visits to the summer exhibition mostly for the reasons you love it… too many artworks all crammed too close together! I find it a bit overwhelming and end up not looking properly at anything. But your blogpost has been great for highlighting some of the stars of the show. I found it far more relaxing to read your post than visit the show!

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