Today – Good Friday – by sheer luck, I was made aware of a magical piece of furniture in London, even while sitting on it.

Attending Cathie Pilkington’s show Anatomy of a Doll in the Life Drawing Room of the Royal Academy, a tour guide told us a potted history of the RA.

The bench we were sitting on had been a fixture in the original Royal Academy site at Somerset House but had moved with the RA via the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square in 1837, and then to Burlington House on Piccadilly in 1868.

The tour guide namedropped two illustrious artists who had sat on the bench during their artistic apprenticeships: Blake and Turner. But that’s not all. Founding members included Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin West and Thomas Gainsborough. And graduates included John Flaxman, James Barry. and John Constable. A lot of gifted arses have sat there in time.

If this is correct – and the bench looks old enough – then it means there is a remarkable relic in town that not all Blakeans knew about. I’m christening it the Blake Bench, but it could just as easily be the Turner or Constable Bench.

Blake studied at the Royal Academy from 1779-1785 but was never elected a Royal Academician.

Photo: Julie Goldsmith

About Niall McDevitt

Niall McDevitt > poet > author of b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010) and Porterloo (International Times, 2012) > urban explorer > radical pedestrian who leads Shakespeare/Blake/Rimbaud /Yeats walks, among others.
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