Royal College of Art Collection

Recording the heritage of the Royal College of Art.

When Robin Darwin arrived at the Royal College of Art in 1948 as its newly appointed Principal, he was dismayed to discover that the century-old institution had acquired almost no possessions at all to record its heritage. To try to address this, Darwin started to donate artworks of his own and persuaded staff, including Carel Weight and John Minton, to follow suit. In the 1950s, the College also began to collect examples of student work in the Painting school from the graduate shows, including early paintings by Jack Smith and Peter Blake.

Half a century later, the College art collection now stands at over 1,200 works, including paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture. The collection reflects important developments in 20th-century British and international art, from the Kitchen Sink school to the emergence of the YBAs, and with particular strength in its examples of British Pop Art in the 1960s. Works by outstanding alumni include paintings by David Hockney, Frank Auerbach, R B Kitaj, Frank Bowling, Tracey Emin, Chris Ofili, George Shaw and Chantal Joffe. Non-student work has usually been donated by staff and friends of the College, broadening the collection to include paintings by Lucian Freud and William Scott, among many others. 

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  • Neil Parkinson
    Archives & Collections Manager
    Royal College of Art
    Kensington Gore
    London SW7 2EU

  • +44 (0)20 7590 4234