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Sir Charles Lock Eastlake

Arts administrator

Eastlake also became involved in arts administration. In 1841 he was appointed Secretary to the Fine Arts Commission of which Prince Albert was President. The principal purpose of this body (which existed until 1870) was to find artists to decorate the new Houses of Parliament, although its broader aim was to encourage a new school of English history painting.

It was decided that the murals should be painted using the fresco technique and Eastlake wrote several important papers on the history of that technique for the commission – some of which were later re-published in 'Contributions to the Literature of the Fine Arts' (1848; a second volume of which was published posthumously, in 1870). Unfortunately the Westminster murals project was blighted by the artists’ lack of experience in painting in fresco, which resulted in many failed efforts.

At the Royal Academy

In 1850 Eastlake was elected President of the Royal Academy, a post to which he was annually re-elected until his death. He did much to open up the academy, notably by admitting engravers to the rank of full academicians; by allowing female students to study there; and by encouraging foreign artists to exhibit paintings in the Summer Exhibition. Furthermore, journalists were allowed to attend the annual dinner for the first time in 1851.

Next: Eastlake at the Gallery