News Exhibition: London: Sir Hugh Casson PRA: Making Friends

Sir Hugh Casson PRA, The construction of the Dome of Discovery, 1951 Festival of Britain, South Bank, London, 1951. Collection of Alan Irvine.

31 May—22 September 2013

In the Tennant Gallery and Council Room

Supported by the American Associates of the Royal Academy Trust and The Norman Foster Foundation

Sir Hugh Casson PRA (1910-1999) was probably the most popular British architect of his time. As a man of great wit and charm, with a light and fluent touch in design and drawing, Casson bridged the often acrimonious gap which divided traditional and modern artists and architects in the mid to late twentieth century. His drawings and watercolours in this exhibition illustrate how his training in the 1930s as an early modernist was put to highly pragmatic use when during the war years he was responsible for camouflaging airfields.

Thrust into the public eye  as Director of Architecture for the 1951 Festival of Britain, Casson established his reputation as an architect with an optimistic approach to design, a deft hand at organizing and a winning way with clients. For The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, Casson created the interiors of the Royal Yacht Britannia and suites of rooms in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, many still in use today, modern blends of comfort and practicality.


The art of watercolour seemed to come naturally to Hugh Casson and he became in great demand as an illustrator, a painter of topographical scenes which usually included well-known works of architecture, and of stage designs principally for Glynebourne and Royal Covent Garden opera houses. His drawings and watercolours were published in many books and articles.

Sir Hugh Casson’s career and popularity was capped by his Presidency of the Royal Academy of Arts from 1976 to 1984, turning around the fortunes of the institution by steering it into the modern world with such innovations as establishing the Friends of the Royal Academy which within a few months became the largest arts membership organisation in Europe.

Opening times
Tuesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am–6pm
Please note: The galleries will close early at 1pm on 5 June for an event


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