Royal Ulster Academy

Royal Ulster Academy of Arts

An important institution in the history of Irish art in the North, the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts (RUA) originated as the Belfast Art Society, which in 1930 was renamed the Ulster Academy of Arts - the Royal being added when the British monarch became its patron. The equivalent academic institution in Britain is the venerated Royal Academy of Arts London; and in Dublin, the Royal Hibernian Academy.

RUA Founder Members

Among its founding Academicians were the painters Mildred Anne Butler, William Conor, Hans Iten, Frank McKelvey and Charles Lamb. Other prominent artists who became members of the RUA include: Tom Carr, Colin Davidson, TP Flanagan, Gladys MacCabe, Cecil Maguire, Leo Whelan (HRUA), Maurice C. Wilks. The academy's first President was Sir John Lavery. The current President (2007-10) is Ireland's foremost wildlife artist Julian Friers.

The Royal Ulster Academy of Arts (RUA) continues to be the pre-eminent artists' organization in Northern Ireland. A large number of Ireland's most outstanding artists are exhibiting members of the Academy. (See also Visual Arts in Ulster).

Current Members of The Royal Ulster Academy of Arts

Sophie Aghajanian
James Allen
Margaret Arthur
Brian Ballard
Basil Blackshaw
Robert Lee Wade
John Breakey
Richard Croft
Colin Davidson
Rita Duffy
Jean Duncan
T P Flanagan
Julian Friers - President
Graham Gingles
Carol Graham
Helen Kerr
R.T. Killen
Sheila McClean
Elizabeth McEwen
James MacIntyre
Catherine McWillams
Joseph McWilliams
Simon McWilliams
Cecil Maquire
Jack Pakenham
Neil Shawcross
Mark Shields
Bob Sloan
Victor Sloan
Norman Smyth

Honorary Members of The Royal Ulster Academy of Arts

Deborah Brown
David Evans
Brian Ferran
Gladys Maccabe
Dennis Osborne
Harry Reid
James Scott
Desmond Turner

RUA President and Vice President

Artist Julian Friers RUA was elected President of the RUA in 2009 and Brian Ferran HRUA was made Vice President.

The RUA Council currently also includes:

Betty Brown
Ivor Coburn
Gary Devon
Rita Duffy
Denise Ferran
Graham Gingles
Ros Harvey
Ian Lindsay
John Sherlock

RUA Annual Art Show

The Royal Ulster Academy's Annual Exhibition is held at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. It constitutes the largest, open art exhibition of Irish painting and Irish sculpture in Northern Ireland and attracts submissions from hundreds of painters, sculptors from home and overseas.

128th Royal Ulster Academy Annual Exhibition (2009)

The 128th RUA Annual Exhibition took place from the 2 – 31 October 2009 and was held in the old Northern Bank on the corner of Waring St and North St, Belfast. Again there were hundreds of submissions from Ireland as well as France, Germany, Netherlands and the U.S.A. From these submissions, a portion were exhibited including work by RUA Academicians, Associate Academicians, invited artists and artists selected from open-submission. A total of sixteen awards were handed out on the opening night with prize funds ranging from £300 to £1500. Previous winners have included Sir William Orpen, Walter Osborne, Mainie Jellett, Melanie Le Brocquy, Dorothy Cross, Eamonn O Kane and James Hanley.


RUA Perpetual Gold Medal and Conor Café Prize (£800)
The RUA Perpetual Gold Medal is awarded for the best work by a Member of the Academic Body of the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts.
Awarded to: Simon McWilliams for The Arc

RUA Perpetual Silver Medal and the The Ulster Arts Club Prize (£500)
The RUA Perpetual Silver Medal is awarded for the most outstanding work by an artist who is not a member of the Academic Body of the RUA.
Won by: Janet Mullarney for Gardenman

RUA President's Prize (£300)
For the best work by a full-time student.
Awarded to: Cristina Bunello for 2009

Conor Prize and The Mooney Hotel Group Award (£800)
In memory of William Conor, this figure drawing or figure painting prize and bronze medal (awarded by the Academy) is awarded for a work in which the main focus of interest is a figure or figures.
Won by: PJ Lynch for Nude Study of Clown Johnny K

Killarney Art Gallery Prize (£1000)
For an outstanding fine art painting by a young artist (under 35 years).
Awarded to: Jonathan D'Alton for the Impenetrable Solitude of Now

Tom Caldwell Gallery Award for Drawing (£500)
For the best drawing.
Won by: Terry McAllister for Wood at Mostnica Gorge, Slovenia

Paul Henry Landscape Prize (£600)
For the best landscape painting.
Won by: Dermot Seymour

Ross's Watercolour Prize (£400)
For the best watercolour painting.
Awarded to: Helen Kerr for Waterslide

Robinson McIlwaine Architects “Original Vision” Award (£500)
Won by: Rita Duffy for Guantanamo, Amas, Amat

KPMG Emerging Artist Award (£1500)
Awarded to: Ian Cumberland for Yesterday was Dramatic, Today is Okay

Mullan Gallery Prize (£500)
For the best bronze sculpture.
Won by: Cheryl Brown for Tree Bird I

Ross's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers Watercolour Prize
Awarded to: Barbara Allen for The Angry Bream

RUA Lens-Based Prize
For a work using photography or other digital media.
Awarded to: Susie Rea for Pelagia

Irish News Prize
For a work depicting the theme of Ireland Today.
Won by: Ciaran Gallagher for Candahar Street

Emer Gallery Prize
For a work of portrait art.
Awarded to: Neil Shawcross for Portrait of Sean Flanagan

James Wray & Co Prize
For a first time exhibiter.
Won by: Ann Sherry for Narrow Water April 4th

• For facts about the art industry in Ireland, see: Homepage.
• For biographies of the top painters and sculptors, see: Famous Irish Artists.
• For a personal view of the top 20 contemporary fine art painters in Ireland, see: Best Irish Artists.
• For details of museums and contemporary arts venues, see: Irish Art Galleries.

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