No. 11 Lobby

As part of Open House London, discover the historic home of the British Academy, the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences.

No. 11 Lobby and staircase at the British Academy

The entrance to No. 11 Carlton House Terrace reflects a different style to No. 10. The interiors of No. 11 were originally worked on by John Nash’s pupil, James Pennethorne, who also did some minor work in No. 10.

In contrast to No. 10, the occupants of No. 11 have been slightly more varied. The first resident was Frederick John, 5th Baron Monson, followed by William Crockford, proprietor of the celebrated gambling hall and gentleman’s club, Crockford’s.

From 1856 to 1875, No. 11 was the home of William Gladstone, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom four times during the period 1868–1894. After Gladstone’s resignation as leader of the Liberal Party in 1875, the Guinness family took over the lease, staying on until the 1920s. At that point the Union Club took up the lease of both No. 10 and 11 until the 1950s. Sections of the Commonwealth Secretariat then occupied No. 10 and much of No. 11, until the British Academy took over occupation in 1998. The Foreign Press Association was located in part of No. 11 until the British Academy came to occupy both buildings in 2009.

Art highlights

Stuart Pearson Wright, Six Academy Presidents (2002)
Stuart Pearson Wright, Six Academy Presidents (2002)

Six Academy Presidents

by Stuart Pearson Wright, oil on linen, 2002

The commissioning of this painting coincided with the Academy’s centenary in 2002, and depicts the six Presidents of the Academy who were then living.

Left to right, the painting shows:

Lord Quirk (President 1985–1989), who was Quain Professor of English Language and Literature, University College London where he was also Director of the Survey of English Usage. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. He was the author of A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language.

Sir Anthony Kenny (President 1989–1993), who was Master of Balliol College, Oxford, and Warden of Rhodes House. He is an historian of philosophy. He is the author of Action, Emotion and Will and editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of Western Philosophy.

Sir Tony Wrigley (President 1997–2001), who was one of the founders of the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure. He held academic appointments in Cambridge, LSE and Oxford. He was Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He is a co-author of The Population History of England (1981).

Sir Keith Thomas (President 1993–1997), who was Reader in Modern History and Professor (1986) at Oxford, where he was President of Corpus Christi College and is a Fellow of All Souls College. Among many works, he is author of Religion and the Decline of Magic and Man and the Natural World.

Rev’d Professor Owen Chadwick OM KBE (President 1981–1985), who was Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, and Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and Chancellor of the University of East Anglia. He was author of The Victorian Church and A History of Christianity.

Sir Kenneth Dover (President 1978–1981), who was Chancellor of the University of St Andrews where he was Professor of Greek. He was President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He edited Greek texts, notably Aristophanes, wrote commentaries on Thucydides, and Greek Homosexuality.

Lord Runciman, President-Elect at the time of the painting, is just visible in a photograph on the table.

The painting won the NPG/BP Portrait Award in 2001. Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said of the BP Portrait Award: "Three outstanding and ambitious works have won prizes and we are particularly pleased that this year's winner, most unusually, is a commissioned portrait."

Stuart Pearson Wright is a multi-prize winning painter, best known for his portraits of leading figures in the arts and literature. His work is influenced by the Flemish Old Masters. Of the chicken he has said, "As soon as you put chickens in an unusual context they become macabre. The skin of a plucked chicken reminds me of the skin of a human being, particularly an old human being, so that the presence of a chicken for me becomes a memento mori."

John Goto, Nine Female Vice-Presidents (2002)
John Goto, Nine Female Vice-Presidents (2002)

Nine Female Vice-Presidents

by John Goto, inkjet pigment print, 2002

This photographic montage was commissioned to mark the Academy’s centenary and to celebrate the female contribution to 20th-century scholarship. Nine female Vice-Presidents, at the time, four living, five deceased, are depicted in the old British Museum Reading Room. The picture complements the portrait of the Six Presidents by Stuart Pearson-Wright. At the time of the commission there had never been a female President of the Academy.

The left-hand panel shows, from top to bottom:

Dame Helen Gardner (Vice-President 1961–1962), who was Reader in Renaissance English Literature and Merton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. Her books include works on John Donne and T.S. Eliot.

Dame Lucy Sutherland (Vice-President 1965–1966), who was Fellow and Tutor at Somerville College and Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She is well known for her work on politics and finance in the 18th century.

Dame Kathleen Kenyon (Vice-President 1964–1965) who was Lecturer in Palestinian Archaeology of the University of London Institute of Archaeology, director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, and Principal, St Hugh’s College, Oxford.

Professor Kathleen Tillotson (Vice-President 1968–1969), who was Hildred Carlile Professor of English, Bedford College, London. She is best known for her works on the Victorian novel, twice winning the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize.

The right-hand panel shows, from left to right:

Professor Margaret Boden (Vice-President 1989–1991), who was Professor of Philosophy and Psychology and Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex. She published widely on artificial intelligence and creativity.

Dame Gillian Beer (Vice-President 1989–1991), who was Fellow of Girton College, President of Clare Hall, and King Edward VII Professor of English Literature, University of Cambridge. Her books include studies of Darwin, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf.

Dame Janet Nelson (Vice-President 1989–1991), who was Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London. She has published widely on early medieval Europe.

Professor Karen Spärck Jones (Vice-President 2000–2002), who was Professor of Computers and Information at the University of Cambridge. She was a pioneer in natural language processing and information retrieval.

Professor Margaret McGowan (Vice-President 1996–1998) who was Professor of French and Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Sussex. She publishes on the French Renaissance.

Goto trained as a painter as well as a photographer and has used computers in his work since the 1990s. Of the portrait of the Vice-Presidents he said, "The challenge and intrigue of this commission was to picture together the five living Vice-Presidents with their four deceased predecessors... I wanted to think in this image about the dialogue between present and past generations of academics and the consistency of endeavour which binds them together."

Victoria Russell, Onora Sylvia O’Neill, Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve (2002)
Victoria Russell, Onora Sylvia O’Neill, Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve (2002)

Onora Sylvia O’Neill, Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve

by Victoria Russell, oil on canvas, 2002

Onora O'Neill FBA (b. 1941) is a philosopher whose work has focused on Kantian ethics, and the importance of trust, the subject of her BBC Reith lectures in 2002. She was Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge 1992-2006. She was made a life peer in 1999 and elected FRS in 2007 in recognition of her work on Bioethics.

She was elected to the Fellowship in 1993 and became the first female President of the Academy (2005-2009).

Victoria Russell has become a successful portrait painter since graduating from the Royal Academy Schools in 1997. Among her other well-known sitters are Fiona Shaw and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

This portrait is on loan to the Academy from the National Portrait Gallery.

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