The Secret To A Good Life

New project by Cass Professor Bob and Roberta Smith explores story of women artists at the Royal Academy through the lens of his own family history.

Date: 04 September 2018

The Secret To A Good Life, a special project by Bob and Roberta Smith RA, Associate Professor in Fine Art at The Cass, opened at the Royal Academy today. The show explores the story of women artists and the Royal Academy – through the lens of Bob and Roberta Smith's family history. 

Bob and Roberta Smith RA’s mother, the artist Deirdre Borlase, regularly exhibited in the RA’s Summer Exhibition. She thought she was more likely to be selected if she submitted works without her first name, to avoid giving away her gender.

In this special project to mark the RA’s 250th anniversary, members of Borlase’s family explore her story, and some of the other – sometimes strained – relationships between women and the Royal Academy over its history. The display will include a selection of historic paintings by Deidre Borlase from the 1940-80s, as well as a portrait of her by her husband, Frederick Brill.

Three new sculptures include This is Deirdre Borlase ARCA, 2018, by Bob and Roberta Smith RA and sculptures of the Academy’s female founders, Mary Moser RA and Angelica Kauffman RA, created by Smith in collaboration with his wife, Jessica Voorsanger, and their daughter, Etta Voorsanger-Brill.

Bob and Roberta Smith’s sculpture, This is Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA, 2015, previously exhibited in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, will also be on display, along with painted text panels that he has created especially for this project.


Image: Bob and Roberta Smith RA, Secret to a Good Life: Get a Good Pencil, 2018. ( Detail), Signwriters enamel on found material. 449 x 300 cm approx.. Photography: John Bodkin / DawkinsColour.

sign saying 'the secret to a good life?  get a good pencil'

The Secret to a Good Life

The Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts

4 Sep — 3 Feb 2019