A WALK around the Royal Academy's galleries hung with 1,712 works comprising the Summer Exhibition can only make one sympathise with the always maligned selection committee who had to look at more than 15,000 entries. One can understand how Constable and Stanley Spencer were once rejected.
The 1985 Summer Exhibition (daily until 25 August; admission £2.20) confirms the continuing move away from abstraction with many more figurative watercolours.
Michael Noakes' Cardinal Hume. hidden in a corner of Gallery IV, is small but captures the humility which overpowers the crimson. Ruth Heppel's Archbishop of Wales, two rooms away, is larger but also has a splash of red.
Looking more magnificent than either archbishops is the full length Mr Speaker Weatherill by Norman Blarney. The costume and props are timeless and although the picture will fit easily among the previous office holders it is very much a 20th-century portrait.
John Ward's Italian Royal Tour sketches were too late to he included but among his entries is a striking portrait of a Commonwealth statesman Ellis Clarke of Trinidad and Tobago who, with Mr Speaker, flanks the Central Hall entrance.
Ward's smaller work depicts three men probably more powerful than a Speaker or President — Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong and his predecessors appear with a backdrop of shirtsleeved activity.
Royal Academician William Bowyer once again has his large canvasses of Chiswick riverside but this year the weather seems to have been bad which is maybe why he was tempted upstream to paint the Thames view from Richmond Hill which George Barret Junior, J. H. Muntz, Peter de Wint and Turner all attempted. The only intrusion Bowyer has to contend with is the now superfluous red brick All Saints, Petersham which was rashly erected in 1907.
Recently deceased Rodney Burn is remembered with another preserved river scene — Syon House from Kew Gardens which the cultivated George III, who helped start the Summer Exhibitions, also painted 200 years ago.
So packed are the walls that they bring to mind Frith's famous Private View At The RA and the now enlarged architectural section comes as a relief. The models can be enjoyed in the knowledge that many of the plans will never be implemented. However Michael Hopkin's Basildon Town Square project must surely be welcomed by those who know that bleak parade ground.
The final room is given over to prints and provides another complete change as one is welcomed by Rhoda Dawson's splendid row of nuns who manage to look like figures in an early railway poster. The sisters are sadly unique but other works come in editions of 20 or more.
Mary Burn Murdoch, who seems to be the sole representative, of the Society of Catholic Artists, has collected several red dots for her Evening In Iona etching. Among the outstanding lithographs is Richard Sell's North Aisle, Durham Cathedral.
180 years ago the new art of "Water Color" found such little sympathy among the RA's Summer Exhibition Hanging Committee that the Royal Society of Painters In WaterColours had to be founded. Soon the Society had the idea of forming its own collection of members' work on the lines of the RA. Now 80 watercolours from this vast hoard is showing at the Bankside Gallery on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge (daily except Mondays until 7 July; admission f 1).
A funeral procession at Beauvais Cathedral came from Henry Edridge who became an ARA just before his death in 1821. His contemporary, the recently rediscovered Nicholas Pocock, heads the lists of exhibits. Samuel Palmer, born in the year of the first RWS show, exhibited at the RA at 14 before presenting his picture envoking the Shoreham period. Sonic artists, such as John Singer Sargent and his River Bed, gave a picture which became unrepresentative of their fame.
At the Hayward Gallery, further along the South Bank, there is an exhibition showing the lesser known side of painter Edgar Degas. his secret passion was black and white printmaking and as a young man he spent a year in a studio belonging to a pupil of Ingres whose only etching, the Portrait of Mgr Gabriel Cortois de Pressigny, is believed to have been influential.
In Degas: The Painter As Printmaker (daily until 7 July; admission £2,50) etchings, aquatints and lithographs are shown in their successive states. The effort and expense that has gone into this exhibition shows the Arts Council at its best unlike the baffling "journey throught contemporary art" downstairs in the Hayward Annual.