The late 1760s was a bad time for the Society of Artists. Riven by factions, it was failing. A dissident group, including most of the prominent artists broke away and persuaded the king to found a Royal Academy. In a vain attempt to forestall this, the Society of Artists made Kirby its President, presumably on account of his good relationship with George III. George did not stand with Kirby, however, and he was forced to deal with the defections of many of his friends to the new academy. Among those who left the Society was Kirby’s friend, Johan Zoffany, who submitted the following letter of resignation, in one epic sentence.
Sensible of the Regard shewn me by you, and the directors & fellows of the Incorporated Society of Artists, by their Unanimity in re-electing me a director of the Society for the present year, as well as in their Choice of me into the Committee for the Governance of the Academy: it is with Great regret that I am Constrain’d to Acquanit you, that my business requires me, very soon, to leave England for some time, & consequently must deprive me of all Opportunities of attending on the Affairs of the Society, & also being Sensible, that there are many very ingenious Gentlemen Amongst us who are equally desirous to give all possible attention for the promoting the welfare of so Useful an institution, & that my Continuance in the direction & in the Committee, during my Absence, will be attended with inconvenience to the Body by keeping such other Gentlemen from giving the necessary Assistance, I must beg leave of You & the Society to resign my Appointments. Assuring that I am with the Greatest Respect for you & the Society in General,
Your most hble servant
November 22nd, 1769.
The letter has none of Zoffany’s characteristic linguistic eccentricities and certainly was not written by him, although he did sign it (Webster, 248). Whatever Zoffany’s plans were in November 1769, he did not leave the country for several years, which exposed him to a certain amount of criticism, especially when the King nominated him for the Royal Academy on December 11.
Webster, M. (2011). Johan Zoffany. New Haven: Yale University Press.