"During the 18th and 19th centuries, young members of the British upper classes extended their education with the Grand Tour of continental Europe. There they were introduced to a sophisticated level of artistic achievement that influenced their tastes as adult art patrons. To ensure such high standards in the visual arts, the Royal Academy opened in London in 1769; until the 1800s virtually every major artist in Britain was elected a member or, at least, submitted work for its annual exhibitions."
This is a link to the full article with additional links to tours of collections at the bottom.
Source: Copyright © 2013 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC