The academy was established by royal decree in 1744. About twenty years later, the enlightened monarch, Charles III purchased a former Baroque palace and commissioned architect Diego de Villanueva to convert it for academic use. Doubling as a museum and gallery, today it houses a fine art collection of paintings from the 15th to 20th century: Giovanni Bellini, Correggio, Rubens, Zurbarán, Murillo, Goya, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano... The academy is also the headquarters of the Madrid Academy of Art.
Francisco Goya was once one of the academy's directors, and, its alumni include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Antonio Lopez Garcia, Juan Luna, and Fernando Botero.