After the admission of members belonging to the local bourgeoisie the association, initially founded for purely artistic reasons by artists, changed and became of social importance in the beginning of the 19th century. Accordingly the association renamed itself “Maetschappij ter Ondersteuning van de Schoone Kunsten” (Society in Behalf of the Fine Arts). This new impetus came from B.P. Ommeganck and Willem Jacob Herreyns, of which the latter founded the Academy of Arts in Malines in 1772.
The official articles of 1816, in which the bourgeoisie and artists made a social pact, defined the association’s actions throughout the entire 19th century. In 1817 the association was allowed to add the title ‘Royal’ to its name because of its firmness in retrieving the art treasures stolen from Flanders by Napoleon. These were taken out of the Louvre with the help of Prussian soldiers. The retrieved works of art were brought together in a newly founded museum. Florent Van Ertborn, an aristocrat and Chairman of the association between 1820 and 1826, donated his collection of ‘Flemish Primitives’ to this new museum in his will. The association grew swiftly, partly due to the rise of nationalism and the search for the roots of the young Belgian nation. This was expressed in the aspiration to emulate the historical past in works of art. In this period triennial ‘Salons’ were established, which alternately took place in three cities. From 1830 to the end of the century, these exhibitions remained the only official Belgian exhibitions.
In 1840 the salons began to work together with artistic correspondents who recruited artists from all over Europe (Düsseldorf, Vienna, Rotterdam, Bremen, Hamburg, Munich, Prague, …). In 1860 St. Petersburg and New York were added to the list.