First year MA student’s Interim display at the Camberwell College of Arts Postgraduate Summer Show 2016

UAL_MAVA_CCA_PGshow2016As the summer heats up (well, we can hope) the graduate and post-graduate shows are happening all over the country. If you want to be amongst the first to see the most exciting new talent emerge, pop-in to see the  University of the Arts London’s (UAL) freshest graduates open up their work to the public. Visit the UAL summer shows – a series of free art, design, fashion, communication and performance exhibitions taking place across London.

Of particular personal interest are the up and coming artists and designers of tomorrow at the Camberwell College of Arts Post-graduate Summer Show, featuring work by graduating students from the MA Visual Arts courses:

Sharon Low is in the first year of the MA Visual Arts in Printmaking at the Camberwell College of Arts. MA Book Arts and MA Printmaking first year students are putting together an “interim display”, to give visitors a taster of the MA projects they are each concerned with.

The Private View is on Thursday 14 July 2016, from 6pm – 9pm.

The show is then open to the general public:

Friday 15 July – 10am – 8pm
Saturday 16 July – 11am – 5pm
Sunday 17 July – Closed
Monday 18 July – 10am – 8pm
Tuesday 19 July – 10am – 8pm
Wednesday 20 July- 10am – 8pm

Visit the UAL website for more information.

 

 

 

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The Candyman of Artists’ books

The Magic of Paul Johnson: Movable Book Artist and Teacher

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson: book artist and children’s literacy expert

Last year I was fortunate enough to experience first-hand the art and magic of British book artist and children’s literacy expert Paul Johnson, as part of the Designer Bookbinders autumn series of lectures at the St Bride Foundation in London.

In her interesting blog about making books with children, www.bookmakingwithkids.com, Cathy Miranker said:

“Johnson’s specialty is doing exceptional things with single sheets of paper, and he uses his magic in two ways, teaching book arts to school children (and training teachers to use bookmaking in their classrooms) and making many-layered pop-up paper constructions.

“His show-and-tell session was electrifying, the most inspiring talk I’ve heard. The audience applauded and applauded—they just couldn’t stop. There was a lot of hugging, too, as if people hoped to catch some spark of his.

 

 

PaulJohnson_34

“Paul himself is modest, low-key, soft-spoken, undemonstrative. Except that as he talked, something extraordinary began to happen: a quiet passion seemed to take possession of him and spill over into the audience, too.

“I was completely carried away by the story of how he discovered paper—he said he didn’t notice it until he was 45, and then he couldn’t help but change his life—his endless fascination with the possibilities in a single sheet of paper (“I didn’t add anything, I didn’t take anything away, but look what it turned into! I think this must be Zen.”), his work habits, his love affair with color, his belief in book arts as a compelling path to literacy for children.”

 

 

Paul Johnson has an international reputation for his pioneering work in developing literacy and visual communication skills through the book arts. He is author of over fifteen titles including A Book of One’s Own, Literacy Through the Book Arts and Pictures and Words Together (all published by Heinemann,USA.)  Recent teaching tours include Sweden, South Korea and Thailand and he regularly teaches in the USA.

 

Innovative educator and successful book artist, the work of Dr Johnson can be found in the collections of the Tate Gallery, London, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, the National Gallery, the Library of Congress, Washington DC, and many US universities including UCLA, Berkeley, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Yale and Harvard. His work was selected for the Stand and Deliver USA touring exhibition of pop-up editioned books, as well as the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild’s, The Art of the Book touring exhibition  for which he also received the guild’s Book Art Colophon Award. He is on the UK Craft Council’s select list of British designer-makers.

 

 

 

Johnson studied at Norwich School of Art and Rabindranath Tagore’s University of Santiniketan in India. When he was and art educator at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the late 1980s Paul Johnson inaugurated The Book Art Project, the main focus of which was to teach writing to children through the book form. Since then he has made books with over 200,000 children and over 25,000 teachers worldwide.

Paul Johnson says, ‘It was seeing the sculptural bindings of Phillip Smith over thirty years ago that inspired me to look beyond the book as something to read.’

pauljohnson_05In the Designer Bookbinders autumn series of lectures presentation, Paul Johnson shared his life experiences as book artist and teacher. It was simply delightful “eye candy” to see several of his unique carousel pop-up books: first in the flat-pack state, then assembled into the 3D form. An added joy was hearing how these books inform the pop-up books that children – some as young as four years of age – make in his workshops.

pauljohnson_06More information

 

New English Art Club Annual Open Exhibition 2016

NEAC2016_h1-Quadrat-Simon-Thames-Path

The New English Art Club (NEAC) Annual Open Exhibition held at Mall Galleries opens to the public on Thursday 16 June and runs until Saturday 25 June 2016.

The NEAC Annual Open Exhibition is now firmly established as a fixture of the London Summer Season, exhibiting painting and drawing made from direct observation.

The exhibition includes painting, drawing and prints selected from an open submission alongside the work of member artists.

During its early years, the NEAC was well-known for its Impressionist style, and the influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism continues. More than a century since its inception, today the NEAC is regarded as a “well respected institution and one of the foremost exhibiting societies”, and today continues in a realistic, figurative style.

Tthe NEAC seeks work which “demonstrates excellence in both concept and draughtsmanship”, and views its place and aim as a “centre of excellence for drawing and painting”.  Current distinguished artists include Jason Bowyer PPNEAC PS RP, Melissa Scott Miller NEAC RP, Daniel Shadbolt NEAC, Diana Armfield RA NEAC Hon Rt RWS, Anthony Green NEAC LG RA Hon RBA Hon ROI and Ken Howard OBE PPNEAC RA RBA RBSA ROI RWA.

Visit the NEAC website to see the full list of exhibiting artists. All works are for sale and available to view online as well as in the gallery.

New English Art Club

References and further information:

Contemporary British Figurative Painting

Thinking about British figurative painting evokes names such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney. These artists can be seen to follow in and further the traditions begun by the pre-war painters such as the Camden Town GroupWalter Sickert, David Bomberg, the Bloomsbury Group and the realists of the Euston Road School.

This work was in contrast to the various styles influenced by other modern art at the time, of Paris and New York, such as Surrealism, abstraction and Pop Art. Beside these parallel movements was another kind of art pioneered by a group of loosely associated artists later labelled The School of London, which was important in the reinvention of figurative art in the second half of the 20th century.

What united them was a belief in the possibility of finding new ways to create realist paintings and reinvent the representation of the human figure to make it relevant in a world traumatised by the Second World War.

When not in their studios, many of these figurative painters could be found drawing in the National Gallery, London. Their study was the art of the Renaissance and of Impressionism, regarding those pre-modern art pioneers as their teachers.

It was during the 1970s and 1980s that the work of Bacon, Freud and Hockney  gradually began to be recognised as amongst the most important British art of its time. This was an undeclared group, whose members have always varied, yet Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff, Euan Uglow and the more Pop Art-associated David Hockney, are regarded as the important artists, for between them they found new ways of looking intensely at the world around them: painting what they saw, with what they felt.

It is in this tradition that the New English Art Club (NEAC) was formed, although the origin of the Club was actually in the studios of a group of young London artists in 1885. This group of painters had studied and worked in Paris, and felt a dissatisfaction with the exhibition potential of the very academic British Royal Academy (RA), which was under the presidency of Sir Frederick and later Lord Leighton.

In April 1886 this group of artists mounted an alternative, rival show to that of the RA: this first exhibition of the NEAC included around fifty artists, including Frederick Brown, George Clausen, Stanhope Forbes, Walter Sickert, John Singer Sargent and Wilson Steer.

Much of the development of the NEAC should be seen in relation to the “old-school academic art” of the RA‘s “stolid… approach”, compared to the “dynamic and vibrant observation of the New English“. This is perhaps too simplistic a characterisation, however, it is remarkable that:

“the artistic descendants of the Impressionists continued to be associated with the New English whilst the RA moved by fits and starts towards a more conceptual approach and towards public gallery orientated work.”

The influence of the NEAC grew greatly during the late 19th and early 20th century, with artists such as Sickert, Augustus John, Gwen John, Tonks, Steer and William Rothenstein viewed as “a golden period indeed”. Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Duncan Grant and Mark Gertler were all members in the 1920s; indeed:

“almost every member of the Camden Town Group started with the New English… and it formed an essential part of their development”.

It is an understatement to observe that since the mid-1880s the world of visual art has changed enormously: up until World War II, Paris was regarded as the undisputed centre of the art world, some regard New York as the pivot point, with London at times viewed to be the predominant heart of art in Europe: certainly there has been a huge increase in the number of commercial and public galleries.

Yet the hardship of life as an artist continues as ever: indeed, it is very difficult indeed to establish a reputation as an artist and to produce and sell pictures of high quality in sufficient quantities to provide a living. To make work that is:

“vigorous and lively and life enhancing, an artist’s needs are: a tradition in which to work – or in other words – a shared artistic language, a training – an education in this language, an exhibition space and a public to buy work. All of these the New English helps to provide.”

Contemporary aims of the RA and the NEAC have diverged greatly, and today the RA could be regarded as abandoning much so called ‘figurative painting‘, which some view as leaving the field clear for the NEAC to champion figurative work. At a New English exhibition:

“at which non-members work is also shown, you will now see imaginative painting, expressionism sometimes satirical subjective paintings and abstracted work amongst the directly observed objective painting which is part of our “continuing” tradition.”

Ironically, many of NEAC artists later became members of the RA, but they still continued to exhibit with the NEAC for the rest of their careers. During the 1940s and 50s the NEAC and the RA could be viewed as most closely aligned, where some regarded the NEAC as a “staging post” or “stepping tone” to the RA.

During its early years, the Impressionist style was well represented at the NEAC, and the influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism continues. Nowadays, more than a century since its inception, the NEAC is regarded as a “well respected institution and one of the foremost exhibiting societies”, and today continues in a realistic, figurative style, whilst the RA has embraced abstract and conceptual art.

Today the New English seeks work which “demonstrates excellence in both concept and draughtsmanship”, and views its place and aim as a “centre of excellence for drawing and painting”. Artists such as Jason Bowyer, Melissa Scott Miller, Daphne Todd (amongst many others) are for me key artists in this area.

The visual language they speak:

“is one in which pictorial statements are slowly and intricately constructed, but when they are completed they can be understood quickly and easily by everyone.”

Further,

“It is ever evolving and capable of great spiritual depth, and this language is the Club’s main concern. The content of the pictures, the visual messages which they convey and the eloquence and strength with which they are painted is a matter for individual painters, the framework within which these artists and others like them work is the province and the future of the New English Art Club.”

Today the New English Art Club is a group of over 80 professional painters whose work is based principally upon direct observation of nature and the human figure.  Its Annual Exhibition is a showcase for its members and gives aspiring artists an opportunity to be seen alongside some of the best figurative artists painting today.

Since the foundation of the NEAC many diverse styles of art have developed, which add richness and variety to its exhibitions. In the world of contemporary British figurative art, the NEAC,  with it current president, Richard Pikesley PNEAC:

“aims to foster excellence in all its activities and continues to assist and encourage the art of painting to develop even more expressive possibilities”,

and the New English actively engages educated public interest on many different levels, including:

“a nationwide programme of exhibitions, an acclaimed School of Drawing, a website and an active Friends scheme that supports the aims of the New English.”

The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2014 runs from Friday 28th November, 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, until Sunday 7th December, 1.00 pm, at Mall Galleries, London.

 

 

References and further information:

 

InsideOUT: Exhibition of contemporary bindings of private press books

The Designer Bookbinders stunning and ambitious InsideOUT project celebrates the art and craft of contemporary bookbinding and private press printing.

The project is a collaboration between thirty-four binders based in the United Kingdom and twenty-five based in North America and ran from 15 May to 22 August 2014 in the Layton Room Gallery at St Bride Foundation, Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ, before continuing to the United States.

More than beautifully bound books, the exhibition shows the heights this art form can attain: these are finely crafted three-dimensional objects that are gorgeous to behold!

Seeing this exhibition was so awe-inspiring, especially for someone like me, who is just beginning their journey of discovery in the world of fine-bindings. I can only gasp in amazement at the finely crafted designs and hope to one day achieve something vaguely close in conception.

If you missed the exhibition in the UK, it continues in the USA (details below). I now look forward to the upcoming Designer Bookbinders lecture: Paul Johnson – Movable Book Artist and Teacher at St Bride’s on Tuesday 28 October 2014, 7.00pm.

USA Tour
Houghton Library
, Harvard, MA 11 September – 13 December 2014
Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis 10 January – 28 March 2015
Bonhams, New York 10-19 April 2015
San Francisco Center for the Book, California 6 June – 5 July 2015


Participating Private Presses
Arion Press (USA), Barbarian Press (Canada), Incline Press (UK), The Lone Oak Press (USA), Midnight Paper Sales (USA), Old School Press (UK), Old Stile Press (UK), Shanty Bay Press (Canada), The Whittington Press (UK).

A fully illustrated catalogue of all the bindings will be available at the exhibition venues and may also be purchased from the DB Online Shop.

Why was Leena McCall’s “Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing” removed from a London Exhibition?

“Inappropriate”, “bad taste”, “pornographic” or fine art?

The woman, one hand on her hip, the other holding a pipe to her lips, looks directly at the viewer with an air of confidence. She wears a fur-trimmed vest encircling the cleavage of her breasts, with her trousers dropped casually open at the waist, revealing a small strip of dark pubic hair.

The work was selected to hang in the gallery for the 153rd annual exhibition of the Society of Women Artist’s (SWA), but two days after a charity event and private viewing of the show, the piece was removed by the gallery, apparently “too pornographic and disgusting” for public display.

This image could be regarded as a beautiful one, with its carefully crafted brushstrokes and its finely rendered details, yet London- and Berlin-based artist Leena McCall’s Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing was removed from this year’s SWA exhibition at the Mall Galleries this summer, for fear that it may have corrupted and offended the public.

The Mall Galleries issued the statement:

“As an educational arts charity, the federation has a responsibility to its trustees and to the children and vulnerable adults who use its galleries and learning centre. After a number of complaints regarding the depiction of the subject and taking account of its location en route for children to our learning centre, we requested the painting was removed.”

Much of the controversy centred around why this picture was censored in the first place: Is it pornographic? Obscene? Is it too erotic for the general public? Is it because she is looking directly at the viewer and not submissive? Is it because she is partially clothed? Is is because she is not completely naked as in a classical “nude” painting? Is it because pubic hair is clearly displayed?  Is it because she is smoking?

It is in the name of children and vulnerable adults that McCall’s Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing, was censored. The artist said that removing the piece from public view only serves to underline the precise issue she was trying to address, she said:

“My work deals with female sexual and erotic identity. The fact that the gallery has deemed the work inappropriate and seen it necessary to have it removed from public display underlines the precise issue I am trying to address: how women choose to express their sexual identity beyond the male gaze.”

Further, McCall’s commented that throughout art history, women’s sexuality is consistently portrayed as something for and controlled by men, and she seeks to challenge that paradigm. Her work is a deliberate attempt to use the traditional language of portraiture in a way that’s less patriarchal.

The gallery offered her the opportunity to replace her painting with another work, but she said that would be tantamount to admitting there was something wrong with it. Given the long history of the nude figure in art, particularly of the nude female figure, it is difficult to see why this was an issue. Indeed, compared to most music videos or advertisements today, there is less skin on display, and the woman’s breasts show less cleavage with her nipples not actually even visible.

Remarkably the painting was replaced by another nude painting, so obviously the nudity itself was not the issue. It seems that the pose of the subject was the reason for the complaint and subsequent removal of the painting from the exhibition.

The replacement was another, less provocative, nude: no tattoos, unbuttoned clothing or brazen attitude, suggesting that the Mall Galleries‘ clientele can cope with nudes, as long as the model is passive and unthreatening to a (male?) viewer’s gaze. This has been described as “a desperately outmoded form of prudishness, like the wartime strippers at London’s Windmill club who were allowed to pose naked, by the Lord Chamberlain’s reluctant acquiescence, so long as they didn’t move. They posed with one foot forward, obscuring any glimpse of “the fork” (ie vulva). The implication’s clear: the minute a woman is alive and free to move, an active agent of her own sexuality, she is a menace to society.”

Ruby May, the subject of the painting, said:

“I don’t think people realise how threatening a sexually empowered woman is to a paradigm that is still patriarchal at its roots. Thankfully, the world is evolving, this outdated paradigm is crumbling, and forms of censorship such as this are becoming unacceptable to the wider public.”

The executive secretary of the SWA, Rebecca Cotton, said:

“We thought the painting was beautifully executed and the composition was much admired. We saw nothing wrong with it; had we, the piece would not have been selected. We hire the gallery space from the Mall Galleries for the period that the show is on. The gallery took it down without seeking our approval.”

Society today teaches young women that they should be waxed, shaved, buffed and polished to perfection, such messages are pervasive and uncensored. In such a world view, girls grow up believing that beauty equals pain, to be sexy is a hairless, pre-pubescent ideal, and boys expect girls to look like submissive porn stars.
McCall’s Ruby is not size zero, like the models used to sell clothes to women aged 14-years-old upwards. Ruby does not lie submissively with her legs splayed like the centrefold of a lad’s magazine; she is not made of silicone or plastic and there is no overt sexuality: she’s beautiful, confident, and real.

The Mall Galleries may have been “thinking of the children”, yet hiding the human body, when shown so positively and in an empowering way, does nothing for a child’s awareness, safety or self-belief.

McCall  is understandably incensed at the censoring of her portrait: it is ironic that her work should be removed from an all-female exhibition, curated by women.

When contacted via her website, the artist explained that:

“Ruby May (who leads erotic workshops) had proudly wanted to own the pubic hair that is so often waxed, covered or air-brushed away in contemporary depictions of the female body – and rarely glimpsed in classical ones, come to that… [one] can’t begin to understand how a painting that reveals no intimate flesh, other than the pelvic triangle, could possibly be described as pornography.”

The artist subsequently launched a social media campaign asking supporters to contact @mallgalleries using hash-tag #eroticcensorship – to see if she can get people talking about sexuality in that medium instead.

Writing on Twitter, McCall described the move as “erotic censorship”, adding; “How is this painting ‘pornographic’ and ‘disgusting’?” Twitter users lamented the “19th century Victorian ideas” at play, and asked: “How is that any more outré than classical nudes?”

One wonders if those (men?) responsible for censoring and removing the portrait have ever seen Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde at the Musée d’Orsay, with its splendid sprawl of black-haired vulva, or indeed Britain’s much loved Stanley Spencer’s Self Portrait with Patricia Preece, and what they make of them.

References and further reading

 

 

Pastel Society Exhibition 2014

Jason Bowyer PNEAC RP PS - Rhythm - Pastel

Jason Bowyer PNEAC RP PS – Rhythm – Pastel

The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2014 ran from the 10th to 21st June at the Mall Galleries. A new fan of this art society, I enjoyed the exhibition very much and look forward to future exhibitions by them.

As always, I loved the work of Jason Bowyer PNEAC PS RP, and his work here was no exception – stunning as always – but there were also many other works that captured my interest and thus more artists I will be following!

After the Leaves Have Fallen 3 - Pastel - by Roy Wright PS

After the Leaves Have Fallen 3 – Charcoal- by Roy Wright PS

Roy Wright PS exhibited an ambitious and captivating charcoal drawing “After the Leaves Have Fallen 3”: it’s rich texture and detail draws the eye from the grass, up the trunk, to be lost in the intricate branches against the pale winter sky.

Cyclaman - Pastel - by Robin Warnes PS

Cyclaman – Pastel – by Robin Warnes PS

Works ranged from the highly realistic to the more abstract, from minimalist drawings to the very painterly, deeply layered works, in charcoal, pastel and mixed media.

Cheryl Culver PPS - Sunrise - Pastel

Cheryl Culver PPS – Sunrise – Pastel

Cheryl Culver, President of the Pastel Society and a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, known for her serene and shimmering pastel paintings of woodland and landscapes in sensitively beautiful muted palettes which are often exhibited in prestigious London galleries including the Mall Galleries, shared her thoughts on the Jackson’s Art Blog before the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition: visit the Jackson’s Art Blog to read the full article. 

View the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2014 virtual gallery online.

Visit the Pastel Society website.

 

Now the hungry lion ROARS, and other stories: Paintings by Atul Vohora

A new exhibition by artist Atul Vohora begins this week at Lauderdale House at Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, London N6 5HG.  Atul Vohora is a painter who has lived and worked in London since 2001, and studied at Canterbury Christchurch and The Prince’s Drawing School in London.

Atul Vohora is a much loved and respected teacher at the University of Greenwich, The Slade School of Art (on the Short courses and its Summer School), and the Heatherley School of Art in London. He continues to exhibit in London and nationally. He studied in Canterbury and at The Prince’s Drawing School in London.

Drawing is central to his practice as an artist, and many of his insightful ideas and theories can be explored more fully in Atul Vohora’s recent book, Painting the Human Figure: Ideas and Perception: visit www.atulvohoraartist.co.uk for more information.

New paintings by Daniel Shadbolt

Oil on canvas by Daniel Shadbolt

Oil on canvas by Daniel Shadbolt

New paintings by the talented painter Daniel Shadbolt is a new one-man show this June at the Jonathan Ross Gallery 286: 286 Earls Court Road, London SW5 9AS.

Artist Daniel Shadbolt

Artist Daniel Shadbolt

The New Paintings exhibition features wonderful examples of both Shadbolt’s still life and portrait work. For the past few years he has worked from his studio in a house in West London which has again proved inspirational: “the interiors that he depicts are the distillation of an artist’s life” (Gallery 286 website).

Oil on canvas by Daniel Shadbolt

Oil on canvas by Daniel Shadbolt

A graduate of Chelsea College of Art and Design with a BA Fine Art: Painting, as well as completing the prestigious Drawing Year at The Prince’s Drawing School, and receiving the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Bulldog Bursary in 2008, as well as host of other awards and selection for many distinguished exhibitions, Daniel Shadbolt is a accomplished artist and well known as an inspiring teacher (at schools such as the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London), with a warm sense of humour and love of life and people that shines through in his work.

Oil on canvas by Daniel Shadbolt

Oil on canvas by Daniel Shadbolt

Personally I most admire Daniel’s lively brushwork and shimmering use of colour: his paintings seem to breathe and move before your eyes and I find them quite mesmerising.

Oil on canvas by Daniel Shadbolt

Oil on canvas by Daniel Shadbolt

For some time I had planned to visit this charming gallery in London’s Earl’s Court and this was the perfect excuse. In summer the garden is open and it is gorgeous – worth the visit alone – but of course Daniel Shadbolt’s paintings are stunning and the best reason to visit right now. Moreover, June has brought such lovely weather so it’s the ideal time to visit Gallery 286.

The exhibition continues until the end of the month, but already well-received it looks set to be possibly sold out, with lots of red dots in evidence at the first private view and even more by the second one!

Visit Daniel Shadbolt’s website for more information about the artist and his work.

Visit the Jonathan Ross Gallery 286 website for more information about this and other exhibitions.

Society of Women Artists 153rd Annual London Exhibition 2014

Society of Women Artists (SWA) logoThursday 26 June to Saturday 5 July
(closes 3.00 pm on the last day)
Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1

Private view: Wednesday 25th June 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
11.00 am – official opening and presentation of Awards

I’m delighted to again have work accepted for the Society of Women Artists annual exhibition this year, and even more excited to have been made an Associate member. This follows having works accepted over the past few years, and this year having six works accepted (the maximum of four to be hung and two accepted but not hung).

For an invitation to the private view and free entry throughout the duration of the show, please visit my website at www.sharonlow.com or send an email to exhibitions@sharonlow.com

I hope to see you there there!

About the Society of Women Artists (SWA)

SWA Flyer 2014Originally founded as the Society of Female Artists (SFA), this unique group has held an annual London exhibition of the work of women artists ever since 1857.

During the mid-nineteenth century, women were not considered serious contributors to the field of art and they had great difficulty in obtaining any public showing.

At the first exhibition of the SFA, 149 women showed 358 works. It is a reflection of the times that some of the artists hid their true identities for fear of social recrimination.

At this time the art world was dominated by the Royal Academy which, when founded in 1768, had just two women among the founders; there were no other women Royal Academicians for over 150 years, until Annie Swynnerton SWA (a member since 1889) was elected as an Associate in 1922.

Some of the most noted artists of the time were attracted to the Society: when Lady Elizabeth Butler’s “The Roll Call” was displayed at the Royal Academy in 1874, even Ruskin, with his peculiar views of femininity, revised his opinion that “no woman could paint”.

The SFA was involved in education for women artists: female artists were effectively excluded by the mores of the time from professional training – even for those who gained a place at art school, the model in the women’s class would be decorously draped on grounds of propriety.

As access to professional training increased, the Society’s exhibitions attained higher standards, and a name change came in 1869 to the Society of Lady Artists. The mid-Victorian persona was discarded in the last year of the century, and the twentieth century was embraced by the Society with the new name: The Society of Women Artists.

Among its members the Society has had many famous artists: Dame Laura Knight, the first woman Royal Academician for over 160 years, was elected President of the SWA in 1932;  Mabel Lucy Atwell, the world-famous illustrator, was also a member. Current members include Daphne Todd OBE, the first woman President of the Royal Portrait Society; June Mendoza OBE, the well-known portraitist June Mendoza; the late Suzanne Lucas, Past President of both the Society of Botanical Artists and the Royal Miniature Society (in 1980 was elected as the first woman president of a Royal Society); and Philomena Davis, elected first woman President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1990.

The Society has enjoyed Royal patronage since 1865 and the current patron is HRH Princess Michael of Kent. The current President is Sue Jelley.