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Contemporary Fine Art


4th December 2010 - 23rd January 2011

Gallery LeFort is honoured to be hosting this exhibition by 'The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours' this is a prestigious event and the first of its kind to be held at the gallery and the first to be held by this very distinguished Society in Bath.

There will be over 70 paintings from 36 RI eminent Members.

A Short History of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

First exhibition invitation The beginnings of the RI can be traced back to 1807 with the formation of the New Society of Painters in Water Colours. The New Society was inaugurated as an alternative to an existing society (now the RWS) which had been founded in 1804 and which exhibited only the work of its own members. From the start the New Society showed the work of non-members' alongside that of members, a policy still followed today. Both societies were started at a time when the Royal Academy was refusing to accept watercolours as a suitable medium for serious artistic expression despite its use by many highly regarded painters including Cotman, Turner, Cox, de Wint, Bonington and many others.

The New Society changed its name in 1808 to the Associated Artists in Water Colours. The exhibitions attracted some of the foremost watercolourists of the time including: David Cox, Peter De Wint, William Blake, Samuel Prout, Paul Sandby and Joseph Powell. Even so financial problems caused them to fold in 1812.First exhibition catalogue

Nineteen years later, in 1831, Joseph Powell with several like minded artists resurrected the New Society of Painters in Water Colours. The next few years were stormy ones with considerable internal disputes and major changes in policy. In fact the society abandoned the policy of exhibiting together both non-members and member's work thus losing a vital component of the difference between the Old and New Societies. Even so, and despite strong competition from both the Royal Academy and the Old Watercolour Society, the society thrived during these years and concentrated on consolidating its position as one of the foremost artist's groups in the country.

The society's growing strength during the period around the middle of the 19th Century shows it at the forefront of the movement to get more recognition for watercolour painting. The Royal Academy, who continued to dismiss watercolour painting as a serious art form, stood firmly at the centre of the British art establishment and in 1858 the government proposed a new gallery and building at Burlington House to house the RA and other art groups. The then President of the New Society, Henry Warren, proposed that the Old and New societies should group together and pose a united front to gain a place in the new building. Unfortunately the move failed but the New Society continued to fight for watercolour's rightful place as a serious medium for art.

In 1863 the New Society became the Institute of Painters in Water Colours. Two years later a new group of watercolour painters was inaugurated, they showed their work at The Dudley Gallery in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly and soon became know simply as the Dudley. Their exhibitions were open to all-comers thereby filling the vacuum left when the New Society closed their doors to outsiders and this policy attracted some of the best emerging artists of the day. Some of these artists began to join the Institute. In 1883 the Institute moved into their new gallery in Piccadilly opposite Burlington House. In the same year the Institute and the Dudley joined forces and in 1885, by command of Queen Victoria, the Institute was able to add the prefix 'Royal' to its title.

The amalgamation of the Dudley and the Institute and the move to the new premises in Picadilly coincided with a major change in the (soon to become Royal) Institute of Painters in Water Colours exhibition policy. After many years of exhibitions limited to the work of members only the RI once again opened their doors to all comers.

Gallery of New Society of Painters in Watercolours, 1834
George Scharf (1788-1860)

The first three exhibitions of the second-flowering of the New Society, 1832-1834, were held at 16 Old Bond Street, London; the painting (above) by George Scharf is a view of this gallery, painted to record one of these inaugural exhibitions (it is dated 1834).

The next three exhibitions were held at Exeter Hall in The Strand (where the Strand Palace Hotel now stands). After 1838 the society established itself at 53 Pall Mall where it remained until 1883. 

The RI remained in Piccadilly until the lease expired in 1970, then joined with several other leading art societies in the Federation of British Artists based at the Mall Galleries which were opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1971. Its three galleries are situated in the basement of 17 Carlton House Terrace, at the east end of two terraces of white stucco-faced houses on the south side of the street overlooking St. James's Park. These terraces were designed by John Nash and built as private dwellings in 1827-32. The gallery and offices are leased from the Crown Estate by the Federation of British Artists.

The Mall Galleries

Past Presidents
  • 1832-1833 Joseph Powell
  • 1833-1838 Thomas Maisey
  • 1839-1873 Henry Warren
  • 1873-1884 Louis Haghe
  • 1884-1898 Sir James D Linton
  • 1898-1909 Edward John Gregory RA
  • 1909-1916 Sir James D Linton
  • 1916-1933 Sir David Murray RA
  • 1933-1936 Terrick Williams RA
  • 1936-1963 Norman Wilkinson CBE
  • 1963-1973 Rowland Hilder OBE
  • 1973-1979 Aubrey Sykes
  • 1979-1989 Charles Bone
  • 1989-        Ronald Maddox  


Exhibition opens with a Private View on Friday, December 3rd. For Private view invites and more information regarding this exhibition,please contact the gallery at info@gallerylefortfineart.com or telephone 01225 428347.

More information regarding the exhibiting artists will follow shortly.

Please note the gallery will be closed from Christmas Day until New Year's Day.


Exhibition Slideshow

Next >>  

Avebury SW Sector
Ian Sidaway RI

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