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Water Colour Society of Ireland

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A Brief History

The Water Colour Society of Ireland owes its origin to a local drawing society which was founded in 1870 and held its first exhibition in the Courthouse, Lismore, Co Waterford in May 1871. The Society was founded by six ladies: the Baroness Pauline Prochazka, the Misses Keane, Miss Phipps, Miss Currey and Miss Musgrave, with the object of mutual improvement in painting and drawing and the cultivation of a taste for art. The second exhibition was held in Clonmel in October 1871, under the name of the Amateur Drawing Society, and a third exhibition was held in Carlow in May 1872. In 1878 it changed its name to the Irish Fine Art Society, a title it retained until 1888 when it became the Water Colour Society of Ireland. By then most of the water colour painters in Ireland had joined its ranks, and its exhibitions were almost exclusively confined to water colour painting.

In 1891 the Society abandoned its provincial exhibitions and inaugurated an annual Spring Exhibition at the Hall, Molesworth Street, Dublin. From 1975 to 1980 the exhibition was held in the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, and from 1981 to 1988 at the Bank of Ireland Exhibition Hall, Baggot Street. Since 1989 it has been held at the RHA Gallagher Gallery, Ely Place. In past years, the Society has included many well-known Irish artists, among whom were Rose Barton, Mildred Anne Butler, George Campbell, Harry Clarke, Lilian Davidson, Gerald Dillon, Percy French, May Guinness, Letitia Hamilton, Fr Jack Hanlon, Paul Henry, Evie Hone, Mainie Jellett, Harry Kernoff, Maurice MacGonigal, Nora McGuinness, Frank McKelvey, Flora Mitchell, Kitty Wilmer O'Brien, Sir William Orpen, Bea Orpen, Walter Osborne, Sarah Purser, Nano Reid, George Russell (AE), Gladys Wynne and Jack B. Yeats.

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