Monday, March 28, 2016

Review of the 299th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists

Last year, the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists was a pleasure to review (see Royal Society of British Artists 2015 - Annual Exhibition). It had well and truly bounced back from its nadir in 2012 (see see RBA 2012: An exhibition of Middle England?)

This year's exhibition has 445 artworks in the main exhibition and 35 works in the NADFA's RBA Scholars exhibition and 20 works in the NSAE RBA Scholars exhibition - making a total of 501.  So lots to see.

I visited the exhibition last week and have already published a short video relating to the Small Works room (see Video: The Small Works Room at RBA Annual Exhibition 2016 - which is providing quite popular).

This year I'm somewhat perplexed.

One the one hand this is an exhibition which includes a great selection of fine art prints using a variety of approaches - from woodcuts to etchings.

Wall of prints and near monochrome works in the North Gallery
This is by far the biggest and the best woodcut (below) that I've seen in some time. Laura Rosser who produced it is a Faculty Member of the Plymouth University.

We ain't all middle class Bohemians by Laura Rosser130 x 230 cm (edition of 10, 3 available)
Etchings of Venice by Austin Cole
Etchings and watercolour by Meg Dutton
Secret Garden (top left) won the Hahnemeuhle Fine Art UK Award
This is also an exhibition which provides a great deal of space and sponsorship for younger artists via the RBA Scholar Scheme and the NADFAS charity - who in turn are producing some interesting work.

Threadneedle Space displayed the work of the RBA Scholar Scheme
It's also good to see a show which has dedicated some effort to creating an interesting room of small works which are in turn more affordable.

A corner of the Small Works room in the North Gallery
BELOW is a video of the room

On the other hand, there is no question that
  • some of the paintings in the show are being painted by member artists whose best years are now behind them and whose skills are declining
  • a very significant number of RBA members had sold nothing after the exhibition has been on display for more than a week (I counted and calculated that the day I visited 6.4% of the artwork had sold)
  • it was difficult to detect the rationale behind some of the awards.
When these type of factors can be discerned, it's not too long before one starts to question exactly what the rationale is for the exhibition - and the impetus behind it..

My own feeling is that the artworks which have been juried in from the open entry (i.e. from non-members) out perform a number of the artworks submitted by members - which are NOT juried - by some margin.  From my perspective that's just not right.

At some point I'm going to write a blog post examining the purpose of an art society and its annual exhibition. Put simply, for me it's still about artists forming a group so they can exhibit and SELL their work so they can sustain careers as artists and continue to make art. It's everybody's responsibility for keeping the standards high so that it's a worthwhile exhibition to visit - and one which continues to get excellent work coming through the open entry.

In this instance, the quantity of work means that one can overlook some of the weaker aspects of the show. However I can't help feeling it would be a much stronger, busier and better selling show if ALL works were juried......


There are those with very loyal fans and yet again I'd like to note that Judith Gardner sold four of the five works she is exhibiting. She continues to maintain an extremely impressive track record of sales at every exhibition that I see her work exhibited!

Paintings by Judith Gardner - all sold
as does Annie Williams who sold two etchings

Etchings by Annie Williams

A virtual exhibition

You can view the works in the exhibition in one of two ways:


I must congratulate the RBA webmaster for having all the prizewinners listed on the website while the exhibition is on. It makes a refreshing change compared to a lot of art society websites I review!

The prizewinners and the works that won the prize are listed below. 

A wall of paintings by Nicholas Verrall - winner of the de Lazlo Medal ( in 2015)
£1,000 plus medal and a special display in the following year's exhibition

AwardRecipient(s)Awarded For...
The Alfred Daniels Personal Favourites Awards
Six prizes of £100
Stuart Smith
Alan Lambirth RBA
Stefan Nenov
Renee Spierdijk
Claire Edge
Susan Bower RBA ROI
Marche Aux Poissons (346)
The Yellow Kitchen (215)
Shopping Rush (283)
Girls and Dolls (361)
Through the Trees (113)
Mr Cooper Tibbles (40)
The Artist Magazine Award
The winner will be featured in The Artist magazine
Nicola SlatteryAll works (340 - 344)
The Davison Award for Oil Painting
Barbara Richardson RBAStill Life with Hammershoi (318)
The Dry Red Press Award
Work published as a greeting card
Carole Griffin RBANarcissism (147)
The Edward Wesson Award
for Watercolour Painting £100
Florence HoustonAll works (189 - 192)
Frinton Frames Award
£200 of picture framing at Frinton Frames
Robert E. Wells RBAThe Swimming Lesson (422)
Hahnemeuhle Fine Art UK Award
£250 worth of materials
Meg Dutton RBASecret Garden (110)
The Michael Harding Awards
Two prizes of £500
Rowan Crew RBA
Sopio Chkhikvadze
Morning Light (89)
Swimmer (79)
The Michael Harding Awards
10 painting sets
Lewis Hazelwood-Horner
Helen Perkins
Nathalie Weatherald
Joanna Lillie
Scarlett Bunce
Rosalie Watkins
Aaron Adeshida
Matt Alexander Ray
Sofia Welch
Alison Quinn-Cottrell
Darts Club at Harringay Arms N8 9QH (175)
Carla Tofano (ex-cat)
Poppa (480)
Apple Blossom (466)
Repeating the View (454)
Motion Study (411)
Grandmother (481)
Nakhl, Oman (Morning) (315)
Joachim (418)
Wind (474)
The Gordon Hulson Memorial Prize
for Draughtsmanship, Variety & Exploration
Lucy TownsendContemplation (384)
The John Ingram Memorial Prize
for a Young Artist
Rose MillerBlue Bowl (467)
The de Laszlo Award
for Classical Draughtsmanship
Paulina PlutaReclining Nude (306)
The de Laszlo MedalNicholas Verrall RBA ROIN/A
The Marianne von Werther Memorial Award
Scholarship in Rome for a young artist
Paulina PlutaN/A
The Winsor & Newton Painting Award
Art materials to the value of £500
Charles Hardaker RBA NEACStill Life - White & Grey (169)
The Geoffrey Vivis Memorial Award
Rebecca NippsCharlie (493)


Charlene Brown said...

Do you not mean it had bounced back from its nadir?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

You are so right Charlene - I've changed it!

Anonymous said...

Small detail: The RBA website includes some of the non-members' works -- they are indicated by "Exhibitor" after the artist's name. It doesn't include all the non-members' works, because non-members have to pay to be there. I think it's £10 per work, and that's on top of the initial submission fees.

Do any of the other Mall societies do this? (I know NEAC doesn't.)

Sorry, for what might be obvious reasons, I'm going to have to leave this comment anonymous...

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