Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers - Annual Exhibition

Certain art collectors love miniatures. So much so that they have purchased 160 miniature works of art in three days at the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers. Speaking personally this is the most sales by any art society at any gallery that I have ever seen in very many years of visiting the exhibitions of national art societies and is certainly proof of the popularity of miniature art. I gather the level of sales is unprecedented and I hesitate to guess how many they will have sold by the time this exhibition finishes on Sunday 28th October.

I visited the Society's exhibition at The Mall Galleries in London towards the end of yesterday afternoon and was extremely fortunate to be given a guided tour around the exhibition by it President Elizabeth Meek PRMS, PPSWA, HS, FRSA.

The Society was founded in 1895 and is the oldest and most prestigious Miniature Art Society in the world. It is the world's premier showcase for miniature art and naturally the Society sets very high standards for the work displayed. What I saw was excellent of the genre and reinforces the notion that miniature art continues to be a very serious art form for lovers of realism on a very small scale. It was certainly clear to me in writing this blog piece and looking at various websites that many of the artists have degrees in fine art and/or have been working as professional artists for many years. You can see some examples of art produced by society members on their website (click an image to see yet more work) plus you can see more in the links to their own or associated websites showing art by the award winners (where possible) listed below.

Work by (top) Alison Griffin - The Watering Can, acrylic on board and
(bottom) Gina Morton - Catterick Beagles, watercolor on ivorine
in the exhibition catalogue

Members, Associate members and other artists submitting work have been honoured with the following awards:
  • The RMS Gold Memorial Bowl - Alison Griffin RMS - This is the most prestigious award for miniature art in the world. I gather Alison Griffin's domestic scenes in the country in acrylic and watercolour are extremely popular and sell very fast!
  • President's Special Commendation - Miniature Work - Bill Mundy RMS one of the world's leading miniature portrait painters. You can read his blog here.
  • RMS Group Award - Debby Faulkner Stevens RMS, SWA - my personal favourite I think of the works on show yesterday. This is an interview with her.
  • The Mundy Sovereign Portrait Award - Mike Button ARMS
  • The Bidder and Borne Sculptors and Gravers Award - Matthew Simmonds
  • Llewellyn Alexander Subject Miniature Award - Joyce Rowsell RMS - an artist who works in oil on stretched silk
  • Peter Charles Booth Memorial Award - Jenny Brooks RMS - her pencil portraits were excellent
  • Anita Emmerich Presentation Award - Irina Kouznetsova
  • Daler Rowney Choice Award - Helen C Jones
  • Country Club UK Award - Peter Griffiths
  • Anthony J Lester Award - Iain Gardiner. I think this must be the same Iain Gardiner wo was a BP Portrait Award finalist in 2006.
All manner of subjects are represented - portraits of people and donestic animals and wildlife, landscapes, streetscapes, interiors, florals and nature art and still life.

Other artists whose work I particularly liked included the light filled landscapes of Rosalind Pierson RMS, HS, MAA. The portrayal of hunting scenes by Gina Morton RMS HS SLm - including 'Catterick Beagle' above - were brilliant. She's a previous winner of the Gold Memorial Bowl. People who like classic still life work should check out the miniature masterpieces by Diana Branscombe RMS. Joyce Rogerson's paintings of small birds were also delightful. When I got home I was also able to admire more work by the President including the miniature she has painted of the Prince of Wales who is Patron of the Society.

All the miniatures were displayed in cabinets with glass lids which were set around the walls of the North Gallery. This is a huge improvement on the display last year when most were placed in the centre of the large West Gallery. In my opinion, the North Gallery is the space which has benefited most from the recent renovations and demonstrated very effectively with this arrangement what a suitable space it is for societies with smaller numbers of works or displaying small works. The lighting was really impeccable and showed all the works to best effect. I cannot but think that the level of sales has in part been due to the huge improvement in presentation and display in relation to both space and lighting - although I'm sure the very helpful memebrs also played their part. In my opinion, it also serves as a reminder to all those involved in art societies about just how important exhibition presentation really is.

The exhibition is free and continues until 1pm on 28th October. Details of how to find the Mall Galleries can be found here. Members of the Society are apparently doing demonstrations every day throughout the exhibition which are proving to be very popular. I think I met Pauline Denyer-Baker yesterday who had been doing that day's demonstration. (My apologies if I got that wrong as I ended up with masses of names on a piece of paper!)

As with a number of other UK art societies, entries for the show come from all round the world and this year included work by Russian and Polish artists.

Associate Membership of the Society is only through inspection of work submitted by candidates to the annual exhibition. Those interested in being a candidate or wanting to submitting miniature work to the 2008 exhibition will want to note all the submission requirements. Artwork is delivered to the Administrative Offices of the Mall Galleries in late August 2008. Detailed dates will be posted on the website when available.

Links: Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers


  1. Those are a fabulous group of artists and beautiful miniature works. I wonder why the very brisk people spend less on miniature works or are they comparable to larger ones? I know it would depend on the level of expertise in the painting or drawing, but I wonder if that has any bearing on the number of sales.

  2. Miniatures are very popular with artists all over the world. There is and active group whose members create Artist Trading Cards (ATC). I recently discovered them on Wet Canvas. I am amazed at the variety of works and the details on these little gems. I am tempted to try my hand.

  3. Miki - I think that the Wet Canvas Miniature Art Forum has a specific sub-forum for the ATC/ACEO people. I'm no expert but I don't think they're the same thing - they typically work to different dimensions and (I think) for the most part different marketplaces.

    I do want to emphasise that the miniature art in this exhibition is quality of the very highest order. The draughtsmanship is excellent, compositions are well thought out and many have the most amazing level of detail and intricacy. They are also completed with a view to archival quality and many use traditional materials or the modern version of the same eg ivorine or vellum. One of the ones that the President pointed out to me was oil painted on copper.

    Miki - it would be great if this post arouses more interest in miniature art by either artists or collectors!

    I could certainly envisage some artists who do art cards or others who like detailed work but work larger at the moment could make the transition but I don't think this is a form of art which is for everybody. Nor do I think it is easy to develop the skills required to achieve work at this level.

    That said, nobody would achieve that skill unless they have a go and are willing to dedicate the time involved to producing work of this quality. I certainly wouldn't want to discourage anybody but I also wouldn't want people to underestimate what's involved in getting into exhibitions like this.

    I'm going to do another blog post soon about what I've learned about miniature art in the course of writing this blog post. Yesterday was an education in itself!

  4. Jeanette - I think the brisk sales are because it is possible to both buy original art work at very reasonable prices and because the nature of the art tends to lend itself to collection.

    It's certainly the case that most artists don't do art society exhibitions for sales per se. When I visit them near the end I always look to see if there is a pattern to sales and the one that remains consistent over the years is that smaller more affordable work will sell. Over £500 seems to requires a dedicated collector. Under £300 may well generate a spontaneous purchase. Of course, work also has to be good - but that maybe goes without saying! ;)

    The submission rules for the RMS indicate minimum prices "Minimum prices are £350 for portraits, £120 for subject work and £120 for sculpture." Some were priced at these levels but I'd say more were starting in the £200-250 range.

    The people whose work was selling out were typically pricing in the £400-600 range. These are people who are typically selling to dedicated collectors who already know the work of the artists concerned. I gather there are quite a few disappointed collectors around at the moment!

    On the other hand the people who were the top portrait miniature artists are pricing in thousands of pounds! These are the only work which can be 'not for sale' - for example if they were done as a commission.

    What was interesting is that commissions are apparently not limited to portraits.

  5. For those in Australia I learned yesterday that the 4th worldwide exhibition and conference of the Worldwide Federation of Miniaturists is coming to Tasmania in March next year!

  6. Thanks for posting this!

    I displayed my work at the RMS show for the first time this year. I REALLY wanted to attend the show, but was unable to fit it in my schedule this year. Your description of the show is ALMOST as good as a visit!

    -Andrew Gott

  7. Glad to be of service Andrew - that's one of the reasons why I do posts like these!

    Folks - you can see Andrew's entries - in graphite - on his website here.
    Andrew also has a blog called Less Than Six as his aim is always to work in less than six square inches.

  8. That was a nice post Katherine. I enjoyed very much looking to this miniature art. I am also a watercolorist and I love to look at other watercolorists work and to see them in such small sizes is wonderful.

  9. Glad you enjoyed it Doris. I think you're in good company!

  10. Thank you for such an informative post, Katherine. I have recently started to do miniatures and hope to enter this and the Hilliard shows next year. It would have been wonderful to have visited in person, but your insight has been really helpful!

  11. Good luck with your entries Tracy.

  12. I visited this show again when I went back to have a closer look at the Marine Artists exhibition in the main gallery (which got short-changed when I saw the Miniature Art exhibition!)

    By the Wednesday of the second week they'd sold some 200 works which is absolutely astonishing in terms of art society sales. I guess it might have been nearer 250 by the end of the show.

    I'm starting to prepare another post on miniature art so if people have queries now would be a good time to highlight them.


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