Thursday, April 06, 2017

205th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour

Yesterday was the Private View of the 205th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.  You can view it
The exhibition is especially notable for being:
  • the first exhibition under the new President Rosa Sepple. Rosa is the first ever female President of the RI in the history of the organisation
  • absolutely packed with supporters at the Private View yesterday. The Gallery was filled from end to end for the speeches and the awards.
Rosa Sepple - the first ever WOMAN President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

There area number of events during the course of the exhibition.
Also at the end are details of two more exhibitions by the RI in West Sussex and Cardiff if you're unable to get to this one.

Below you'll find my review of the exhibition in general.

Tomorrow I'll

  • post a list of the award winners - with images and 
  • show you the work of some of the candidates for membership - with images of the excellent candidates' wall and some of the candidates.

But first here are the exhibition metrics for all those artists considering entering this competition.

Exhibition metrics - and the Open Entry

There are 389 paintings on the walls of all three galleries. 142 of the works (36%) are by 98 non-member artists (1.45 paintings each)

No. of artworks and artists

There are 389 artworks in the exhibition across the three galleriesThere are 
  • 247 artworks (63%) by 86 members; and 
  • 142 artworks (36%) by 98 non-members. This is a MAJOR improvement on the 25% of works from the open selected for exhibition in 2015.
  • The ratio of members' to open artworks hung is 64:36. This is an acceptable ratio for an open exhibition - with scope to improve still further. 
In terms of people hanging work in the exhibition, there are more open artists than members participating in the exhibition. The ratio of members to 'open' artists is 1:1.13 

Open Entry Success Rates

The open entry brought 1,090 entries from 489 artists. 142 artworks by 98 members were selected and hung in the exhibition.

In terms of artwork submitted via the Open Entry and exhibition success:
  • the average number of artworks submitted per artist was 2.23 
  • the average number of artworks hung per artist is 1.44 - even successful artists don't get all their artwork selected for hanging! 
  • 13% of the artwork was selected for the exhibition. This is a figure that artists need to bear in mind when submitting in future 
  • 20% of artists were successful in getting their art hung. This is a good percentage compared to many major art competitions. It also means that a number of those who were successful probably only submitted one "best work". 

Artworks per artist

  • Members: averaged 2.87 works hung. Full members can hang up to the six works (but not all do so) while more senior members tend to hang just one or a small number 
  • 'Open' artists: averaged 1.45 works hung each. 

No. of sales per class of artist

  • It's too early to say anything yet about sales but I may well be back and if I am I will do a count!


The exhibition is back in three galleries for the first time in a long time - and looks and feels all the better for it.

The West Gallery is mixed with predominantly members work on display.

"The Mall" side of the West Gallery
- with the watercolours by the Prince of Wales hanging at the entrance
The end wall of the West Gallery later in the PV
Two of the North Galleries are mixed with predominantly the artwork selected via the open submission alongside some displays by RI members.
North Gallery #1
North Gallery #2

The far North Gallery contains small works by RI members. This has become a popular room in recent times.

More North Galleries

The Threadneedle Space has a Candidates Wall - for those seeking full membership of the RI. Plus artworks by artists under the age of 30 who are eligible for The Leathersellers' Prize - of which more tomorrow. The artwork in the room is predominantly by artists selected via the open.

Young Artists and Candidates

Things I liked

  • I was very impressed by the standard of the open work. The exhibition had a very fresh feel about it - bringing some new perspectives on how watercolour can be used. The President emphasised that the selection panel had deliberated at length over the digital images submitted when making the selection.
  • I liked the very much better balance between members and those selected via the open both in terms of numbers and the mix re. the hang.
  • I looked around the gallery as the PV wound its way to the end - and realised that this was an exhibition which has responded well to my various injunctions over the years on how to frame for London - and sell a painting! (eg. see Do frames help to sell art?) The frames on the artwork are almost universally simple in terms of moulding and colour - they're either white, black, neutral or pale wood. There are just a very few metallic looking frames which I confess now tend to look rather old-fashioned to my eyes.
One wall in Small Works by members Gallery
  • There's also been a change in the Small Works Gallery, it's very clear that a number of members have realised the wisdom of submitting a good small work and make it available for a reasonable price.  (In marketing terms, this might euphemistically be called "the sprat to catch a mackerel". If you can get a collector to buy a small painting, the chances are they may well return at some point in the future for a larger painting at a higher price and/or recommend you to all their friends)
  • it was good to see some plants and flowers creeping into the exhibition. I have not a clue why some of the best watercolour painters I know - the botanical artists working in watercolour - do not typically submit their work to the open exhibitions of the two watercolour societies. 
A mix of works by artists selected via the Open Entry
  • It was really great to see lots of paintings look like they were painted with water! Ones where you could actually see the use of "proper watercolour techniques"! This is no small achievement in an era when acrylic seems to have taken over!
More collections of 'the same but different' objects by Lilias August
- I'm always intrigued as to what she'll come up with next
Four paintings by Colin Allbrook (top centre and bottom row)
  • Lots of individual paintings! It's difficult to single out however, artists whose work appealed this year (who I'm not discussing elsewhere!) are the 'same but different' collections of Lilias August, the unassuming paintings of the countryside by Colin Allbrook which has amazing control over colour and luminescent light, and how can you not like the work of John Yardley - who to my mind is the consummate "one hit and that's it" watercolour painter!  His painting of Venice in the snow was superb!

  • PLUS Meeting new artists, old friends and artists whose work I've previously commented on - plus readers of this blog! There were a couple of hours where all I did was meet people! I also don't think I've ever had an exhibition before where quite so many people came up to me and thanked me for this blog! I'm very happy to know that you like its content and the fact I'm honest about how I see things.
There were three Past Presidents exhibiting paintings on the wall. Sadly one of them, Andy Wood - died in November last year in his third year of Presidency (see R.I.P Andy Wood PRI, RBA (1947 - 2016) ) and we won't be seeing his work again after this exhibition - except on his website. I'll miss my chats with him about what changes he's introducing in the next year.  On the other hand, I'll be very interested to see how Rosa plans to move the RI on to greater things

I do know that her initial objectives as President are to:
  • raise the profile of the Society
  • find strong new members
  • promote the new fRIends of the RI
  • find a permanent home fo the archives; and 
  • publish a hardback book on the history of the RI with profiles of its current members
I suggested that maybe the RI might also like to become interested in what watercolour looks like on vellum!  Just a thought - it's very traditional and contemporary at the same time!

Watercolour RI: Now (new original watercolours)

Two more exhibitions by the members of the RI will be held in 2017 as follows:
  • May 13th - July 15th 2017 at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery in West Sussex (This is part of Horsham’s Festival of the Watercolour, a 2 month long celebration of the medium 
  • 12th October - 4th November 2017 at the Albany Gallery in Cardiff 

Tomorrow - more about the Award Winners and Candidates.

My reviews of RI exhibitions in the last 10 years

The purpose of this video isn't to give you an in-depth view of all the paintings so much as to give you:
  • an idea of the overall size of the exhibition
  • a notion of how big the paintings are that get selected via the open entry
  • a view of the paintings that were selected this year
This exhibition has always been very popular with the provincial art societies whose members arrive in droves - on coaches!

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