Monday, April 08, 2019

Review: 207th Exhibition of Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

The 207th Exhibition by the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours continues in all three galleries at the Mall Galleries until 18th April 2018.  411 paintings have been hung in total

Cover of the RI Catalogue
is a painting by Lillias August of some of the Archive
The painting is to be auctioned in order to raise funds for the conservation of the archive
which have been deposited with the Victoria and Albert Museum.

All the exhibition information is on the Mall Galleries website - including
Members of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours; Rosa Sepple, Shirley Trevena, Jean Noble and Ian Sidaway form a panel answering your questions on everything to do with water media and the Institute.
Admission to the Exhibition is £4 and Free to Friends of Mall Galleries, Friends of the RI and under 18s

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: I've visited twice so far - on a very well attended Private View and the following day when coachloads arrived and filled the gallery.
  • It's an exhibition which is on for just over two weeks across all three galleries. 
  • Given the number of visitors it attracts it is one of the premier exhibitions at the Mall Galleries all year.  (You can see visitors to the Gallery in posts in the News section of the RI website) 
  • It's also attracting very positive comments from those who have visited on Facebook
"Fabulous exhibition and so much to see"
"A lovely exhibition. Do see it if you can"
"I saw the exhibition yesterday and loved it. Such a high standard."
I've already highlighted the artwork winning awards in RI Annual Exhibition 2019 - Awards and Candidates - plus included a photo of the Candidates Wall.

I've also highlighted "gallery view" photos of the exhibition in an album on my Making A Mark Facebook Page - which can be viewed by anyone irrespective of whether or not you have a FB account. Click the pics to see larger versions. (Anybody wanting credit for a body of work please let me know - and include the URL for the specific pic)

What follows below is a review of the exhibition - including an indication of exhibition metrics and sales - which I'll be analysing in more detail next week at the end of the exhibition.

The 207th Exhibition 

It looked different this year and it took a while to work out what was different.

Somebody suggested "adventurous" - at which point is struck me that there is an enormous diversity in the way water colours (i.e. media applied using water) are used in this exhibition.
  • It's largely figurative - but NOT hyper realistic for the most part. 
  • There's a huge range of styles, mark-making and subject matter.
Below are some images showing what I mean - however you'll get a better sense from the Facebook Album RI Exhibition 2019

a quiet corner in terms of muted colours

Bright sunny skies and seas in Iona and Harris - by Bob Rudd
Ann Blockley RI on the left and Paul Banning RI on the right

Various landscapes in the North Galleries - these had more of an emphasis on realism

Smaller works

This wall in the far north gallery includes two prizewinners, PLUS
George Butler - a prizewinning illustrator sketchbook artist - who makes art out of his sketchbooks in curious ways
and small paintings by Suzon Lagarde - a young art student who was shortlisted in Heat 1 of PAOTY 2019
PS I recommend a look at George Butler's website for those who need a jolt in terms of what contemporary artist websites look like!

"Then and Now"

Then and Now is a new book - the first book ever written about the Institute and its current Members. It includes:
  • a history of the RI written by Anthony J Lester, Hon. RMS, FRBA, FRSA, writer, broadcaster, fine art consultant, curator, collector/researcher on British art. The book contains many historical images from the extensive archives and a list of every Member since its inception.
  • biographies of current members written by Adrian Hill, fine art dealer at Adrian Hill Fine Art, with images of current members and examples of their work.  
I've bought a copy and highly recommend it. It provides an excellent overview of the diversity of painting styles amongst the members and is also a great crib for spotting members at the exhibition!  I've also learned a few things which I didn't know before.

It's available to purchase during the exhibition and from the Mall Galleries - with 10% discount available for Friends of the FBA.

It also includes profiles of the members who died in the last 12 months - see below.

L to R: Ronald Maddox PPRI (1930-2018); Peter Folkes RI (1923-2019); Richard Plinke RI (1928-2018)
and Sandra Walker RI (1935-2018)

Artwork I liked

I'm a big fan of Felicity Flutter's paintings of water and waves - not least because they hang so well together. I can also well imagine she has people building collections of her seascapes and waves because they also seem to sell well!  I think she's a serious contender for becoming a future candidate for membership.

Felicity Flutter and her wave paintings
I'm a HUGE fan of Lillias August's paintings of collections of items - mainly because she seems to paint things that never ever occur to other people to be suitable subjects for a painting. I think her compendium/collection paintings actually sit halfway between realism and abstraction - as did her bed linen paintings. It's all about shapes and tone and colour and variations on a theme.

Plus again, it's great to see how collections of one artist's paintings hang together. I'm sure art collectors come back for more....

I was absolutely delighted to meet Lillias at the private view and got this photo of her with her paintings. I thought the nests painting was delightful and was not in the least bit surprised that it won a prize and sold as well (or that she knows which birds nest in which nests!)

Exhibition Metrics

I haven't done the detailed exhibition metrics yet - because I've decided to do a post next week and will combine exhibition metrics with a comment on pricing and sales.

How open is the exhibition?

However, I do know that:
  • the ratio of members to non-members is broadly two thirds to one third
  • the exhibition has a mixed hang throughout - with members and non-members having work hung in the Main Gallery, Threadneedle Space and the North Galleries.  
  • smaller works by members are typically split out to hang with other small works to create a congenial display for those potential buyers who have less wall space to play with. 
  • members work is typically hung in groups of three or four works.
Bottom line - as I indicated last year I very much recommend this exhibition as worthy of the attention of the watercolour painter who is happy to create paintings using water. 
  • It's by far the biggest watercolour exhibition in the UK and consequently is very busy with a lot of visitors.
  • Sales are respectable as a result of the amount of traffic and footfall it gets
  • The society does not practice segregation i.e. it mixes the members' and non members' work throughout the exhibition - and it looks a better exhibition for that.
  • It's a good exhibition to apply to enter because of the length of the exhibition and the very proactive approach of the Society to having activities during the course of the exhibition - and marketing the fact the exhibition is on!


As always, I am astounded at some of the prices which people charge for their work. I can only imagine non-members are unfamiliar with London sale prices - and maybe need a bit more guidance?

In terms of sales to date:
  • a lot of interest in and sales of paintings priced below £500
  • nothing has sold for more than £2,500 (except for two paintings: a large one by Rosa Sepple, the President of the RI and another by Lillias August - which also won two prizes)
  • most have sold for less than £1,500
  • the pattern substantiates my theory of how to price to sell - which I shall be writing about in future.
I'll do a detailed analysis of the sales - split between members and non-members at the end of the exhibition.

Four paintings of buildings in India and the UK by Varsha Bhatia
In the meantime I'd like to congratulate those artists who - at the halftime stage - are doing well on sales. These are:
ALL have very distinctive styles.
ALL had realistic prices on their paintings relative to size and quality.

Both members and those submitting through the open entry may be well advised to read my exhibition metrics post next week.....

Four paintings by Ian Sidaway
Paintings by Geoffrey Wynne on the left
The blue paintings are by Naomi Tydeman

ARCHIVE: RI Annual Exhibition 2007-2018

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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