In the middle of the 19th century, when women's artistic ability was taken about as seriously as, well, their ability to vote, a group of pioneers founded a society in order to give serious women artists a much-needed chance to exhibit their work. Their first exhibition, in 1857, featured 358 works by 149 artists and, judging by the fact that they have staged an exhibition in London every year since, it seems to have been something of a success. With an illustrious list of members and a first-class reputation, the Society of Women Artists is now a charity which promotes the abilities of women in the artistic field and its annual exhibition provides a chance to view and purchase some great works which might otherwise not be given a spotlight.
Running from 1st-10th July, this year's exhibition at the Mall Galleries features over 500 works in all media by both members and talented associates of the society. Furthermore, its programme of events will give visitors a chance to meet some of the key artists in person, such as at the launch of Jean Haines' book 'Colour & Light in Watercolour' on 7th July, or at the painting demonstrations which will take place between 10.30am-3.30pm every day next week.
Thanks to the society's rigorous membership criteria it's obvious that all the artists featured are talented, but we think the highlight of the demonstrations will be new member Caroline De Peyrecave painting the society's president on 8th July. A talented portrait painter, Caroline is becoming well known for stunning images such as the one featured above and is today being presented with the Sue Combe Portraiture Award by the society's patron, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, at the exhibition's private view.
Entry to the gallery is just £2.50 and provides the chance to view some interesting and diverse works by talented women who, unlike their counterparts 149 years ago, don't have to exhibit under false to avoid being chastised for daring to exhibit there. All we're left to ponder is, how much did London miss out on before the SWA was brave enough to take a stand?
The exhibition is open from 1st-9th July between 10am-5pm and 10th July from 10am-1pm. Entry is £2.50 (£1.50 concessions) and directions to the Mall Galleries, SW1Y 5BD, are here.