LSA catalogue dated 1889

LSA catalogue dated 1889

In1880 a group of friends met in the studio of Mr T C Barfield at Victoria Chambers, Gallowtree Gate, Leicester to discuss Fine Art. Towards the end of the year they brought in their own sketches for discussion, and Leicester Society of Artists formally came into being at a meeting on 25th July 1881. Sixteen members of Leicester Society of Artists met in rented rooms and with borrowed furniture. The first Honorary Secretary, Mr Barfield continued in this role until 1922 and thee last surviving member of the original group, Mr HW Bates, died in 1948.

The first exhibition of The Leicester Society of Artists was held in 1882.  Since 1897 annual exhibitions by Leicester Society of Artists have regularly been held at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery in New Walk, Leicester, where they continue to be held to this day.  The distinction between members and associates was abolished in 1955.

Early bequests enabled the Society to purchase war bonds and investments which gave the society financial support. A number of awards are presented to artists at the annual exhibition. The  Ellis Prize and Henton Prize were joined in 1961 by the Society of Artists Prize, then by the Guy Dixon Prize and George Pickard Prize.  The selector of the prizes changes each year, but is always an external judge of the works in the exhibition.

Watercolour by Wilmot Pilsbury
Wilmot Pilsbury, A Worcestershire Cottage, 1902, Collection of New Walk Museum & Art Gallery

Early members include George Moore Henton artist and early photographer. Born Leicester in 1861 he studied at the Leicester School of Art. His watercolours are accurate architectural records and show details of everyday life in both Leicester in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wilmot Pilsbury RWS was was the first Headmaster of Leicester School of Art and President of Leicester Society of Artists in 1888.

Scultpure by George Pickard
George Pickard sculpture

George Pickard RIBA (1929-1993) architect and sculptor. George Pickard studied at the Leicester School of Architecture, then served in the Royal Artillery from 1952-54 as a regimental artist engaged in camouflage design. From 1966-88 he was senior lecturer in interior design at Leicester Polytechnic and he was a founder-member of the Architectural Sculptors Group in 1972. George Pickard made a study of advanced designs and methods in flat glass related sculpture.

Bryan Organ, painter was President of LSA from 1982 - 1986. Brian Organ's portraits are well known include HRH The Prince of Wales; Lady Diana Spencer, later Princess of Wales Lord Richard Attenborough and England rugby captain, Martin Johnson.

Portrait of Douglas Smith by Bryan Organ

Portrait of LSA President Douglas Smith by Bryan Organ (detail)

Douglas Smith, architect and painter, was the longest serving President of LSA for 27 years from 1987 - 2014. A public lecture series of high profile speakers, a themed exhibition at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery and the society's first website, funded by the Arts Council, were among lasting innovations achieved during time as President.

Photo of Sioban Logan reading poetry

Poet Siobhan Logan at the preview of Drawing on Words

In 1999 we began showing themed exhibitions. Our topics have included German Expressionism, 20th Century British art, Ancient Egypt, Picasso, and War & Peace, all linked with displays in the museum, together with a special exhibition in 2010 to celebrate our own 125 years of exhibitions. Reaching out in new directions, we have taken themes from City of Leicester, Art of Sport in 2009 when Leicester hosted the Special Olympic Summer games, Upcycling linked with the Schwitters exhibition at Tate Britain, and Drawing on Words, a collaborative exhibition with five Leicester poets.

Photograph of David Boyd Haycock

Front cover of David Boyd Haycock A Crisis of Brilliance

In 1983 we started an annual art lecture series featuring critics, artists and curators- read more about this on our Past Lectures page. Well known speakers include Ken Howard RA and Anthony Eyton RA on painting, Michael Howard on Cezanne, and Vivien Heffernan on the Picasso, Eric Shanes on Post-War American Abstract Art and Professor Simon Shaw-Miller about Paul Klee to link the major exhibition of his work at Tate Modern in 2013. In 2014 in commemoration of the First World War the author David Boyd Haycock presented 'A Crisis of Confidence, Young British Artists and the Great War'.

Chila Kumari Burman

Chila Kumari Burman, photograph by Andrew Jackson

The internationally recognised artist Chila Kumari Burman spoke about her work in January 2015 for the LSA Annual Lecture to accompany her solo exhibition My Rangilla Merry-go-round at Attenborough Arts Centre.

2015 saw the introduction of the LSA Student Award in association with West End Gallery, drawing in students from Leicestershire colleges and universities.