A brief history of Sutton Coldfield Artists Society

(taken from the Society’s 50th Anniversary booklet)

Exhibition in 1970 at Patrick Motors showroom, with John Ridout, President, second from left
Catalogue of the first exhibition in 1948








        The Early Years

On 22nd November 1947, 19 people met in response to a proposal by Miss Ada Wilkinson to form an Art Society in Sutton Coldfield.

They decided on its name (Sutton Coldfield Artists Society ), its subscription ( 5 shillings), its object (to encourage painting as a recreation). They chose officers and decided to hold fortnightly meetings in the old library on the Parade, now demolished.

From the beginning, they were ambitious and forward looking. By December 6th it was decided that newcomers were required to submit three pictures to a selection committee before becoming members, and that there should be a student membership for persons aged 16 ~ 21 at half the annual subscription. Two exhibitions were planned for each year.

In 1948, although enthusiasm still ran high, it became obvious that the committee’s planning had been a little too optimistic. Meetings became monthly and only one exhibition was held that first year. The finances showed a loss of £2.19s.6d. and after 12 months the subscription rose to 12s.6d.

However, members then numbered 41. The constitution had been tested and confirmed. The society had its own letter heading, and the school of art was co~operating by allowing us rooms in which to paint on Saturdays. Many of the meetings took the form of Home Study Criticisms, sometimes on set subjects or in limited colour schemes. For the November meeting a model sat at the School of Art and was drawn by 15 members.

A Christmas social was held which then became a yearly event.

By the end of 1949, with a membership of 50, the finances were £20.11s.5d. in the black and the Society was on a firm footing; with helpful connections with the Borough Library, the School of Art and other Art Societys, such as Lichfield, Walsall, Tamworth and the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. It was established that the Mayor of Sutton Coldfield should open our exhibitions.

In the early years our own members gave demonstrations and talks on a wide range of subjects and criticisms. Mr. Holman, himself an architect, instructed us in the elements of good building design and on another occasion gave an illustrated talk on etching and dry point. Mr Ken Troman demonstrated the art of making a pot and afterwards, in attempting to show us some of the snags, he had to work hard throwing water over his pot in order to make it collapse. ” I thought it never would ” , he said. Most practical work was done at home and though the numbers grew steadily, attendances at meetings became poor and reached an all time low when Mr.Kingsley Read gave a talk on stage design to three people. The main interest was in the production of fine art and soon practical events became the order of the day, made possible by the use of painting rooms at the School of Art.

By 1953, the committee including its officers, consisted of 18 people, so it was natural that almost anyone attending meetings should be voted onto it. Despite this, attendance increased. This just might have been helped by the introduction of a mid~session cup of tea.

That winter Miss Wilkinson died and a memorial prize ( originally 2gns. ~ £2.2s.0d. ) has been awarded for the best picture in the Autumn Exhibition ever since.