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Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery

Today I decided to finally visit the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists gallery! I have been in Birmingham for about ten weeks now, so its about time I explored the art of the city a little more. Since I arrived in the city I became a friend of the gallery, which means I receive invites to gallery opening nights and also special information on events, but today was the first time I have managed to actually go the gallery. I’m ashamed of myself to be honest, even though I have been so busy with the move and also all the work I have been doing.

So, when I arrived I had a browse through the various galleries- the bottom floor is a craft gallery, and the next upper two levels have artwork. I took some photographs (I asked for permission) of the gallery space.

The gallery spaces show a great wealth of local talent!

The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists has a long and fascinating history with its origins starting right back in the nineteenth century. A group of artists including Samuel Lines (1778-1863) and Joseph Vincent Barber (1788-1738) came together to study and exhibit their work and in 1821 the Birmingham Society of Artists was formed.

However, it was as early as 1807 that a society was beginning to form as Samuel Lines opened an Academy which offered tuition to up and coming artists so already the roots were there for a new professional group. The Birmingham Academy of Arts was officially founded in 1814 and held an exhibition in a room in Union Passage.

Later, a number of people approached the Academy with a new vision- to establish a museum for works of art, the teaching of art and an exhibition space for working artists. Therefore in 1821 the Birmingham Society of Arts was born and moved into a new building in New Street.

The Society of Arts Exhibition Rooms with portico on the right (architect Thomas Rickman, 1829). Designed in the Corinthian style.

HOWEVER, there was tension growing in this new Society, as subscribers were mostly concerned with art education and design rather than the exhibition and purchase of work, therefore the practising artists were annoyed. Eventually a split occurred with the professional artists and a Patron’s Committee being formed.

In 1842 a final split occurred and the artists separately formed the Birmingham Society of Artists. A petition for patronage was granted in 1868 by Queen Victoria, allowing the Society the prefix ‘Royal.’ Since then, there have been many exhibitions and a few moves along the way with the new home of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists opened at Brook Street in 2000.

It’s great to know that the RBSA is still a growing Society and I am especially interested in their archives! When I arrived today the Birmingham and Midland Pastel Society and Shapeshifters Sculpture Group were exhibiting.

The work of the artist Lynda Kettle particularly stood out for me at the gallery:

I love this piece! I am particularly in awe of pastel work as it is a medium I have never been able to master. This piece is called ‘Along the Path’. Another of her works is ‘Winter Sun’ (see below).

I love the theme, the use of colour, the pastels are so vibrant and stand out magnificently in the gallery. My eyes were instantly drawn to them. The works are quite dramatic through the use of light and shade, and I particularly like the lines of shadow etched in ‘Winter Sun’ against the snow.

Lynda has painted for many years in pastel and watercolour. She is a Member of the RBSA, the Birmingham Watercolour Society, the Birmingham and Midland Pastel Society and the Birmingham Art Circle. I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future!


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