• The origins of the Royal Watercolour Society can be traced back to the formation of the Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1804. Born out of a sense of grievance by a number of such artists who practised in watercolour and felt that they were discriminated against by the Royal Academy, the only professional artistic body of the day.

    On Friday 30 November 1804 the first meeting of ‘The Society Associated for the purpose of Establishing an Annual Exhibition of Paintings in Water Colours’ was held at The Stratford Coffee House on Oxford Street, London. Founder Members include Samuel Shelley, William Frederick Wells, William Sawrey Gilpin and brothers, John and Cornelius Varley.

    The Royal Watercolour Society was born!


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    In 1823 the Society was offered a lease at 6 Pall Mall East. They gladly accepted and remained there for 115 years during which time Queen Victoria granted the Society a Royal Charter, and agreed to sign the magnificent certificates that each RWS Member receives on election to the Society, today, signed by HM Queen Elizabeth II.

    Five years ago the RWS was approached by the developer Hobhouse, who were looking for an Arts related charity to occupy part of a building in Whitcomb Street. Research had found that Pall Mall East where the RWS had shown their paintings so many years ago in the 19th Century, was in the same building. The RWS were delighted to accept and now now fundraising for the ongoing renovation of the gallery space which will complement our existing home at Bankside Gallery.



    Find out more about the Whitcomb Street Project
    Several books relating to the RWS and its history have been published and are available to purchase on Amazon and in the Bankside Gallery book shop.
    Watercolour Secrets by Jill Leman contains information on the Society’s recent Membership. The Business of Watercolour: A Guide to the Archives of the Royal Watercolour Society by Simon Fenwick and Greg Smith references the contents of the archives and is the suggested place to start research. The Enchanted River by Simon Fenwick delves into the history of the Society and was published to celebrate the Society's Bicentenary.