Watercolour emerged from the obscurity of European Studies in the
twilight years of the 18th Century. The establishment of the Society of
Painters in Watercolour in 1804 in London marked the begining of an
odyssey that continues to this day.
Due to the talents of Turner, Girtin, Varley, Blake, Cotman, David Cox,
Peter de Wint and others, it gained in popularity and its influence
spread throughout the westen world; practiced by artist and aesthete
In Ireland the 19th Century saw the emergence of some very
distinguished practitioners of the art. The achievements of
Frederick William Burton
Ernest Michaelangelo Hayes
George Petrie PRHA
Jack B Yeats
John Bulter Yeats
and many others have long been recognised as representative
masters of their generations.
The Water Colour Society of Ireland was founded in 1870. Its Annual
Exhibition has reflected the social and artistic intelligence of more
than one hundred and twenty years of Irish culture. It was inevitable
that many of its members would achieve international recognition as its
base was broad, its members privileged and cosmopolitan.
Royal patronage in the person of HRH the Duke of Connaught and
Strathearn, KG, attracted the support of both talented artist and
dilettante alike. The Annual Exhibition was and still remains a
highlight of the social calendar.
One looks back with pride and pleasure on those artists who, in the
past, contributed to and lent their support to the Society.
First amongst them are the founder members - The Baroness Pauline
Prochazka, The Misses Leane, Miss Phipps, Miss Curry and Miss Musgrave.
In the course of time they attacted the talents of Nathaniel Hone RHA,
Lady Butler (Elizabeth Thompson), Sir William Burton, Bingham
McGuinness, Rose Barton, Mildred Ann Butler, Lady Ardilaun, Percy
French, Evie Hone, Manie Jellet, Walter Osborne RHA, Helen O'Hara,
Sarah Purser RHA, Tom Nisbet RHA, Brigid Ganley HRHA, Maurice McGonigal
PRHA, Kitty Wilmer O'Brien RHA, Fr Jack Hanlon, Norah McGuinness,
Niccola Carraciola RHA, Sean O'Connor and countless others who embraced
the medium and left behind a legacy of charm and distinction to be
enjoyed by all.
A debt of gratitude is owned to the University of Limerick which has
now become a Pantheon of the Arts. The National Self-Portrait
collection is now well established there, and the Water Colour Society
of Ireland collection by contemporary
members has been given its own gallery on the ground floor of the
Foundation Building. Thanks are due to the initiative of Dr Edward
Walsh and his esteemed
colleague, the late Dr Patrick Doran.
The Society is proud and honoured to have a presence in these august
surroundings and confident that, as the collection expands by drawing
on the past and with the support of future members, it will become a
valued part of the European hertige.