The Society was founded in 1870 in Lismore, Co Waterford and
in the following year held its first exhibition in the courthouse
From 1871 to 1890 further exhibtions were held at
various locations but in 1891 they were moved permanently to Dublin.
The Society's present title was adopted in 1888.
The stated objective of the Society is : "to promote
and develop nationally the use and appreciation of watercolour and
associated media amoung artists, students and the general public."
The business and affairs of the Society are managed
by a committee of members elected every three years comprising three
officers and at least nine other members. All work is done on a
The Society has two sources of income: the members
subscription fees and the commission charged on all works sold at the
Membership of the Society is conferred by the
Committee in secret ballot following review of a substantial portfolio
of work submitted by the applicant.
The national collection of the Society was founded
in 1993 and is housed in Limerick University, where it is on permanent
exhibition. In 2009 The University published an illustrated book of the
In 1994 the Society published "Exhibition List 1872-1994"
giving details of all works exhibited in those years - artists' names
and addresses, title of the work and sale price. The list records
almost 25,000 works by 1,200 artists, including most of the prominent
watercolourists of their day. It is an invaluable source of reference.
'The Silent Companion – An illustrated History of
The Water Colour Society of Ireland' by Patricia Butler was launched at
The National Gallery of Ireland 27th September 2010.