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The Enchanted River: 200 years of the Royal Watercolour Society

The Royal Watercolour Society Celebrates its Bicentenary

The Royal Watercolour Society was founded in 1804 by a group of artists to promote the medium of watercolour and, after the Royal Academy, it is now the oldest artistic society in Britain. While painting in watercolour is considered a very British art form, the Society has inspired similar organisations throughout the world. During the course of its history the RWS has upheld and maintained the great tradition of British watercolour painting. Since 1804, there have been nearly 550 members including such artists as John Sell Cotman, David Cox, Samuel Palmer, William Holman Hunt, Edward Burne-Jones, John Singer Sargent, Laura Knight, William Russell Flint and Edward Bawden. Amongst current Members are Leslie Worth, Jane Corsellis and Ken Howard.

To mark this historic year, the Society is holding a number of events and, in February 2004, art book publisher Sansom & Company published a new history of the Society, The Enchanted River: 200 years of the Royal Watercolour Society. Written by RWS archivist Simon Fenwick, the book tells of the Society's changing fortunes over the years, the controversies, personal vendettas and financial crises which characterised much of its history. 248pp, 270mm x 210mm, with approx. 70 colour and 80 black & white illustrations; hardback £39.95, softback £29.95.

Three special exhibitions are being held, in addition to the usual Spring and Autumn shows of Members’ work and the open exhibition 21 st Century Watercolour(8 July to 1 August). The first exhibition, Then & Now: Our Watercolour Tradition (6 February to 7 March) attracted nearly 3,000 visitors. The Patron of the RWS, Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, visited the exhibition on 18 February.



Bankside Gallery

48 Hopton Street

London SE1 9JH


Tel. 020 7928 7521


Opening hours :

Tuesday to Friday:

10.00 am to 5.00 pm

Saturday & Sunday:

11.00 am to 5.00 pm

Closed Monday


Free in the Bicentenary year


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