In our last post, we provided you with a brief history of the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS), and we made reference to another society calling themselves the New Society of Painters in Water Colours, who would go on to become the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI).
Like the RWS, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours is one of the oldest societies of professional watercolour painters and both societies were started at a time when the Royal Academy was refusing to accept watercolours as a suitable medium for serious artistic expression, despite its use by many highly regarded painters.
The RI was inaugurated in 1807 as an alternative to the RWS, who only exhibited the work of its own members. From the start the RI showed the work of non-members’ alongside that of members and their exhibitions attracted some of the foremost watercolourists of the time including David Cox, Peter De Wint, William Blake, Samuel Prout, Paul Sandby and Joseph Powell. Financial problems caused them to fold in 1812 but in 1831, Joseph Powell, with several like minded artists, resurrected the New Society of Painters in Water Colours but unfortunately they decided to abandon the policy of exhibiting together both non-members and member’s work thus losing a vital component of the difference between themselves and the RWS.
In 1863 the New Society became the Institute of Painters in Water Colours and two years later a new group of watercolour painters was inaugurated, known as the Dudley, whose exhibitions were open to all-comers thereby filling the gap left when the New Society closed their doors to outsiders. In 1883 the Institute and the Dudley joined forces and this amalgamation saw a significant change in the Institute’s exhibition policy, and after many years of exhibitions limited to the work of members only, the RI once again opened their doors to all comers, a policy still followed today. It was in 1885, by command of Queen Victoria, that the Institute was able to add the prefix ‘Royal’ to its title.