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Patrons of the Society and examples of their Work

Names such as Sir Alma-Tadema RA, Peter Graham RA, John Hodgson RA, Henry Stacey Marks RA, James Sant CVO RA, George Frederick Watts OM RA, Benjamin Leader RA, George Storey RA, John Seymour Lucas RA RI - without exception, they were all respected Victorian Painters at the top of their profession.

             H S Marks RA                                                 John Hodgson RA                                        Peter Graham RA

A Short History

Founded 1887

The arrival of the industrial revolution in Cardiff was to create a major change in both the landscape and population of what had been a small town and port. As the worldwide demand for Welsh coal grew, the wealthy Bute family built the docks to be able to export the coal to every corner of the globe. As a result, industrialists, businessmen and professional people were arriving from all parts of the country. Having settled in Cardiff, they were seeking to create cultural activities in the town of their adoption. This was to lead to the creation of the South Wales Art Society and Sketching Club.

A Seed of an Idea

The seed of an idea to form an art society in Cardiff had been planted by the North Wales based Royal Cambrian Academy.

In 1886, a small group of Cardiff art enthusiasts who were members of the RCA were to form the foundation of what was to become the South Wales Art Society and Sketching Club. They included:

Clarence Whaite PRCA RWS

He came to Wales in 1849 and became a prominent figure in the Royal Watercolour Society, he was appointed a Life President of the RCA in 1885.


Edwin Seward RCA FRIBA

Seward was born in Somerset in 1853, and moved to Cardiff as an architect. He went on to build some of Cardiff’s most notable buildings in the late 19th Century.

Thomas H Thomas RCA

Born in Pontypool in 1839, studied at The Royal Academy. Thomas settled in Cardiff. He became involved with the Eisteddfod and the Gorsedd. He was President of the Cardiff Naturalists Society.

Society Exhibitions

Extract of ‘Handbook for Cardiff & District’, British Association 1891:

“The Exhibition of The Royal Cambrian Academy, and this (SWAS) are the only regular art exhibitions of importance held in Wales, and those who have usually contributed works include well-known members of the RCA and other centres in London, and some distinguished amateurs, among whom may be named the President and Lady Windsor”

Front cover of the 1st Exhibition held in 1888 at The Public Hall, Cardiff.

In the Society’s centenary year of 1987, the 92nd Annual Exhibition was held at the Albany Gallery. The Society had a membership of over 200 and its studio was in Chapter in the adult education annexe. The Society’s 100th Annual Exhibition was held at the Turner House Gallery in 1995. The eight year gap in the exhibitions was due to World War II.

Over the Society’s history, several studios have been used as its meeting place, its annual exhibitions have been held in many venues and the National Museum of Wales kindly made available to the Society Turner House Gallery in Penarth which was used for annual exhibitions as far back as the 1890s, when its owner Pyke Thompson, an active member of the Society, made the gallery available to SWAS members. Unfortunately, Turner House has not been available for SWAS exhibitions since 2005, but we hope one day to return to this very popular venue and once again use the gallery as its original owner would have wanted.

‘Turner House, Penarth’, painting by Archie Jones

Home History Page 1 SWAS in the 21st Century

The First Committee

The first committee had influential people who would ensure the Art Society’s place in Cardiff.

President: The Rt. Hon. The Lord Windsor

Vice President: Walter Severn RCA

Committee Members:

Lord Windsor’s home at St Fagan’s Castle

Samuel W Allen ARCA

E Tennyson Reed

Miles Aspinall (Architect)

E H Bruton RIBA

Councillor E W Shackell

L J Graham-Clarke RCA MA

James Tilley

Parker Hagarty ARCA

James Harris (Editor, Western Mail)

George Thomas (Architect)

James Hurman (TVR)

W H Thomas

C J Jackson

Rev C J Thompson MA

B S Marks RCA

The Most Hon. The Marquess of Bute KT

The Right Hon. Lord Viscount Bangor

The Right Hon. The Lord Kensington MP

The Right Hon. The Lord Tredegar

The Right Hon. The Lord Aberdare

Col. The Hon. F C Morgan MP

The Worshipful The Mayor of Cardiff

Windsor Jacobs JP

Sir E J Reed KCB MP

Sir H Hussey Vivian MP

Sir William Thomas Lewis

Sir Morgan Morgan

Lieut. Col. E S Hill CB MP

Bowen Rowlands MP

J T Dillwyn Llewelyn MA JP

Major General J R Sladen JP

Major General H H Lee JP

Col C K Kemeys-Tynte JP

Major J Pyke Thompson

L J Graham-Clarke MA JP

Lewis Morris MA JP

W Banks JP (Hon Treasurer. Cambrensis        Arch. Association)

Robert Forrest JP

Principal J Viriamu Jones MA (South       Wales University College)

James Ware JP

J Pyke Thompson

Arthur O’Neill (Editor, South Wales Echo)

J L Wheatley (Town Clerk, Cardiff)

Aims of the Society:

“The establishment of an Art Society and Sketching Club in this progressive locality supplies two long felt wants, by providing for those who practice drawing, sketching, and painting the incentive or opportunity of a periodical exhibition, and by offereing to those who admire and appreciate, rather than practice, a means of cultivating a taste for Art”