The Society was started as a result of a Public Meeting convened by the then Mayor of Coventry, Colonel W.Wyley. This was held in St. Mary’s Hall on 12th February 1912. The first President of the Society was Soloman J. Soloman R.I. He was succeeded by Sir William Orpen A.R.A. and Dame Laura Knight R.A. until 1962. Then Coventry Architect Rolf Hellberg F.R.I.B.A. held the post until 1981. In more recent times Art Historian Dr Antony Hobson, David Shepherd O.B.E. and the Marquess of Hertford, of Ragley Hall have held the post.
In addition to the above Vice-Presidents have included Sir Frank Brangwyn Sir D.Y. Cameron, Sir William Russell Flint, Sir David Murray, Arthur Rackham, Sir Alfred Herbert, Sir Jacob Epstein, Sir F.A. Newdigate, Sir Edward Illife, Sir Hugh Casson and Dame Elizabeth Frink.
Clearly we have a very distinguished History to be proud of.
Sir Alfred Herbert is particularly remembered for his gift to the City of Coventry of “The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum”.
Annual exhibitions were held, with the exception of the two wars, in the Old Corn Exchange until it was demolished and then in St Mary’s Hall until 1948. From 1949-59 the unfinished Herbert Art Gallery was the venue and, once finished, continued to be so until 1991. This fulfilled the specific wishes of Sir Alfred Herbert that at least one gallery should be for the benefit of the City’s population and its local Art Society.
In 1992 Coventry City Council changed this policy and has not permitted the Society to hold its Annual Exhibition there since. The Society has had to find alternative venues since then and had, for 9 years been established for its “Annual” at the Jane Powell Art Studio in Kenilworth. Since this venue has now closed the Society remains desirous of reversing Coventry’s decision and again implementing the Herbert Art Gallery’s founder’s expressed wishes.
Membership of the Society was originally intended to be for practising artists and for many years entry was by submission of work to a committee. The Society’s policy has changed with the spirit of the times and is now open to all who have an interest in the visual arts.
The members enjoy a programme of varied activities and social events as well as, usually three, opportunities to submit work to exhibition. Acceptance of work is usually by selection committee. Every effort is made to accept at least one work from every member and all agree that the standard of exhibition has risen since the Society became 'open'.