Launceston Art Society

The Launceston Art Society was constituted in 1899, a development from the earlier Launceston Art Club and its precursor the Launceston Drawing Club, which had been established during the 1890s by a group of women of like interests, devoted to the fine arts. Among these were Mary Augusta Greig, the first president, and a former pupil of the artist Samuel Prout Hill; and Louisa Swan, with Greig a former pupil of the renowned British/Australian artist Albert Henry Fullwood. The first exhibition, which included drawings, oil paintings, watercolour paintings, photographs and 'bric-a-brac', opened in 1891, in a room above Ritchie and Parker's legal offices in St John Street. The second included photographs by some male exhibitors. Future exhibitions were held in the Mechanics' Institute, the Masonic Hall, the King's Hall and, from 1940 to 1983, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The Society is among the oldest art societies still exhibiting in Australia.

The Society attracted the support of leading Tasmanian artists and art teachers including Lucien Dechaineux, Dorothy Stoner, Jack Carington Smith, Robert Campbell, Geoff Tyson and Alan McIntyre. On the occasion of a major retrospective of the Society held in 1983, Barbara Chapman observed: 'When art education in Tasmania was still in its infancy, the Society played an important role in broadening the spectrum of art available to the local community by encouraging artists from the mainland states and from Hobart to exhibit in its annual exhibitions. Art publications were circulated among members and lectures were held'.

In recent years the Society, with a membership in excess of 140 (in 2005), has maintained this role, conducting regular workshops and an annual exhibition programme in various venues in the city.

Further reading: B Chapman, The Launceston Art Society in Retrospect 18911983, Launceston, 1983; S Backhouse, Tasmanian Artists of the twentieth century, Hobart, 1988; S Petrow, Going to the Mechanics, Launceston, 1998.

Yvonne Adkins