Art Society of Tasmania

The Art Society of Tasmania is devoted to the advancement of art in the community. It was founded in 1884 and since 1948 has made its permanent home at the Lady Franklin Museum in Lenah Valley. It has the stated objectives of 'encouraging and fostering both the emerging artists as well as the more established artist and to present to the public quality exhibitions on a regular basis'.

Two young women, Louisa Swan and Maria Evans, founded the Society first known as the Art Association. The Society had an impressive early membership and opened the first of its annual exhibitions. Swan was the first Treasurer and Evans the Secretary, while Sir James Agnew was the founding President, serving for seventeen years.

The Society has always enjoyed the support and prestige of distinguished and powerful friends. Many Governors have been patrons, and over the years many leaders of Hobart society have served on the governing council. Among the Society's early exhibitors were artists of such note as J Haughton Forrest, Arthur Streeton, WC Piguenit and GV Mann. That standard continued with such artists as Lucien Dechaineux, Mabel Hookey, John Eldershaw, Edith Holmes, Walter Taylor, Dorothy Stoner and Joseph Connor.

Until it obtained the occupancy of the Lady Franklin Museum, the Society was without a home, in its early years holding its exhibitions in a variety of places, such as FitzGerald's store, the Lord Mayor's Court Room, the Masonic Hall, the 'old Post Office', the Town Hall, an office in the Public Buildings in Macquarie Street and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery was, and still is, a spiritual focus of the Society. In 1917 the Society resolved to co-opt the resources of the Royal Society, the University, Technical Colleges, Institute of Architects and Chamber of Commerce to 'assist the trustees of the Public Art Gallery in Hobart to secure new works for the benefit of the whole community'. This objective, and the Society's encouragement of workshops and classes, indicates the philosophy it pursued through difficult years.

Many office bearers served for extended periods. Co-founder Louisa Swan remained as councillor then Vice Patron until 1949; Ethel M Nicholls, secretary from 1916 to 1928, served on council until the 1940s; Max Angus, an outstanding contributor, served as president, vice-president or councillor for over thirty years. It is Max who leads the Society's list of life members, others being Patricia Giles, Nell Francombe, Elspeth Vaughan, Norma McAuley, John Traynor, Lynette Wilson, Terrence Gough, Winifred Knight, Margaret Wallace, Betty Preston and Margaret Kay.

Further reading and references: Alan McCulloch, Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Herbert Press, London, 1964; W Moore, The Story of Australian Art, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1934; Max Germaine, Artists and Galleries of Australia, Roseville NSW, 1990; John O'Keefe (ed), The Art Society of Tasmania 18842000, Hobart, 1999; Correspondence file,'Historical Information', Art Society of Tasmania.

Jeff Ransley