Watercolour Society of Ireland

Water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI)


The WCSI started out as a local Irish art society founded in 1870 by six ladies: the Baroness Pauline Prochazka, Miss Currey, the two Miss Keanes, Miss Musgrave and Miss Phipps. The agreed objects of this art society were the mutual improvement in painting and drawing, as well as the cultivation of a taste for art. In May 1871, the society held its first exhibition in Lismore, County Waterford.

By the time of its second exhibition - held in Clonmel in October 1871 - the society was known as the Amateur Drawing Society. Then in 1878 it changed its name again: this time to the Irish Fine Art Society, a title it kept until 1888 when it became the Water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI). By this point, many of the watercolour painters in Ireland had become members, and its exhibitions were almost exclusively devoted to watercolour painting.

In 1891, the Water Colour Society of Ireland took its first national step by abandoning its provincial exhibition venues and staged its annual Spring Exhibition at the Hall in Molesworth Street, Dublin. It continued to invite Irish artists there annually until 1975, when it moved the show to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery. Then, in 1981, it moved to the Bank of Ireland Exhibition Hall in Baggot Street. Finally, from 1989 onwards, the Society's annual Water Colour Exhibition has been staged at the Royal Hibernian Academy's Gallagher Gallery, in Ely Place.


Membership of the Society is allocated by the Committee in a secret ballot, only following a review of a substantial portfolio of work submitted by the applicant. No grants are received from any source to support the Society, it is fully self-sufficient.

Annual Exhibition

The 156th annual exhibition of the Water Colour Society will be held between 4th October 2010 – 16th October 2010, at Dun Laoghaire County Hall, Co. Dublin. The majority of paintings exhibited will be available for purchase. Opening times are Monday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. The exhibition will be organised by the Society's committee members Vincent Lambe, President; Pauline Doyle; Pat McCabe PhD; Angela Shivnen and Ann Mina. Awards will again be sponsored by Adam's auctioneers and the DART Iarnrod Eireann.

National Collection

The Society founded a national collection in 1993 and this is housed in Limerick University where it is on permanent exhibition. The university has published an illustrated catalogue. In 1994 the Society published 'Exhibition List 1872-1994' which gives details of all works exhibited in those years - artist's names, addresses, title of the work and sale price. The list records almost 25,000 works by 1,200 artists, including most of the prominent Irish watercolourists of their day. It is an invaluable source of reference.

Past and Present Members

The list of present and past members of the Water Colour Society of Ireland reads like a roll-call of the greatest painters in the history of Irish art. Members have included: Rose Barton, Mildred Anne Butler, George Campbell, Lilian Davidson, Gerard Dillon, Percy French, May Guinness, Letitia Hamilton, Fr Jack Hanlon, Paul Henry, Harry Kernoff, Maurice MacGonigal, Nora McGuinness, Frank McKelvey, Flora Mitchell, Kitty Wilmer O’Brien, Walter Osborne, Nano Reid, George Russell (AE), Gladys Wynne and Jack B. Yeats.

• For facts about famous artists in Ireland, see: Homepage.
• For a selected list of modern creative practitioners, see: Contemporary Irish Artists.
• For a personal view of the top creative practitioners, see: Best Irish Artists.

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