? AWI | History

AWI History

Australian Watercolour Institute
1923 - 1980
Art Historian, Writer, Critic.
By the mid 1920s feeling was growing among professional watercolourists in Sydney that in the exhibitions of the established societies their work was not being given due space and respect. Local societies had grown so much, with art schools, especially the government art school in the old gaol at East Sydney Technical College, producing more and more artists to make their bid for professional status; and it was increasingly felt that the delicate, subtle qualities of watercolour were being overlooked, were being shouted down by the presence of larger, more aggressive oil paintings. The need was felt for the establishment of a society devoted to watercolour paintings in Australia, something similar to the Royal Watercolour Society, founded in Britain in 1804, and the American Watercolor Society, which dates back to 1867.
In August 1923, six established watercolourists met together at 50 Young Street, Sydney, with the aim of forming a society to promote the art of painting watercolour in Australia . They were B. E. Minns, A. J. Daplyn, C. E. S. Tindall, Martin Stainforth, J. H. Bennett, and the sixty-year-old redoubtable battler A. H. Fullwood, who had been militant in the formation of the rebel Society of Artists years before.
B. E. Minns was well known as a black-and-white Bulletin artist and for his accomplished watercolours and landscapes, harbourscapes and figure paintings, especially of aborigines, whom he depicted with sympathetic good humour. Stainforth specialised in the painting of horses, and Tindall in depicting ships and the sea. The other three were chiefly landscape painters, although Fullwood was particularly happy in the rendering of busy street scenes. All were primarily concerned with asserting the status of watercolour.
The six men formed a committee, and each member paid one guinea membership fee. The seventy-nine-year-old Daplyn, who had instructed many of Australia ’s practising watercolourists, was elected Honorary Secretary and Treasurer.
At a second meeting in September, attended also by John Tristram, and at which M. J. McNally of Melbourne was admitted as a member, the title Australian Watercolour Institute, proposed by Fullwood, was adopted by the society. B. E. Minns was elected Chairman, and he served conscientiously in the office of President until his death in 1937. Hans Heysen, Blamire Young, Arthur Streeton, John D. Moore, Norman Lindsay, John Eldershaw, Albert Collins and Sydney Long were invited to become foundation members.
The first exhibition of the Australian Watercolour Institute was opened on 25 March 1924, at Anthony Hordern’s Gallery, by His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales, Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair. Of the fourteen invited members, eleven exhibited and they were joined by thirty-two non-members. The exhibition was well patronised and sales were sufficient to make the new society feel it had struck a blow in the cause of watercolour.
Early in 1925, Daplyn resigned as Secretary and the position was taken over by Gladys Owen who, along with Maude Sherwood, Rah Fizelle and Llewellyn Jones of Melbourne , had just been elected a member. Vida Lahey and Kenneth MacQueen of Queensland , Napier Waller and Septimus Power of Victoria, and Fred Leist, just returned from abroad, all became members in 1926. A definite effort was being made to bring together outstanding talent in watercolour from all over Australia , and to maintain a high standard. To obtain membership, a watercolourist had to be nominated and then elected by vote of the Council.
For the 1926 exhibition, held at the Education Department Gallery, Loftus Street , in February-March, Basil Burdett, a partner in the newly-established Macquarie Galleries in Bligh Street , was announced manager. On the retirement of Gladys Owen in April, Burdett took over the secretaryship.
With a strong membership representing most states, firmly established on a business-like basis, the annual exhibition of the Australian Watercolour Institute took its place as one of the important events of the Sydney art calendar. Membership maintained a steady growth, controlled by the vote of the committee, and in the main its selectivity achieved status value. The majority of important Australian watercolourists have at some time exhibited with the Institute, even if they have not become members or have abandoned their membership after a brief period: Gerald Fitzgerald, J. Muir Auld, Tom Garrett, Donald Commons , Dattilo-Rubbo, Douglas Dundas. d’Auvergne Boxall, John Rowell, John Passmore, Arthur Murch and Eric Wilson have all been exhibitors.
This did much to enhance the standard of the annual exhibitions. It was, however, the constant of such artists as B. E. Minns, G. K. Townshend, John Eldershaw, Rah Fizelle, Norman Lindsay, Margaret Coen, Fred Leist, Vida Lahey, Hector Gilliland, Enid Cambridge, Flora Jarrett, Eileen Berndt, Lorna Nimmo, George Duncan, Ronald Stewart and Ralph Malcolm Warner that provided the solid nucleus of the society over more than half a century. Although some invitees, like Thea Proctor and Hans Heysen did not become members of the Institute, they exhibited occasionally in the early years.
John Eldershaw, the youngest founding member, holds the record as the longest exhibiting member. An almost constant exhibitor, and President from 1945 to 1948, he had participated in nearly fifty exhibitions before his death in 1973. Eldershaw’s presidency succeeded that of J.W. Maund’s, a solicitor and connoisseur and a tremendously enthusiastic, fluent amateur who took over the post after the death of Minns. Johnnie Maund was a passionate patron of art, frequented artists’ and sketch clubs, and for years gave all his leisure time to the pursuit of his hobby. He also served as a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. His watercolours reflect his love of the medium and of nature, and examples are to be seen in the New South Wales and Hinton collections.
Eldershaw was followed in the presidency by Rah Fizelle (1948 to 1951), and the stimulus provided by these two highly respected watercolourists invigorated the society, bringing in a number of new members who were more adventurous in their approach. They reaffirmed the special aesthetic of the medium, a revival engendered much by the influence of the British watercolourists; Tonks, Steer, and the Nash brothers; and the watercolourists of the New English Art Club, Frank and Muriel Medworth, Hal Missingham, Frank Hinder, Weaver Hawkins, Eric Thake, Hector Gilliland and Jean Isherwood were among new members whose work gave interest and vitality to the annual exhibitions. Also influential was the small group of new romantics; Carington Smith, Robert Campbell, Frank McNamara and Len Annois.
H. W. Grace, an amateur artist who served the Institute as Secretary for several years, filled the presidential chair from 1951 to 52, when Hal Missingham was elected (1952 to 55). Missingham, Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, was noted as a swift and witty draughtsman, and as an accomplished photographer and writer, as well as a watercolourist of crisp lucidity. Lorna Nimmo, the only woman President (1955 to 58). George Duncan (1958 to 64) and Brian Stratton (1964 to 72) were succeeded by Frederic Bates.
The Australian Watercolour Institute took its role as champion of watercolour very seriously. In 1930 in the foreword to the annual exhibition catalogue, a students’ exhibition was announced:
‘The urgent and increasing need for some Art Tribunal in this country to foster and increase the popularity of watercolour painting has been fully recognised by the Council of the Australian Watercolour Institute. During the last twelve months the Institute has been diligently pursuing its efforts to this end and the Competition, open to all recognised Art Schools in Landscape, Figure and Decorative drawing or Design for a Mural, for prizes donated by the Council, has met with a most gratifying response. The quality of the entries submitted reveals the amazing strides made in the practice of this delightful medium, giving a comfortable feeling that the future of watercolour painting in Australia is assured and that ensuing exhibitions of the Institute will be graced by the works of these capable and thoughtful young students.’
The competitions continued for four years. Students competing came mainly from the East Sydney Technical College, the Royal Art Society School and the Sydney Art School; and in 1933 there was also a group from Melbourne .
In 1930, the figure subject was awarded to Joan Morrison, the decoration prize to Roslyn Edkins and the landscape prize to Eric Wilson. Eric Wilson was a very talented young artist, who produced a notable series of wash drawings of the streets of London and Paris during his study period in Europe in the 1930s. Later he taught at the East Sydney Technical College and exhibited with the Contemporary Group. Although he produced some fine and distinctive work, his distinguished career was cut short by his death at the age of thirty-five.
In 1931 there was no award for figure; Francis Sherwood received the landscape award; and Gwynneth Stone and Rex Julius being highly commended.
There can be no doubt that these small prizes, although they were abandoned in 1934, acted as a stimulus to students, providing specific encouragement and recognition for young artists in the use of the medium.
The Australian Watercolour Institute was well supported in the 1920s and into the 1930s, although sales were, of course, affected by the Depression, which was a shattering setback to art all over Australia . Few of the commercial galleries were able to survive, and many artists were driven to find work of any kind wherever they could.
Until the resignation in 1939 of Kenneth Wilkinson from the position of art critic with the Sydney Morning Herald, the most consistent and respected of local reviewing columns, considerable space was allotted to the Institute exhibitions, which on the whole were sympathetically treated. Warnings were sounded from time to time against traditional conservatism becoming ‘fusty and moth-eaten’, and new blood, from the Contemporary Group, was welcomed ‘ Grace Cossington-Smith with her clamorous but stimulating colour harmonies and complex patterns’, Albert Collins, Fizelle, MacQueen, Enid Cambridge, Maude Sherwood. But praise was also accorded accomplished traditional work.
The sympathies of Peter Bellew and Paul Haefliger, who followed Wilkinson as critics for the Sydney Morning Herald, were wholly with the avant-garde, and this bias appears with varying degrees of condemnation from 1941 to 1957, as their comments show:
‘A rather academic institution, but actuated by a sense of its former shortcomings, the society has almost for the first time allowed a certain element of excitement, even daring, on its walls’ (1947).
‘Vagueness and elaboration dominate the exhibition’ (1948).
‘There may be different methods of approach among the exhibitors with the AWI ranging from ‘modern’, from the flamboyant to the undefined but with few exceptions art here is on a starvation diet’ (1949).
‘For 26 years the AWI has laboured; slight changes have taken place; the demi-gods have fallen, an inevitable fate’, twentieth ‘the neutrality of indifferent work’ (1950).
It is significant that the Watercolour Institute records a falling-off of support at this time. Fewer non-members sent work; shows were no doubt weaker; the press notices, scathing in their references to the traditional watercolourist, added to the already existing uncertainties of the purpose of art, a questioning of the very validity of the medium as a means of expression. The older artists were frustrated, shaken or bitter; the younger ones were carried away or confused by the onrush of rapidly changing isms.
In 1954 Paul Haefliger could write with some truth of the annual Australian Watercolour Institute exhibition: ‘One has seen it coming for years; the twentieth century has gained ascendancy over the Australian Watercolour Institute; the Institute has nearly lost the flavour of the great tradition of naturalism practised by our forefathers, and discovered Cezanne’. He praised those artists showing the influence of ‘the spirit of our time’, especially ‘the valiant group’ of abstract painters, which included Margo Lewers, Frank Hinder, Rosamond McCulloch, Roy Fluke, Gordon McAuslan and above all, Carl Plate, referred to as ‘the Australian Braque’. At about the same time Herbert Read was writing of current international developments in watercolour:‘ ; the art has lost what gave it its distinctive aesthetic; its desire to render the subtlest effects of atmosphere; but what it has lost in subtlety, it has gained in power’.
Abstraction, especially Lyrical Abstraction, abstraction based on philosophic concepts, and Abstract Expressionism, were the dominant developments in watercolour painting for the next two decades. The possibilities of the medium in this area of nebulous suggestion and passionate evocation of idea and motion attracted many of the new generation of artists, both within and without the Watercolour Institute. Many of this new generation lost nothing in subtlety, finding in the intrinsic qualities of the medium their greatest strength.
James Gleeson, writing of watercolour in 1963, referred to ‘the crises, decline and partial recovery that has occurred within the medium since 1923’.
‘Most of us who are past forty still tend to think of watercolour as a technique in which pigment is laid on paper in transparent washes so that the white ground shows through the film of colour and provides the desired luminosity. The qualities of freshness and directness; impossible to disturb without producing undesirable muddiness; the immediate statement; are the qualities inherent in the medium. The main currents of art in our time have led away from the objective approach. We are spinning in the rapids and whirlpools of subjectiveness. The only measuring rod is the artist’s aesthetic instinct. And he gave the warning: ‘Technical brilliance is not to be confused with creative art.’ These critical comments are relevant in tracing the fortunes of the Australian Watercolour Institute, which continues to survive.
From the 1940s on, an ever-increasing number of art prizes with a special category for watercolour appeared. These provided stimulus, publicity and demand for the watercolourist, but there was still an irritating awareness of the discrepancy in evaluation of the medium against the more imposing and usually larger oil and the clamorous acrylic.
In his foreword to the catalogue of the Australian Watercolour Institute’s annual exhibition in 1960, George Duncan, the then President, voiced these feelings:
‘The Institute notes with increased concern that Municipal Councils and Sponsors of Art Competitions continue to offer lower prizes for watercolour than for oil paintings. After nation-wide consultation with artists and authorities relating to this discrepancy the UNESCO Visual Art Committee sent out a strong recommendation that prizes should be non-acquisitive and should be of equal value without regard to the medium employed.’
This directive had some little effect; a few non-acquisitive prizes and one or two much more generous prizes for watercolour were offered. In some instances a far more satisfactory art competition was instituted by municipal and commercial bodies. This was the purchase award, or, more attractive still to artists, the invitation purchase award, which guaranteed, as well as the possibility of purchase for a permanent, probably public, collection, a high standard of exhibition. In such competitions the artist puts his price on his entry, and selection is made by a judge or judges for purchase within the proscribed expenditure, for inclusion in the sponsor’s collection. This supports the artist in his practice of the medium and ensures that a nucleus of quality watercolours is acquired by embryo galleries or institutions.
The open competition, for any medium with the divisions traditional and modern, very rarely results in a quality watercolour being chosen for purchase in preference to an inferior oil. The introduction of acrylic paint, which can be water-soluble and used on paper, has caused a further complication in categorising awards, and has led to the use of the phrase or like medium in relation to both oil and watercolour categories, the acrylic hovering between the two sections. Acrylic, water-based on paper, has on several occasions been awarded a watercolour prize. Art prizes, which have been a controversial feature of the Australian art scene for the past three decades, have certainly benefited many watercolourists, several of whom have notched up as many as fifty awards, chiefly in municipal and country competitions.
To survive and grow, an art society seems to need a home of its own, a place where members can meet and have contact with one another, where records can be kept, meetings held, and the business of the society can be conducted; where perhaps classes can be held, lectures organised, and a display of members’ work kept on view and available to the public. Probably the erstwhile powerful, now defunct New South Wales Society of Artists, described in the 1920s and 1930s as the de facto Australian Academy of Art, would still be with us if it had had a proper home.
Some of the early societies were fortunate in getting small government grants, private endowments, and rooms of their own; others, the more close-knit groups, have managed through the enthusiasm of their members to acquire a home.
The Australian Watercolour Institute was homeless until 1974. From its inception meetings have been held in all sorts of odd spots; cafes, hotels, offices, and commercial galleries; and the annual Sydney exhibitions have been held at various venues; galleries of the large department stores (Anthony Hordern’s, Farmers, David Jones), and most frequently at the Education Department Galleries in Loftus Street. Although the Institute is centred in Sydney , membership has remained Australia-wide, and work is accepted for exhibition from all States. Despite difficulties of organisation and finance, exhibitions have been held from time to time in cities interstate and in country centres.
The Institute passed its fiftieth anniversary in 1973. In 1974 it received a Federal grant of $2000 to make possible the rental of rooms on the first floor of a building in 171 Sussex Street, Sydney, and also to help with an exchange exhibition with members of the American Watercolor Society. Paintings from members of the Australian Institute were shown with the American Watercolor Society’s 108th Annual Exhibition in the USA, and the American Society members were included in the Australian fifty-second annual exhibition in Sydney . A further government grant of $1000 made in 1975 was followed by $500 in 1976, a rather pathetic encouragement.
The Sussex Street premises of the Australian Watercolour Institute were open each Sunday afternoon with a small exhibition of members’ work, and in February 1977 watercolour classes were commenced. Conducted first by Ronald Stewart and carried on by Frederic Bates and Margaret Coen, the classes proved popular and filled a demand. A clarification has been undertaken by Cameron Sparks, a member since 1966 and efficient Secretary from 1973 to 1976, and again in 1978. In 1980 the Institute moved to new premises at 811/2 George Street .
Recent annual exhibitions of the Australian Watercolour Institute have been held at the Blaxland Gallery, Myer, Sydney; an exhibition was sent to Adelaide in 1977; and in the same year another successfully toured some New Zealand cities. The S. H. Ervin Gallery at Observatory Hill, a most gracious venue, was made available by the National Trust in 1980 for the annual exhibition.
While there are probably more distinguished artists around Australia outside the society than within it; artists deeply committed to watercolour, at least as an alternative medium; there can be no doubt that the Australian Watercolour Institute has contributed a great deal over more than fifty years to the promotion of watercolour painting in this country. It has provided exhibition opportunities to younger artists, some of whom no longer need or bother to support the society, and that invaluable association with others who are pursuing similar aims, facing similar problems.
Most importantly, the Institute has upheld Herbert Read’s assertion that watercolour, by the very reason of its specific materials, has its own distinct aesthetic; it has made a concerted effort to maintain a high standard of membership. and to bring watercolours of quality regularly before public notice. If it is to continue to do this, it will need the support, as it was eagerly given in the beginning, of all first-rate watercolourists in the country. Membership must be regarded as an honour. Its significance in the community must be such as to elicit further government assistance in providing a worthy home and its own proper exhibition facilities.
The 1920s saw the birth of a number of art groups, banded together to promote some specific aspect of art: the Painter-Etchers’ Society, the Australian Society of Black and White Artists, the Australian Institute of Arts and Literature, the Australian Ex-Libris Society, the Australian Art Society, the Contemporary Group. Many of these died an early death, even though at the time they were factors in the development of art in Australia . Its very survival is proof that the Watercolour Institute continues to answer a need in the community.
Reprinted by kind permission of Jean Campbell from her book Australian Watercolour Painters from 1780 to the Present Day, Craftsman House,1989.
AWI Activities 1960s
BRIAN STRATTON, OAM, President 1964 to 72,
& 2006 to 2009 Emeritus President and Life Member
When I was elected to membership in 1961, the president was George Duncan who was also the Director of the David Jones’ Art Gallery and it was in this Elizabeth Street store gallery that the Institute had held its annual exhibition for a number of years. When I became president in 1964 George Duncan had retired from DJ’s and their gallery was no longer available to art societies. The loss of this central, well-patronised, well-lit display area was to affect the fortunes of artists and societies for years to come.
The 1960s was a time of change in society generally and in the art world change was also occurring with the demise of a number of long established groups. There was the growth of suburban art societies and the proliferation of private commercial galleries. At the beginning of the decade there were four major societies emanating from Sydney . They were the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, the Society of Artists, the Contemporary Art Society of New South Wales, the Australian Watercolour Institute and to a lesser extent there was a fifth group, the Australian Art Society. Only the Royal Art Society and the Institute were still functioning at the end of the decade.
Whilst the reasons for the disbanding of these groups would be many and varied and would depend on the personalities involved, some of the contributing factors would have been that some established artists no longer felt the need to belong to a group when their needs were now being met by private dealers. Also instrumental was the now lack of suitable space that could hold and successfully display a large number of works and finally there was the change in the purchasing policies of the State Galleries and in particular the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Prior to the change in the purchasing policy a quorum of trustees of the Gallery would visit exhibitions on the preview day and have first pick of the works displayed, also the directors of other State Galleries would visit the shows with the intention of adding to their collections. This ensured that by the time the public came the exhibition was off to a flying start with sales well underway. I can recall the occasion when just before the policy was abandoned, Hector Gilliland had, from one show, three works purchased by three State Galleries and whilst this trifecta added greatly to the artist’s reputation it also added to the status of the Institute and enhanced the standing of the annual exhibition.
With the loss of the David Jones’ Gallery the Institute was forced to use the Department of Education Art Gallery on the top floor of the Education building in Bridge Street . This gallery had been used by art groups for some decades, but by 1964 it was an antiquated, ill-lit space no longer in a convenient part of town. It was far from ideal but at that time it was basically the only venue available to societies. I recall a deputation to the then Minister of Education the Hon. F. Wetherall to see if we could get improvements made to the gallery. Representing the societies were Erik Langker of the Royal Art Society, Guy Warren of the Contemporary Art Society, Lloyd Rees and John Santry from the Society of Artists and myself from the Institute, but it was to no avail and no improvements were forthcoming.
During my time as President the membership remained fairly constant at something less than 40 members from all states of the Commonwealth. In 1964 the senior members would have been Max Angus, Janna Bruce, Margaret Coen, Alfred Cook, John Eldershaw, who was the last surviving foundation member, Rah Fizelle, Frank Hinder, Margo Lewers, Hal Missingham, Frank McNamara, Ronald Stewart, G. K. Townshend and all these years later and still exhibiting regularly are Jean Isherwood, Hector Gilliland and Kenneth Jack.
To gain membership of the Institute has always been difficult but back in the 60s it was even more so with the split in the art world. A lot of prejudice existed within the art community. In those days those artists who favoured traditional values in painting gravitated toward the Royal Art Society and those artists that had modern leanings belonged to the Contemporary Art Society. The Institute’s membership had reached a stage where it comprised artists from both camps, plus those in-between, drawn together by their use and love of the watercolour medium. To be invited to membership one required members from both groups to vote for you in order to get the two thirds of votes needed. Whilst artists will always have strong opinions, happily the prejudices of that period are no longer with us.
One of the first duties I had on becoming President was to request a senior member to withdraw his resignation. He had submitted it because at the annual exhibition the figurative works were displayed on one half of the main hall and the non-figurative ones on the other half with a screen dividing the two approaches. Fortunately he withdrew his resignation, and it was the only time that the works were displayed in such a manner. Hanging so many disparate works in an annual exhibition so that each artist and the exhibition as a whole would be seen in the best light was never an easy matter and in this regard we relied on the expertise of Hector Gilliland who in my opinion would have few peers with his ability to juxtaposition paintings so that they would hang together as a harmonious unit.
Lloyd Rees 1980
To further illustrate the climate that prevailed within the art world during the 60s I recall the opening of the 1962 or 63 exhibition which was performed by a noted critic of the day who in his address stated, and I felt he said it with some pride, that Hans Heysen had not exhibited in Sydney for a number of years because of what the critics said of his work. I further recall that on a rare occasion when a Heysen was shown, another critic dismissed his work by writing that this was the atomic age and intimating that Heysen’s interpretation of the Australian landscape was no longer valid. As it should be the artist prevailed, Hans Heysen occupies a honoured place in the annals of Australian art and critics who champion only the fashions of the day find their opinions being discarded with the passage of time. The stylistic passions that dominated the 1960s in the main no longer exist with artists of the 90s and for as long as I can recall the Institute has embraced all avenues of expression with the watercolour medium.
As with other groups the Institute experienced lean times during the 1960s, but things started to improve with the election of the Whitlam government, when greater interest was taken, more money was spent on the arts and better venues were found for the display of works, which led to better attendances and a resultant increase in sales, which in turn made the Institute a more viable body. Since 1972 my successors, Presidents Frederic Bates, Brian Gaston and Graham Austin have successfully taken the Institute to the present day.
Like all dynamic groups the Institute has known good times and bad times. That it has survived since 1923 is a credit to many people who for the past three-quarters of a century plus, have had a passion for the watercolour medium.
AWI Activities 1972 to 85
Emeritus President and Life Member
Members at an exhibition held in conjunction with the American Watercolor Society in 1975. From left: Kerrie Schnorr, Fredric Bates (President), Le Roy F.Percival Jr. [from American Embassy, who opened the exhibition], Margaret Coen [AWI Vice President], Hector Gilliland [AWI Vice President] and Cameron Sparkes [AWI Hon Sec].
In my tenure as President of the AWI, 1972 to 85, after the retirement of Brian Stratton who had given eight years of valuable and dedicated service, I wish to draw attention to the support of my first few years in office of Cameron Sparks as Hon. Secretary, and Ronald Hogan (deceased) who followed him. The position of Hon. Secretary, always an onerous task, was difficult to fill and the Institute owes thanks to Barbara Chapman who stepped in for one year in 1977.
Brian Gaston, who accepted the position as Secretary, a fine unpretentious man of wit and charm, added to the drive which carried on after our exchange exhibitions with USA and touring exhibitions to Adelaide and New Zealand . All with the intention of stimulating watercolour as a medium and promoting our Australian exponents. Much new ground was broken.
I must express my gratitude for the support of senior artists, Hector Gilliland, Ronald Steuart and Frank McNamara before, during and after my term as President.
As a reasonably youngish artist I once met Ronald Steuart at Wynyard concourse; said Ron, ‘Your name was proposed at an AWI meeting, Fred; you didn't make it!’ The disappointment was not so great, as I considered the fact of the proposal was encouragement.
In this publication is a fitting time to mention that, Sir William Dobell, Ronald Steuart, Frederic Bates and Frank McNamara at some time each was awarded the Wynne Prize; and all, at some time attended Cook’s Hill High School (Novocastrians all); and members of AWI.
Membership of AWI in November 1972 was forty six of which number, eight members represented Melbourne, Tasmania and Western Australia . $1609, including investments of $600 was the financial balance at 9th November 1972 on my occupation of the Presidency.
The following encapsulates a busy twelve and a half years.
1973 In September, the 50th Annual Exhibition was opened by Sir Roden Cutler, Governor of NSW, in the Blaxland Gallery and was fittingly recorded in a gold-covered souvenir catalogue designed by our member Roy Hutchinson.
1974 Saw the AWI in its first rented premises as HQ/office/ meeting room/gallery at 171 Sussex Street, Sydney. Carpet was donated by a supporter, June Windspear. Walls were painted by members and chairs acquired. In this year we received assistance with a Federal grant of $2000.
1975 A reciprocal exhibition was shared with the American Watercolor Society. Thirty eight members exhibited in the 108th Annual in New York (opened by the Australian High Commissioner). Thirty four American paintings from AWS were exhibited at the AWI’s 52nd Annual at Blaxland Gallery, opened by American Ambassador. A souvenir catalogue designed by Frederic Bates was printed and donated by Peter Stuyvesant Foundation, courtesy George Hawkes. A further Federal grant of $1000 assisted the exchange. Also in 1975, an AWI travelling exhibition was sent to Ingham and Townsville, and appreciated by watercolour painters in Northern Queensland.
1976 The AWI received another small Government grant of $550. The first of two exhibitions to Adelaide at Sumner Gallery was opened by AWI President. It was a mild success. An exhibition was despatched to Ararat and Horsham galleries in Victoria (by mail). A number of the paintings arrived with broken glass (at least 12). Drove down and transported unsold work back.
1977 Watercolour classes were commenced by the President with early assistance from Ronald Steuart, Margaret Coen and Ron Hogan. Since then, from 1979 until his death, John Santry continued with three classes a week. His classes were very popular and helped in the financial stability of the AWI. A student’s exhibition in the Institute’s gallery became a feature each December.
An invitation to the AWI to send an exhibition on tour to eight provincial galleries in New Zealand, including Wellington and Auckland , commenced its tour in Hastings Cultural Centre and was opened by the Australian High Commissioner. The exhibition was arranged by the Director of Hastings Cultural Centre and was opened by the Australian High Commissioner. The exhibition was arranged by the Director of Hastings Cultural Centre in co-operation with Fred Bates who had been guest judge of Kelliher Biennial Prize the previous year. This was assisted by Qantas and Visual Arts Board, Australia Council.
The AWI introduced the first of its Dinners for members at the Tulips Restaurant in Clarence Street; 35 attended and enjoyed, among others, the jovial company of the late Henry Salkauskas.
1978 Classes were continuing with tutorship of John Santry with occasional assistance of Claudia Forbes-Woodgate. Several members held exhibitions of small paintings in the Institute’s rooms.
1979 Brian Gaston accepted the position of Hon. Secretary. Several small classes continued and committee and annual meetings were being held at 171 Sussex Street with several shows of small paintings by individuals.
1980 The AWI moved to new small premises in the historic area of The Rocks at 811/2 George Street, it was one room only on the first floor. This was acquired by courtesy of Mr Ted Florin, who conducted an art supplies business on street level. Secretary acquired seagrass covering for the floor and a working-bee painted and plugged the walls.
At this stage the Institute began to assemble and display a small archival collection of deceased members’ paintings. A work from three of the Institute’s founding members is also included. The annual exhibition was held for the first time in the S.H. Ervin Gallery, the Gallery Director was Clytie Jessop.
1981 An exhibition of forty paintings was sent to the Murray Crescent Gallery, Canberra . Classes continued at the AWI rooms. Several one and two-man exhibitions were successfully held at the rooms. The 58th annual exhibition concluded with 39 sales from 161 exhibited (295 paintings had been submitted).
1982 An exhibition of 52 AWI paintings to Narrabri was opened by AWI President in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress. Brian Gaston represented the AWI as tutor at two weekend schools in Cairns and Townsville. The 59th Annual at the S.H. Ervin Gallery was again a success with 41 sales from 171 exhibited.
1983 In response to an invitation by Maurice Callow of ‘Old Watercolour Society Club’, Melbourne, ten paintings, representative of AWI in Sydney together with AWI Victorian members, contributed to an America-Australia exhibition at Frankston. AWI member Robert Wade had organised the American content from Pittsburg Watercolor Society.
An AWI exhibition to Burrangong Gallery, Young was opened by AWI President.
AWI’s 60th Annual at S.H. Ervin Gallery was an outstanding success, opened by Jean Campbell, author of Australian Watercolour Painters, 1880 to 1980. The exhibition resulted in the sale of 50 paintings which included one by Eva Kubos purchased by the National Trust Collection.
1984 Again at the AWI annual exhibition an important Gallery purchase of a Lloyd Rees painting was among the 40 sales. The exhibition was opened by famous cartoonist George Molnar. An exhibition proposed by Tininburra Gallery, Tamworth was accepted, but attracted less interest from members; perhaps due to the increased number of exhibitions (with increased acitivity in the watercolour medium) that our members now have access to.
When I retired as President at the 61st AGM, the Australian Watercolour Institute was financially stable with a credit balance of $10,091 at 28th February, 1985, and the Institute had rented premises which was a small gallery home, a small permanent collection which included three foundation members, a very good executive committee, increased membership, a number of watercolour classes with good instruction and advice, and the S.H. Ervin Gallery, a gallery of distinction, as host to the AWI Annual Exhibition.
Contacts were made internationally with USA, Japan, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand, exploring the practicality of promoting watercolours in an international exhibition in Sydney ; with 1988 bicentenary in mind.
I am sure the enthusiasm of all members will continue to maintain high standards and interest for the continued growth of the Australian Watercolour Institute.
The Australian Watercolour Institute 1980 to 98
College of Fine Arts, University of NSW
AWI President 2003-2006
For the Australian Watercolour Institute, the period 1980 to 98 was marked by its energetic efforts to establish an international presence with exhibitions in Europe, Asia and North America. The period saw the Institute strengthening its membership profile by inviting senior, distinguished artists to participate in its Annual Exhibitions. Finally, it saw periodic eruptions of debate, sometimes animated, on two persistent issues, the nature of watercolour, and the question of permanent premises.
The second aim of the Institute, as defined in its Constitution, is to hold exhibitions of watercolour paintings. The central exhibition in the Institute’s calendar is the Annual Exhibition. By the late 1970s, there was an increasing dissatisfaction with the locations of the Annual Exhibitions. The Department of Education Gallery was not purpose-designed, and looked shabby; the Blaxland Gallery in Farmers department store had a reputable history, but offered only short exhibition periods. 1980 opened a new and splendid chapter in the history of the Annual Exhibitions, with the exhibition being held for the first time in the S. H. Ervin Gallery, located in the National Trust’s headquarters on Observatory Hill, Sydney . This elegant space (formerly the old science lab of the 19th century Fort Street Girls’ High School) had been skilfully refurbished for its opening as a gallery only two years earlier. It was already establishing a significant reputation for its well-researched exhibitions that made a contribution to Australian art history.
The sophistication of the facilities was matched by the professionalism of the hanging. A typical Annual Exhibition might include 135 paintings from 95 artists, and this represented a bewildering visual cacophony of subjects and styles. The S. H. Ervin staff, under successive directors and managers, Clytie Jessop, Dinah Dysart, Anne Loxley, Katrina Rumley, Amanda Bell and Jo Holder invariably constructed coherence out of this diversity, with astute groupings and juxtapositions of works.
Institute members were entitled to have two paintings hung, and these formed the backbone of the Annual Exhibition, supplemented by works selected on merit from those submitted by non-member practitioners. In addition, as a tribute to the careers of recently deceased members, a small group of their works would be hung in the Annual Exhibition following their death, accompanied by a biographical note in the catalogue.
The period from 1980 saw the Institute increasingly initiating exhibitions within Australia at dealers’ galleries and regional institutions, including Newcastle Region Art Gallery (where a proposed 1990 exhibition had to be postponed until the next year due to that city’s destructive earthquake). More significantly, the period saw numerous exhibiting links being forged with art groups and institutions overseas.
Correspondence was begun with a number of Asian watercolour groups, and an association formed with the newly established World Watercolour Society. Reciprocal exhibitions were held with the Mexican Watercolour Association in 1990, and with the Federation of Canadian Artists in 1992. Two AWI members, Graham Austin and Peter Laverty, were awarded prizes in conjunction with this exhibition. The Institute was invited to participate in the First and Second Watercolour Biennales at the Museo de la Aquarella in Mexico, and was invited by the Agrupacion de Acuarelistas Vascos to send three large watercolours to an international watercolour exhibition in Bilbao, Spain in 1995. The Wagner Gallery in Hong Kong mounted an exhibition of Institute members in 1996. There was broad agreement that the work of Institute members more than held its own in these international contexts.
Before 1980, and again after 1987, the question of securing permanent premises for the Institute was recurrently debated. In 1980, the Institute moved from its rented premises at 171 Sussex Street to two rented rooms on the upstairs floor of 811/2 George Street, Sydney. The rooms were small, but they represented a home for the Institute, and were big enough to accommodate Committee and Annual Meetings. They were strategically sited in the Rocks area; a magnet for tourists and almost opposite the site of the immanent Museum of Contemporary Art. Over the years, a number of members conducted watercolour classes in the rooms, including John Santry, Claudia Forbes-Woodgate, Fred Bates and Ian Chapman. This honoured the Constitution’s first aim: To encourage the practice of watercolour painting.
Exhibitions, usually of small works, were also held there, including shows by John Caldwell, Jocelyn Maughan, Alan Hondow, Newton Hedstrom, Marjory Penglase, Fred Bates, Ingrid Raynor, and a Women in the Arts exhibition. The space was also suitable for displaying the Institute’s small collection of watercolours by the Institute’s founding members.
In 1987, the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority demanded a rent far above the Institute’s capacity to pay, forcing it out. Over the following years, a number of alternative sites were considered, but they proved either impossible to secure, or inappropriate.
Of course, permanent premises would be invaluable as an administrative centre, as a storehouse for the Institute’s archives, and as an exhibition venue.
Of course, the longevity of some organisations, including the Royal Art Society, may be attributed, in part, to their canny acquiring of their own real estate. But Patrick Carroll, who as President of the Peninsula Art Society has been involved in a similar search for headquarters for that group, suggested that premises can be an albatross as well as a liberation. It has to be maintained he argued. It has to be staffed and bills paid. He recalled periodic difficulties in staffing the rooms at 811/2 George Street . He suggested that the most important work of the Institute, conducting exhibitions, could be carried out in sites owned by others. Counterbalancing Patrick Carroll’s position, other members argued that the enthusiasm and joint effort generated by one’s own premises had served to galvanise and strengthen the Institute.
President Graham Austin, acknowledged that the most realistic prospect for securing premises was through Government or corporate patronage. The search and the debate, continue.
From time to time, correspondence would be received following the Institute’s Annual Exhibitions, complaining that a number of the works exhibited appeared to be using paint in other than the thin transparent washes associated with traditional watercolour painting. It was a concern that was shared by some members of the Institute. Their position was in harmony with the views of the outstanding Australian watercolourist and AWI member Kenneth MacQueen (1897 to 1960). MacQueen rejected opaque paint or body colour in his own work, disliking even the use of Chinese white for tinting or highlights. He insisted Nothing can equal the purity of transparent colour with the white paper left for the (high)lights.
MacQueen’s position was a purist one, not always held by the leading British and Australian watercolourists of the 1930s and 1940s. Paul Nash frequently used ink and chalk and even body colour in his watercolours, and Eric Thake made considerable use of semi-transparent washes of gouache.
But what was bringing the matter to head in the 1980s was the increasing use of acrylic paint by members of the Institute, and also by non-members submitting work for inclusion in the Annual Exhibition.
Acrylic paint had begun to establish itself as an influential medium in Australian art about 1964. Its most alluring property at that time was its capacity to be laid down in a flat, uninflected coat, without displaying brush-stroke or texture. For this reason it was adopted by the hard-edge painters like Col Jordan, Alun Leach-Jones and Syd Ball, and indeed colour field painting as surveyed in The Field exhibition of 1968 would have been impossible without acrylic paint.
By the early 1970s, the prominence of colour-field painting had waned, and acrylic paint’s versatility; especially when used in conjunction with various additive mediums; gave it a central position as a painting medium. Its advantageous properties were that it was quick-drying, comparatively odourless and it was sound from a conservation perspective to lay it directly onto paper (unlike oil paint). It could be used opaquely (and this allowed overpainting and correction, unlike traditional watercolour), or alternatively it could be diluted into washes that were often indistinguishable from watercolour.
Invariably, some artists began to use it in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, traditional watercolour. Importantly, the pigment was not diluted with turpentine, but with water.
There lay the quandary. The Constitution of the Institute, in a 1981 amendment, defined watercolour as any work which has water as the soluble agent for the pigment. Acrylics, under the Constitution, were considered to be watercolours. Some of the most eminent members of the Institute used acrylics: Patrick Carroll, for example, painted in acrylics, sometimes richly textured, in his large, commanding works; Graham Austin used acrylic in washes which lay people (and some practitioners) would assume were pure watercolour.
The debate was largely put to rest in 1994, with the determination to include on future Annual Exhibition entry forms the advice ‘Exhibitors should be mindful that the Committee will be looking towards ensuring that paintings that address the issue of transparency represent a substantial proportion of the exhibition.
The Institute’s definition of watercolour may seem generously inclusivist to some. Yet, part of the Institute’s strength is that under the banner watercolour, it is a broad church that accommodated traditional skills on the one hand and experimental attitudes on the other. Such embracing of experimentation is reflected in Judith Wright’s combining watercolour with photographically-transferred images, and in John Caldwell’s insertion of turpentine into his watercolour washes to obtain crumbling and gritty qualities. After all, it is often the discoveries at the outskirts of a discipline that point to productive new ways forward.
The period 1980 to 98 saw only three Presidents of the Institute. Fred Bates (who would also later serve as President of the Royal Art Society) was President of the AWI for thirteen years between 1972 and 1985. He had previously won the Trustees’ Watercolour Prize in 1965 and the Wynne in 1970. In 1992 he was awarded an OAM for his services to art. He was succeeded by Brian Gaston, then aged 68, who served
until 1989. Apart from his work as a watercolourist, Gaston, had practised as an architect. At the time of his Presidency, he was one of the few members to work in a completely abstract idiom. Graham Austin came to the Presidency in 1989 well experienced, having served as President of the Drummoyne Municipal Art Society and of the Peninsula Art Society.
Membership of the Institute continued to be by election, usually conducted after each Annual Exhibition, when members considered the work exhibited by non-members. Artists would usually have participated in a number of Annual Exhibitions before being nominated. A two-thirds majority of votes of the members present at the Annual Meeting was required for the election of a new member. In 1985, incoming President Brian Gaston and Emeritus President Fred Bates expressed concern that no new member had been elected for two years. Accordingly, in 1987, it was decided to alter the constitution to require only a simple majority of votes of the members at the Annual Meeting. As one member observed wryly, any apprehension that the new system would open the floodgates to membership and lower standards proved unwarranted; the last year of the two thirds vote requirement resulted in one election to membership, while the first year of the simple majority requirement resulted in two new members.
In 1988, the Institute began to invite two or three eminent artists to exhibit beside members in each Annual Exhibition. It was a successful and popular initiative, and exhibiting artists included Judy Cassab CBE, AO, Elwyn Lynn AM, John Coburn AM, Frank Hodgkinson, Max Miller, Terry O’Donnell, Jeff Rigby, Margaret Woodward, Joseph Zbukvic, Rod Milgate, Reinis Zusters, John Borrack and Christine Hiller. Complementing these invitations to renowned, senior generation figures by the Institute, the Manager of the S. H. Ervin Gallery nominated a small number of younger generation artists who are making their mark through exhibitions in dealers’ galleries, to participate as guest exhibitors in the 1998 Annual Exhibition.
In his President’s Report of 1988, Brian Gaston recalled hearing John Coburn say, when opening the Delmar Gallery’s annual watercolour exhibition, Watercolour is a neglected art. Why is this so? It was a salutary reminder that even now, eighty years plus, after the meeting of six visionary watercolourists at 50 Young Street , the Australian Watercolour Institute’s aims of promoting the practice, appreciation and collection of watercolours remain a pertinent contribution to the visual arts in Australia .
AWI Activities 1989-2003
GRAHAM AUSTIN,OAM, President 1989-2003,
Emeritus President and Life Member
AWI Committee 1998, from left to right, Paul Warner, Claudia Forbes-Woodgate; standing: Frederic Bates, Graham Austin [President], Earle Backen [Vice President], Marjorie McLachlan [Hon Sec]; seated: Jocelyn Maughan, Beverly Symonds; standing: Peter Pinson [Vice President].
One of our goals during my presidency had always been to investigate the opportunities of acquiring premises for the AWI. A lot of time and energy had been expended in this regard but the result unattainable. One reason being insufficient finances. Other goals, however, had been achieved.
The AWI had been able to create an international presence having been invited and exhibited in Mexico City Biennials: 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002. In Bilbao, Spain: 1995. The Federation of Canadian Artists, Canada: 1992 with a reciprocal exhibition in Australia in 1993. The Wagner, Hong Kong: 1996, and Busan , Korea: 2002. The organisers of these exhibitions in most cases, received government sponsorship and provided high quality, colour catalogues illustrating exhibitors works.
It was on Sunday 26th March 1989, when John Caldwell stepped out of the AWI annual general meeting and phoned me at home asking if I would accept the office of President. For family reasons I had been unable to attend the meeting.
I decided to accept the honour and my life took on a new shape. I had previously served one year on AWI committee but that was at least 10 years earlier, so I was not fine tuned for the day to day management issues. However, I had experience on my side having served as President of the Peninsula Art Society for the immediate three years previous, and had been responsible, as President for the three foundation years of the Drummoyne Municipal Art Society. I was expecting to give three years tenure to the AWI and move on but It grew into fourteen.
Having accepted the challenge, the authority and responsibility I was soon disappointed to realise the AWI had only accumulated $16,277 in sixty six years. It then dawned on me we would need to build on our assets if the AWI wanted to celebrate its Seventy Fifth Anniversary with some recognition in 1998.
In the following nine years we added another $40,527 bringing accumulated funds up to $56,804. This enabled us to spend approximately $45,000 on publishing the AWI 75th Anniversary Book. Although some members have outstanding money for the books we have sold the majority of 1500 books at cost price and earned our money back. We have successfully used the book as a public relations tool to promote the Institute and members. I am also grateful to Lou and Brenda Klepac of Beagle Press for their professionalism as publishers of
The AWI 75th Anniversary book I consider my greatest achievement during my presidency. It was a big task to produce and then sell. We were advised to have one thousand printed, a number we could only be expected to sell. We ignored that advice and had one thousand five hundred printed. We sold the lot.
Financially, we remain in good shape, as indicated in this years balance sheets. We are fortunate in having a healthy bank balance, however, I believe it is time to consider an increase in membership fees and non members exhibiting fees in order to take on new challenges like an AWI web site. Our last rise in subscription fees was about twelve years ago so one could argue we are long overdue.
During the earlier years of my term as President, our annual exhibitions at the S H Ervin Gallery made us accustomed to splendid sales results. We were selling a third of the works on show, on average, 40 to 50 paintings. The S H Ervin policies, attitudes and continual change of Gallery Directors saw our sales reputation diminishing. Attitudes to the AWI Annual Exhibition were changing, largely by the gallery’s disregard for the Institutes established following. Their respect after 19 years of dedicated loyalty and exhibitions had diminished making way for new ideas. The S H Ervin Gallery philosophy was being tailored to encourage controversial younger artists and visitors who may, one day become collectors, henceforth disregarding those existing collectors who were members of The National Trust. This was a frustrating period and sadly, they abruptly discontinued our relationship shortly after our 1999 Annual Exhibition.
Opportunity afforded itself with the promising Sydney Art Gallery , the largest commercial gallery in the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, at the last minute the gallery reneged on planned arrangements and closed down. Consequently, the AWI was unable to have an annual exhibition in 2000.
The committee quickly made arrangements and Gosford became the venue for 2001. In 2002, we exhibited at the Mosman Art Gallery . For the immediate future the AWI committee had made alternate annual arrangements: the 2003 Annual Exhibition at Gosford and 2004 at Mosman, with a repeat of that pattern for the next two years.
For our annual exhibition at Mosman Art Gallery 2002 we invested $4,757.50 [including GST] in the services of Ellie Carew a Public Relations Consultant. Ellie was able to obtain wide media coverage which was reflected in a record number of visitors attending, more than any previous exhibition at the Mosman Art Gallery . It was our intention to make a grand impression and encourage the Gallery Director to book us in for future year’s exhibitions. If we were to concentrate on sales for an assessment our generosity seems to have favoured the Mosman Gallery more than AWI. We sold only 8 paintings at our annual exhibition at Mosman and congratulated those who sold their works.
In addition to our annual exhibitions we had exhibited in Newcastle Regional Gallery in 1991, Wagner Gallery 2001 and Wollongong City Gallery 2002.
It is with pride I congratulate two of our members who received Australian Honours in 2003, Earle Backen AM, AWI Vice President and Robert Wade OAM. During my term as President, Fred Bates, Frank McNamara, Hector Gilliland and Guy Warren each received OAM’s. In 2003 our membership proudly includes eight members with Australian Honours, presented for their status and contributions to Australian art.
During 2002, sadly, two of our older members, Hector Gilliland OAM and Joan Dent passed away. They were recognised by tribute paintings in our annual exhibition, as was Frank Hodgkinson AM, who passed away just before our 2001 annual exhibition. During 2003, Ron Fletcher reluctantly resigned, reasoning his inability to paint to his usual standard because of age and health.
It is with great pleasure and honour I welcomed Brian Dunlop as our newest member. During the
past fourteen years, we have invited and welcomed a total of 47 talented artists to AWI membership.
Computers seem to be taking over our lives. The internet seems to be opening new horizons and a necessity for future communication. To further promote AWI members we looked at the prospect of creating a comprehensive web site with links to members own web sites, opening communication opportunities and supplying pictures, information, contact details etc.
As in the past, some of our members had willingly assisted the Committee with the packing of paintings at the close of our exhibitions and I thank them. At the Mosman Gallery, Jocelyn Maughan gave her time and talent to perform a watercolour painting demonstration during her recovery period from a serious operation. Warwick Webb, Robin Norling and myself gave organised talks to the gallery’s visitors. These events have been proven beneficial to the artists, the gallery and the AWI. I continually encourage members to willingly offer their time and talents to do something similar at our annual exhibitions. It is beneficial for the artist as much as AWI.
The AWI’s respectable standing has been due to many, time consuming meetings, generosity, enthusiasm and effort. The AWI Committee has continually attempted to establish new benchmarks for a successful future. Creating an admirable track record. Although watercolour is generally not the preferred painting medium by the majority of artists, the AWI has all the right ingredients to continue developing a widespread interest, by covering the gamut of styles and techniques, whilst maintaining the highest possible standards.
The AWI committee has willingly continued participation in discussions with suitable galleries with the hope of achieving a spread of successful exhibitions. It is the Committee’s intention to always uphold the AWI’s hard earned reputation throughout all negotiations.
Peter Pinson Vice President, had been very supportive and gave tremendous energy when he opened the Wollongong and Mosman Exhibitions.
Marjorie McLachlan, has willingly and conscientiously served as Honorary Secretary for 18 years. Marjorie had not been invited to AWI membership until she had served as Secretary for 3 years. So, we can say, for 18 of her 15 years membership, Marjorie has been energetic and generous, contributing her time and secretarial skills for the benefit of AWI Members. She has been doing it simply because of her enthusiasm for art in general but more particularly, watercolour painting and great respect for AWI members. As President, I was particularly grateful for her assistance in achieving AWI goals.
Another member, Claudia Forbes-Woodgate with 38 years membership, [since 1965], was our longest serving committee member. Having been elected to the committee every year since 1969. She was our Treasurer from 1972 to 2001, a total of 29 years of her 34 years committee service.
Without the enthusiastic efforts of members like Marjorie and Claudia, the Institute would not have the respect it has today. I congratulate and thank them for their contribution.
Jocelyn Maughan, with 8 years on committee, worked diligently, particularly during her three years as Treasurer. Robin Norling, 3 years on committee, enthusiastically created an exofficio position as education officer at our exhibitions and within his role on Committee.
All our committee members, working on members’ behalf, had contributed magnificently to the AWI. It is also interesting to note, Vice President, Earle Backen had served on committee for 13 years, [5 as VP]; Vice President, Peter Pinson has served 11 years, [7 as VP]; Beverley Symonds has served 12 years and Bob Baird has served one. I am ever grateful to each of them for their contributions.
Throughout my fourteen years as President I have also had the pleasure, honour and assistance on committee of past presidents Brian Gaston , 4 years and Fred Bates OAM, 10 years. Also Frank McNamara OAM, 6 years; Ian Chapman, 8 years; Paul Warner, 4 years; Ron Stannard, 2 years and John Santry, 1 year. I am proudly thankful to each for their enthusiasm, energies and wisdom throughout the years.
I am also grateful to Peter Laverty for his excellent opening of our exhibition at the Wagner Gallery on the 11th September 2002, approximately 2 hours before the devastation of the Twin Towers terrorist attack in New York .
Financially the AWI remains in good shape, as indicated in the 2002 balance sheets. We are fortunate in having a healthy bank balance of $57,664.39, however, I believed it was time to consider an increase in membership fees and non members exhibiting fees in order to take on new challenges like an AWI web site. Our last rise in subscription fees was about twelve years ago so one could argue we are long overdue.
The 2003 Annual General Meeting concluded my AWI chairmanship and equalled the term of our Foundation President, B E Minns who also contributed fourteen years. I will always feel honoured to have been given the opportunity and remain most grateful for the experience which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I look forward to Peter Pinson’s term as President in the Institutes 80th year with a strong belief he will raise the AWI reputation to new plateaus.
The 75th Anniversary Book
To celebrate the AWI’s 75th Anniversary in 1998, The Beagle Press, with the Australian Watercolour Institute, produced a magnificent
hard cover book; Australian Watercolour Institute 75th Anniversary 1923–1998 in conjunction with an exhibition held at the
National Trust’s SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney , November; December 1998.  There were 1500 copies printed all of which have been sold.


The 80th Anniversary Website
To celebrate the AWI’s 80th Anniversary in 2003, the Institute has prepared this website primarily based on the contents of the 75th Anniversary book .
The objective of this website is to promote the AWI, its members and their work. It is also intended to be informative and interesting, giving a comprehensive indication of the history and challenges faced by the Institute, its members and watercolourists in general.
Many thanks to:
Dr Brian Kennedy, Director, National Gallery of Australia for writing the Foreword.
Jean Campbell, art historian, writer and critic for her permission to reprint the history of the Australian Watercolour Institute from her book Australian Watercolour Painters ; from 1780 to the Present Day.
Introduction by Graham Austin
with contributions by
Jean Campbell
Peter Pinson
Earle Backen
Peter Laverty
Brian Stratton
Frederic Bates
Philip Gray, of Philip Gray Photography, for photographing 98 of the paintings reproduced in the book.
Marjorie McLachlan, Secretary, for her most valuable contribution in co-ordinating and typing the text.
To The Beagle Press for its support, advice and enthusiasm for the book project.
Bernd Heinrich and Graham Austin for their support in creating this web site.