In 1882 eight women, some of the first female students at the Glasgow School of Art (then housed in the Corporation Galleries, Sauchiehall Street – now part of the McLellan Galleries) got together and formed a Society known as The Glasgow Society of Lady Artists
Meetings and other events were held at different venues and soon the original eight were joined by others equally keen to see proper recognition of women in the field of art and related studies.
These were highly professional ladies who were in fact entrepreneurs of their day, active in many enterprising ventures so that by 1895, some thirteen years after the formation of the Society, the fruits of their endeavours were rewarded. Sufficient money had been saved to allow them to purchase a house at No. 5 Blythswood Square. This was the first Women Artists’ Residential Club in Great Britain and was known as The Glasgow Society of Lady Artists’ Club. By 1897 a Gallery to a design by George Walton (1867-1933) in partnership with Fred Rowntree was ready for the fourteenth Annual Exhibition.
However a dramatic heading to a news item in the Glasgow Herald of 28 May 1901 reported a Fire at Lady Artists’ Club – regrettably it was not possible to save the Gallery and pictures in a special Summer Exhibition mounted in connection with the International Exhibition at Kelvingrove (although they and the building were insured). But the Gallery was rebuilt to the design of George Walton and the first Exhibition was opened on 25 October 1902.
By the end of 1907 a Decoration committee had been elected and although plans submitted by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928 – architect for the new GSA 1897-9 & 1907-9) did not receive full Council approval, his designs were implemented for certain interior work and most notably the black pedimented neo-classical front door. The Club flourished for another 64 years, remaining in No. 5 Blythswood Square until 1971 when reluctantly, owing to severe financial pressures, it was sold to the Scottish Arts Council. Shortly thereafter the Society was dissolved.
Fortunately some members were determined to re-establish a Society and contributed to this end. Thus in 1975 it was revived as The Glasgow Society of Women Artists and a Centenary Exhibition was held in the Collins Gallery in 1982. The Society continues to this day with a full programme of exhibitions and other activities each year, hopefully contributing to the cultural life of the City by offering scope for the development of artistic skills and providing a forum for artists of all disciplines.