Dennis Roxby Bott RWS

The Royal Watercolour Society


The Royal Watercolour Society (RWS) was founded in 1804, primarily as a reaction to the Royal Academy's prejudice in favour of oil paintings and apparently dismissive attitude towards watercolour.


It was known as the Old Watercolour Society until it received its Royal Warrant in 1884 and has been exceptionally highly regarded since its inception. It is the oldest society of its kind in the world and is considered second only to the Royal Academy in importance; to watercolour artists or collectors of watercolour painting, it is regarded as pre-eminent!


Members of the RWS have included almost all of the most famous names of their times, a positive role call of talent; Helen Allingham, John Sell Cotman, Albert Goodwin, Samuel Palmer, Arthur Rackham, John Singer Sargent, Alma Tadema and Peter De Wint, to mention but a few of the eminent artists who were accepted as members.


There are around eighty members worldwide at any given time, artists who are recognised as being the finest exponents of the medium.


The Society is now based at Bankside Gallery, Hopton Street, which is south of the Thames almost immediately across the river from St Paul's Cathedral. It is an area of immense historic importance; the rebuilt Globe Theatre, Southwark Cathedral and the old Clink Prison are all within a few minutes walk. The New Tate Gallery has opened virtually next door - no doubt hoping to benefit from the close proximity of its more illustrious neighbour!