1855 - ?

The Society of Women Artists (SWA) is a British art body and registered charity that has had a unique history dedicated to promoting art created by women. It was founded as the Society of Female Artists (SFA) in 1855 by Harriet Grote (1792–1878), offering women artists the opportunity to exhibit and sell their works, which at the time, was extremely difficult due to the limited opportunities open to them. The society changed their name in 1874 to that of the Society of Lady Artists (SLA) and again in 1912 to that of the Society of Women Artists. Since 1857, they have held annual exhibitions in London except for the years: 1941 to 1946, due to the Second World War, and in 2020, where due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to replace the physical exhibition with an online exhibition. The Society enjoys, and is grateful for, the royal patronage of HRH Princess Michael of Kent, who has been their patron and offered her support since 1980. Amongst the many notable artist members was Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970), who was elected as President of the SWA in 1932, retaining that office until she retired in 1968 to become a Patron and who in 1937, became the first woman elected to full membership of the Royal Academy. Membership of the SWA is composed of a maximum of 150 members and the SWA are keen to promote new artists from the UK and internationally and encourage non-members and young artists to show their work at the SWA annual exhibitions. The society’s young people’s initiative was ‘introduced in 2016/17 by (Susan Jane) Sue Jelley (1945-) PPSWA and aims to encourage and nurture young talented artists to fulfil their potential. The society works with chosen charities to help those in need, and this includes a strong collaboration with Breast Cancer Now to whom the SWA donate a percentage of their sales.