1891 - ?

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters was founded in 1891 when a committee comprising Archibald John Stuart-Wortley (chairman), James Jebusa Shannon, George Percy Jacomb-Hood, Arthur Melville, and Hon. John Collier carried a proposal to form a Society of Portrait Painters. Wortley was its first President, and its first exhibition was deemed a critical success. The catalogue of the exhibition shows members listed include Percy Bigland, C. A. Furse, Glazebrook, John McLure Hamilton, Heywood Hardy, Hubert von Herkomer, Henry J. Hudson, Louise Jopling, T. B. Kennington, W. Llewellyn, W. M. Loudan, Arthur Melville, Anna Lea Merritt, F. M. Skipworth, Mrs. Annie Swynnerton, W. R. Symonds, Mary Waller, Edwin A. Ward, Leslie Ward (better known as “Spy”), and T. Blake Wirgman. In 1893 an annual exhibition was launched in the newly opened Grafton Galleries in New Bond Street. In 1911 the society gained Royal patronage from King George V, becoming the Royal Society of Portrait Painters when a new wave of painters joined including William Orpen, who broke with past conventions and sought new forms of expression. In 1930, when the Grafton Galleries lease expired when the Society moved between the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists Gallery for some years before finding a permanent home at The Royal Institute Galleries in Piccadilly, until these were bombed in 1940. In 1941 The Society announced a permanent Gallery at Suffolk Street, Pall Mall East, London, where the painters’ work could be seen at any time of year. In 1961 the Society became a founder member of the Federation of British Artists (FBA) and in 1971 the FBA moved to the Mall Galleries in London. The Society was incorporated as a private limited company and became a Registered Charity.