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A History of the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club
The Founders


Alexander Williams, RHA 1846 -1930
Bram Stoker  1847 - 1912

The Dublin Sketching Club was founded on the 20th October 1874, at a meeting in the Westland Row house of Dr. W. Booth Pearsall, HRHA.  The founders, a distinguished group, included Dr. William Stokes, Fellow of the Royal Society and President of the Royal Irish Academy, Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, Dr. John Todhunter, a successful playwright and John Woodhouse, an engraver and maker of wax models.  Alfred Grey, RHA, was the first President of the Club and Alexander Williams, RHA, the first Secretary.



Seascape by Alexander Williams 1846 - 1930


Other Distinguished Members

Membership of the Club expanded rapidly.  By 1875 Bingham McGuinness, Nathaniel Hone, John Butler Yeats had joined… as had Dr. James Moore, Collis Watkins and Sir Thomas Jones. All of these were, or were soon to become, Academicians. In the following years new members included Walter Osborne, Richard Orpen, Percy French, and Sarah Purser.



On The Liffey by W. Booth Pearsall,
HRHA  1845 -1913


Early success



Catalogue Cover for 1885
Initially the Club met indoors to draw and paint. But, because of the inadequacy of gas lighting, they soon opted for weekly outings. The minutes of the club describe such an excursion, in 1885… “By train to Stillorgan and thence by car (no doubt horse drawn) to Stepaside…  Mr. Fogarty arrived all the way by bicycle”.

The popular Freeman’s Journal always carried a paragraph on these outings. One report began…“The Dublin Sketching Club, which ranks next to the Royal Hibernian Academy in the Dublin Arts World…”





Whistler and the Irish Times

In 1886 the Club invited artists from several English Arts Clubs to participate in the annual exhibition. Among those who accepted were Cattermole and the Kilburnes, Senior and Junior.

James McNeill Whistler exhibited what is probably his most famous work,  “Portrait of my Mother”.



Portrait of my Mother by J.M. Whistler 1834 - 1903


The whole exhibition got an unfavourable review in the Irish Times, with the harshest criticism reserved for Whistler’s Mother.  A vigorous controversy ensued.



William Butler Yeats by John Butler Yeats 1839  - 1922


In the 20th Century

The Club continued to attract distinguished members. Earnest Hayes, RHA, was President from 1946 to 1956. Charles Kelly, well known for his drawings and cartoons in the “Dublin Opinion” was Secretary for a time. Flora H. Mitchell published sketches of the older parts of the city in her renowned book “Vanishing Dublin”. Howard Knee was President for many years while his wife was Secretary/Treasurer. Tom Nisbet, RHA, exhibited fine watercolours with the Club over a long period. Other frequent contributers were Leo Earley, a successful painter and stained glass artist, Desmond Hickey and Liam Treacy.


Roundstone by Walter Osborne 1859  - 1903
Near Killarney  by Alexander Colles 1850 - 1945


The Annual Exhibitions

Exhibitions have been held annually since 1876, with the exception of only three years in all that time – so the forthcoming exhibition will be the 132nd.  The earliest exhibitions were in the Riding School in Pearse Street, on the grounds of Trinity College. Later, the annual venue was at the Friend’s Institute, 35 Molesworth Street.  In more recent times exhibitions were held in the RHA Gallagher Gallery, the Irish Life Exhibition Centre, and at the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre in Foster Place.



By the mid 1990s, the lack of a regular hanging space created something of a crisis for the Club. Fortunately, a new and energetic committee agreed on the need for “reform”. The finances were put on a firm footing and, by 1999, arrangements had been made to mount the Annual Exhibition in the Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown County Hall Concourse.

This is a most suitable hanging space and continues to be the “home” of the Exhibition to the present day.



Carrickfergus Harbour
by Percy French  1854-1920


Laytown Races by Des Hickey 1935 - 2007



In the 21st Century

Since the re-organisation in the 1990’s membership has expanded considerably and currently the club has eighty members. The dominant activity of the Club is painting and the Club is unique in that it is the oldest art group in which all forms of painting are represented. This was recognised at the Annual General Meeting in November 2000 when it was decided to change the name from the original, Dublin Sketching Club to the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club.


Boat Reflections by Liam Treacy
1934 - 2004
Canal Lock by Tom Nisbet RHA
1919 - 2001

The current membership includes many of the best known and most popular artists in Ireland. As a consequence a growing number of artists seek to join and assessment for entry has become ever more rigorous. The increased status of the Club - both in the profile of its membership and the quality and range of work presented at its Annual Exhibition - has resulted in large numbers attending the exhibition. Levels of sales have risen, year by year.

The members of the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club are proud of their long tradition and they aim to emulate the standards and achievements of their illustrious founders.



Unfinished Story by Gerald Davis  1938 - 2005









© 2010 Dublin Painting and Sketching Club


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