The Society was founded in 1939; consequently in 2014 we celebrated our 75th anniversary.
Originally called “The Society of Marine Artists”, the inaugural exhibition was planned for October 1939. However, the start of the Second World War, on 3rd September, prevented these plans from going ahead and it wasn’t until November 1946 that the long awaited exhibition took place. Held in the newly constructed Guildhall Art Gallery, in the City of London, it featured over 100 oil paintings and some 70 watercolours. The exhibition was opened by A V Alexander, the new Minister of Defence and former First Lord of the Admiralty – a clear demonstration of the high regard in which this new Society was held.
Many fine marine artists, with a national or international reputation, were numbered among the early membership: Montague Dawson, Rowland Hilder, Claude Muncaster, Charles Pears, Norman Wilkinson and Harold Wyllie to name but a few.
The Society continued to exhibit at the Guildhall until 1980; the following year it moved to its present home at the Mall Galleries. In addition to the Annual Exhibitions, many other shows have been staged at galleries, museums and marine-associated venues around the country. In 1966 Her Majesty the Queen granted the Society the title “Royal Society of Marine Artists”.
Throughout our 75 year history, the membership has maintained the tradition of excellence established by our founders. We continue to be an active Society, firmly committed to the promotion of marine art in its many forms and guises. The subject matter of our paintings has gradually broadened over the years to encompass not only sea-going vessels, but yachts and dinghies, the coast and sea-shore, harbours, estuaries and tidal rivers – indeed anything that is essentially marine related.
We have always had a strong association with the Royal Navy. A number of our early members recorded the naval battles of the Second World War and their works are held in collections such as those of the Imperial War Museum and the National Maritime Museum. Later members have recorded celebratory events such as the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review of 1977 and the International Fleet Review of 2005. In keeping with this tradition, in 2013 two of our members were granted permission to paint the new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth whilst still under construction at the Rosyth Shipyard in Scotland.
We look forward to our next 75 years with optimism, confident that there will always be artists of stature who, having a true love of the sea and coast, will wish to capture its magic on paper or canvas.
Presidents of the Society
Charles Pears 1939 – 1957
Claude Muncaster 1958 – 1974
Keith Shackleton 1974 – 1978
David Cobb 1978 – 1983
John Worsley 1983 – 1988
Terence Storey 1988 – 1993
Mark Myers 1993 -1998
Bert Wright 1998 – 2003
Geoff Hunt 2003 – 2008
David Howell 2008 – 2013
Elizabeth Smith 2013 – 2018
Benjamin Mowll 2018 – 2020
John Scott Martin 2020 –
The Royal Society of Marine Artists
17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5BD.
Telephone: 020 7930 6844
Registered Charity No. 289944