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It has been a cornerstone in the international

art world since 1907. Known for its tedious

selection of “the best of the best”, any artist
elected into this distinguished entity, The
Birmingham Watercolour Society, it has been
said, they have risen to the Olympics of the Arts.
In this transcontinental interview, the society’s
Honorary Secretary, David Poxon sits with us
to share a personal inside view of the history
and workings of this incredible, prestigious organization.

World class art organization

withstands the test of time
Palette: Mr. Poxon, thank you for and where do these artists come from? thirteen hours of continuous bombing. A
taking the time to join us today. David: Our international membership heavy odour of cordite and smoke amid
David: My pleasure, Katie. Please call consists of artists from a wide thick clouds of dust greeted those
me David. geographical spectrum. South America, emerging from their shelters and cellars
Palette: David, why do mainland Europe, USA and the into the dawn light.
you think The Far East represent the wide array Clutching several paintings, and
Birmingham Watercolour of art and culture that is picking his way with trepidation through
Society has grown to be considered twice a year by the the rubble and chaos of that December
such an icon of the Society. Our traditions and high day, was Mr. Nickson. A watercolourist
international world when ideals of the founders continue of some considerable talent, and wartime
there are literally with the current membership. Secretary of the Birmingham Watercolour
thousands of We seek out only those artists Society, Nickson made his way to a
organizations that stay aspiring to the highest painterly 2:30pm meeting of the Society at what was
status quo? ideals and demonstrating left of the Queens Hotel.
David: Katie, this is not exceptional skill in this medium. Having waited in vain among the
just another art Palette: Could you share a bit rubble for more than an hour for fellow
organization The society of the history, as you know it, members to arrive, he decided to return
is considered a center of which describes the serious, home through the bombed out
excellence for the creative committed nature of the BWS? Birmingham streets. As was later
arts and has been since the David: You know I love to tell recorded in the Society’s minutes, Nickson
late 19th century. At that this story but it is one that proves registered his serious disappointment that
time, the Royal the resilience and effort required he had been the only member to turn up
Birmingham Society of to produce good artwork. for the meeting, and neither had he
Artists (RBSA), The Birmingham Art December 1940. Three nights or terror received any prior apologies excusing
Circle and the Easel Club were well saw thousands of tons of enemy bombs absence!
established but there was no dedicated rain down on the city of Birmingham and Palette: It sounds as though Mr.
watercolour society outside of London. surrounding towns. The glow of fire and Nickson had a certain amount of grim
Palette: I have viewed your website destruction could be seen for miles across determination also. What about the
and the different work of your members. Britain’s Industrial Heartland. The raids conception of BWS?
What does your organization look for culminated in a massive assault of over > See Poxon next page

THE ART‐TO‐ART PALETTE JOURNAL the Paint box Spring‐Summer 2006  ‐ 5 

Is there anything you would like for our
Poxen exhibitions throughout the UK and
further afield including the R.I. and the readers to know about The Birmingham
< Continued from previous page
R.A. Martin Caulkin, Charles Ward, and Watercolour Society?
David: In 1907, Nickson’s predecessors Arthur Bell Fosterto name a few. Reading David: The Society meets monthly in
had placed an advert in the like a who’s who of Birmingham and can now claim increased
Birmingham Mail registering prominent artists, the late exposure and a worldwide audience for
the fact that no dedicated Victorian and early twentieth it’s members work through it’s high
watercolor society existed century members are now visibility web site. This wider audience
outside London. The response sought after by collectors and has enabled the BWS to forge close links
was considerable and W. works fetch high prices in with at least a dozen prominent USA
Whittall, who went under the auction houses. painting Societies. 2003 saw the annual
pseudonym of ‘Vandyke The high ideals and exhibition receive its first Japanese visitors
Brown’, arranged the first traditions hold true to this as a direct consequence of its Internet
exploratory meeting. day, with a membership that profile.
Under the Presidency of reflects the ongoing International membership of the BWS
Charles Showell, and boasting popularity. Stanley Banner is by election held in February and
an initial fourteen men RBSA, a student of Bell- September of each year. Further details
membership that included such Foster, Cyril Mason RBSA, regarding the activities of the BWS,
notable artists as W.J. Victor Kelly RBSA (also an upcoming events and membership details
Wainright, Frederick Mercer, Academician of the Royal can be found on its web site:
and F.E.H. Caulkin, the BWS Cambrian). Edward Morgan or by
was born. Cyril Mason recently made an Honorary contact myself via email at
Palette: The history and the Life Member, whose unique
ability to hold on to a prominent status for vision of the world through his Palette: Well artists, if you think your
over a hundred years says a lot for the ‘Roundism’ style are a few examples of work can stand the test of this long-standing
BWS. What are your intentions for the the membership at present. critique, contact David. If you just want to
future? Palette: David, it has been a pleasure view the exceptional watercolor art or are
David: During the twentieth century, listening to you share an inside look of interested in learning more about BWS, visit
as today, the painter membership has one of the few institutions that has not their site.
made many contributions to important been swayed to change by today’s world.

EUGENE BORTNICK’s “Fairway Grille” took a top honor out of nearly 300 entries from 19 states 
in the Merriam Parks and Recreation Heartland Artist Exhibition in Kansas City. More on this 
artist  at: 

6 ‐  Spring‐Summer 2006                                        the Paint box                                                 THE ART‐TO‐ART PALETTE JOURNAL