1921 – 1955
It is now ninety years since the first Palette Club Exhibition was originated by a group of professional artists living and working in the Southport area.
Under the leadership of Percy Lancaster they held a meeting in a Lord Street cafe to discuss the formation of a group or council for the promotion of an annual exhibition to be held at the Atkinson Art Gallery in Southport.
Percy Lancaster as an established Architect who designed many local buildings including the District Bank on Lord Street also turned his hand to Oil and watercolour painting and gained national recognition in these fields.
The Council was formed and the Chairman, H P Huggill the curator of the Art Gallery, arranged for the first Palette Club exhibition to be held in rooms 3 and 5. A private view was held, opened by the Mayor with afternoon tea being served and supplied by Woodheads Café. The artists and guests viewed the exhibition to the music of the Harold Pilkington Quartet.
Another notable founder member was Philip Connard CVO, R A. He was born in Southport and executed murals at Windsor Castle. His work can also be found in the Tate Gallery, London; the Muse’e d’Orsay, Paris, the National Gallery of Australia and the Royal Academy, London. He was Keeper of the Royal Academy School from 1945-49.
Connard never forgot his hometown. He was a founder member of The Southport Palette Club and remained on the Council until his death in 1958.
At that time there was a notable body of eminent people in Southport whose interests included viewing and collecting works of art. They offered their support by becoming Patrons of the Palette Club.
During the first few years the exhibition grew in size with as many as 180 works on view from a limited number of artists, some contributing as many as 20 paintings.
At this time there was a dominance of watercolours but oils, pastels, etchings and drawings were also represented. It is interesting to see how the number of exhibitors has grown since the early exhibitions. At the last Palette Club exhibition at the Atkinson Art Gallery there were over 400 paintings on view, and the maximum entry had to be restricted to 4 exhibits per artist.
To offset the expense of staging the exhibition local firms were encouraged to advertise in the catalogue. Space was then taken up by many local businesses.
In more recent times other familiar council members were John Bowes from 1938 and from 1958 Harry B Ratcliffe, Principal of the Southport School of Art, Curator of the Atkinson Gallery and Botanic Gardens Museum. Harry was the instigator in purchasing and adding many famous artists’ work to the Atkinson Gallery collection.
Here is an amusing anecdote from that time when he was Principal of the school.
One day Harry came into the advanced students’ room holding up a small ink sketch of a young girl. He asked the students for their opinion on this sketch, as he was undecided. Rubbish! Tear it up! Don’t do it Harry, and many more less printable replies came from the students. With that verbal retort ringing in his ears, a wry smile came across his face, as he announced that the sketch was by Picasso. The room fell silent.
Other members who joined the Council were
1956 David O P M Harrison: had been an exhibitor since the 1930’s and started his career at the Victoria School of Art, Southport, before graduating from the Royal College of Art. He later became well known throughout the country for his Lakeland watercolours and taught at Southport Art College.
1975 Peter Bottomley: Principal of Southport Art College.
1976 Walkden Fisher: a commercial artist known for illustrations in the Eagle comic.
1982 Eric Gleave. John Macken: a well-respected artist and teacher at the Art school.
James Walsh: today’s longest serving council member. He was Treasurer from 1984 until 2010 when he became President.
1986 John Stokle: well known for his oils of Horses and farm animals.
John D Jones: known for his aircraft paintings and Lakeland scenes.
1987 Nigel Dixon: Art Master at a local college, who attended Southport Art School and graduated from Royal Academy Schools London.
Vicki Marshall: a ceramics Graduate who for many years helped her father David Harrison in setting out the Palette Club exhibition in the Atkinson Gallery. Vicki was the first lady invited to join the council and is now the Vice President.
1991 Peter Owen: well known for his teaching and his pastel work. He became Chairman in 2011. He is also involved in running the workshops for the Palette Club.
1999 John Pickles: an architect by profession and comes from a family of artists. He is well known for his watercolours paintings, holding many exhibitions throughout the country.
2005 Eric Appleton: former Chairman and President of the Palette Club. He graduated from Art School and ran a Graphics business before retiring. He was well known for his paintings of contemporary life and figurative observation.
Brian Lewis: retired Art teacher and a very popular sculptor well known for his works in wood and plastics. He is involved in running the workshops for the Palette Club.
2011 Caroline Kaye: formerly Head of Art at KGV College, she has a Fine Art background and loves to experiment with colour, abstraction and mark making. She has exhibited at Patchings Art Centre Nottingham with the Artist Magazine and has won Peoples Choice twice as a result of being selected.
2013 Chris Hughes set up Ainsdale Pottery in the 1990’s and has been a member of the Art & Craft Guild of Lancashire for many years. He exhibits all over the north west of England.
Fred Sumner taught at Southport College of Art with David Harrison, Max Eden, J.K. Macken, Monty Sirotto and others in the late 1960’s and 70’s. Since 1960 he has painted and exhibited widely.
2014 For information about upcoming exhibitions of the Southport Palette Club, please refer to The Atkinson website. The Atkinson is Southport’s beautiful new home for music, theatre, art, poetry, literature and history, right in the middle of Lord Street in Southport. Significant investment has been made in refurbishing the stunning 19th century buildings, to create a really welcoming multi art-form venue with a strong contemporary feel.
Thanks & Appreciation
The Southport Palette Club Council thanks all of our Patrons for their generous contributions and support. Our thanks also go to past and present volunteer council and committee members and the Atkinson Managers and their staff for their help and assistance over many years. Without their help there would be no Palette Club.