Our Club's History

Bournemouth Arts Club was founded in 1920 from an idea by the head of the Municipal Art College, and brought to life by enthusiastic and dedicated tutors and students. It provided a focus of excellence for the visual arts in the locality, bringing together artists and those with a keen interest in art. 

Post-war, the Club launched an innovative series of public lectures. Art in Our Time ran from 1947 to 1974, featuring eminent figures from across the arts including poet Sir John Betjeman, architect Sir Hugh Casson, and artists Terry Frost and David Hockney.  

Throughout its history the club held regular exhibitions for members; some featured the work of invited artists including Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and Augustus John. At one time Henry Lamb was President and Lucy Kemp-Welch, Vice President. 

John Liddell
Harold Williamson
Joy Shepherd

For over 20 years, loan exhibitions featuring work by famous artists from outside the area were curated by the Club in collaboration with the newly founded Arts Council. 

Exhibitions always provided a core activity in notable spaces: the Russell-Cotes Museum & Gallery; Seldown Gallery at Poole Arts Centre; Guildhall, Winchester; St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington; Town Mill, Lyme Regis and Lighthouse Gallery, Poole. 

The turn of the century saw the Club looking for new ways to develop and promote its work to a wider audience. A new name was sought to reflect the modern age and to enable exhibitions to be considered in venues further afield. It was agreed that the name Southern Contemporaries would be used alongside that of Bournemouth Arts Club for exhibiting outside the local area. 

The Club continues to hold an ‘Annual’ with the long established principle of all members have at least one work shown. 

Marking the Club’s proud centenary, a major historical exhibition was held in 2021 at the Russell-Cotes Museum & Gallery.