A couple of years ago the Oxford Art Society took into it’s possession a scrapbook which was originally owned and compiled by Walter Tyrwhitt, one of the founders of the society. The book was found by honorary OAS member Rona while researching the history of the society. It was part of an estate sale at Chiswick Auctions and, luckily for us, the auction had passed and the book hadn’t sold. Rona purchased the book and kindly offered it to the society.
Among many fascinating pieces of information documenting the life of Tyrwhitt it contains reviews of Oxford Art Society exhibitions from the 19th and 20th century. Although yellowing and starting to fade, they capture a slice of the society’s past and also late 19th century/early 20th century ideas of taste and culture. A few of the pages and images from the scrapbook are reproduced below.
Tyrwhitt, a pupil of Radley College and alumnus of Christ Church, Oxford, was himself was an accomplished watercolourist and frequently exhibited his works in Society exhibitions and at the Royal Academy. He travelled widely in the Middle East, capturing the architecture and local scenes in bright, colourful watercolours. He was married to the painter and draughtsman, and friend of Gwen and Augustus John, Ursula Tyrwhitt.
The article below from The Magazine of Art, 1898, illustrates our historic relationship with the Town Hall, Oxford.
Below is a photo from the Oxford Journal showing a fine use of space from the Oxford Art Society hanging committee of 1909!
The following page shows an interesting selection of clippings reviewing the 1910 exhibition, including an article from The Oxford Times (top right) berating the public and the city for it’s poor support of the society.
In the Oxford Chronicle article below (top left) the society’s annual report of last year’s exhibition is recorded, which notes “The Private View was crowded, and 900 visitors paid for admission, which is satisfactory“.
The 1923 exhibition certainly brightened up one reviewer’s “gloomy afternoon” as described in another article from the Oxford Chronicle (bottom right), who goes on to suggest a reason for the popularity of watercolour –
“We English are a practical cleanly, travelling race. Can its real attraction lie in its comparative cleanness and the ease with which it can be carried. A young lady need never appear like Tweedledum or Tweedledee prepared for battle when she starts on a sketching trip.”
1925 and the hanging committee haven’t lost their mastery of wall space.
The picture below shows Walter himself (right) at the Ashmolean alongside fellow society members, enjoying the Private View from 1930.