A chit chat with David Poxon

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 taking the time to join us today.

    David:  My pleasure, Katie.  Please call me David.

    Palette:  David, why do you think The Birmingham Watercolour Society has grown to be such an icon of the international world when there are literally thousands of organizations that stay status quo?

    David:  Katie, this is not just another art organization  The society is considered a center of excellence for the creative arts and has been since the late 19th century.  At that time, the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA), The Birmingham Art Circle and the Easel Club were well established but there was no dedicated watercolour society outside of London.

     Palette:  I have viewed your website and the different work of your members. What   does your organization look for and where do these artists come from?

    David:  Our international membership consists of artists from a wide geographical spectrum.  South America, mainland Europe, USA and the Far East represent the wide array of art and culture that is considered twice a year by the Society.  Our traditions and high ideals of the founders continue with the current membership.  We seek out only those artists aspiring to the highest painterly ideals and demonstrating exceptional skill in this medium.

    Palette:  Could you share a bit of the history, as you know it, which describes the serious, committed nature of the BWS?

    David:  You know I love to tell this story but it is one that proves the resilience and effort required to produce good artwork. 

    December 1940.  Three nights or terror saw thousands of tons of enemy bombs rain down on the city of Birmingham and surrounding towns.  The glow of fire and destruction could be seen for miles across Britain’s Industrial Heartland.  The raids culminated in a massive assault of over thirteen hours of continuous bombing.  A heavy odour of cordite and smoke amid thick clouds of dust greeted those emerging from their shelters and cellars into the dawn light.

    Clutching several paintings, and picking his way with trepidation through the rubble and chaos of that December day, was Mr. Nickson.  A watercolourist of some considerable talent, and wartime Secretary of the Birmingham Watercolour Society, Nickson made his way to a 2:30pm meeting of the Society at what was left of the Queens Hotel.

    Having waited in vain among the rubble for more than an hour for fellow members to arrive, he decided to return home through the bombed out Birmingham streets.  As was later recorded in the Society’s minutes, Nickson registered his serious disappointment that he had been the only member to turn up for the meeting, and neither had he received any prior apologies excusing absence!

    Palette:  It sounds as though Mr. Nickson had a certain amount of grim determination also.  What about the conception of BWS?

   David:  In 1907, Nickson’s predecessors had placed an advert in the Birmingham Mail registering the fact that no dedicated watercolor society existed outside London.  The response was considerable and W. Whittall, who went under the pseudonym of ‘Vandyke Brown’, arranged the first exploratory meeting.

     Under the Presidency of Charles Showell, and boasting an initial fourteen men membership that included such notable artists as W.J. Wainright, Frederick Mercer, and F.E.H. Caulkin, the BWS was born.

     Palette:  The history and the ability to hold on to a prominent status for over a hundred years says a lot for the BWS.  What are your intentions for the future?

     David:  During the twentieth century, as today, the painter membership has made many contributions to important exhibitions throughout the UK and further afield including the R.I. and the R.A. Martin Caulkin, Charles Ward, and Arthur Bell Fosterto name a few.  Reading like a who’s who of prominent artists, the late Victorian and early twentieth century members are now sought after by collectors and works fetch high prices in auction houses.

     The high ideals and traditions hold true to this day, with a membership that reflects the ongoing popularity.  Stanley Banner RBSA, a student of Bell-Foster, Cyril Mason RBSA, Victor Kelly RBSA (also an Academician of the Royal Cambrian).  Edward Morgan recently made an Honorary Life Member, whose unique vision of the world through his ‘Roundism’ style are a few examples of the membership at present.

     Palette:  David, it has been a pleasure listening to you share an inside look of one of the few institutions that has not been swayed to change by today’s world.  Is there anything you would like for our readers to know about The Birmingham Watercolour Society?

     David:  The Society meets monthly in Birmingham and can now claim increased exposure and a worldwide audience for it’s members work through it’s high visibility web site.  This wider audience has enabled the BWS to forge close links with at least a dozen prominent USA painting Societies.  2003 saw the annual exhibition receive its first Japanese visitors as a direct consequence of its Internet profile. 

     International membership of the BWS is by election held in February and September of each year.  Further details regarding the activities of the BWS, upcoming events and membership details can be found on its web site: www.bws-watercolourpainting.org  or by contact myself via email at david_poxon@yahoo.co.uk.

     Palette:  Well artists, if you think your work can stand the test of this long-standing critique, contact David.  If you just want to view the exceptional watercolor art or are interested in learning more about BWS, visit their site.


Editor’s note: First published Spring-Summer 2006, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, Volume 18-No 1. Print version view at – www.scribd.com/arttoartpalette/documents

Published by on May 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, Cover Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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