1. Early Days

2. In High Street

3. Special Exhibitions

4. End Of An Era

5. End Of An Era 2

6. New Beginnings

7. Consolidation

8. ART at St Nicholas

9. Postscript

1. Early Days

The idea of establishing what was originally called the Ipswich Fine Art Club was mooted when Edward Packard and John Duvall were sketching by the river in 1873. A meeting was called and seven potential members gathered in the Ipswich Museum, then in Museum Street. A second meeting was held in January 1874. A committee was formed and rules put forward which were later agreed. It was not long before the members resolved to hold a public exhibition and the first one was mounted in the Lecture Hall in Tower Street in January 1875. Later that year, the principal of the Ipswich Art School, W. T. Griffiths, arranged for life drawing classes to be held at the School for the benefit of the the new Club's members. This established the first of many close links between the two institutions over the years to follow (in 1885 Griffiths agreed to become the Club's President).

The early Minute Books of the Ipswich Fine Art Club make fascinating reading. They have all been hand-written, generally in a Victorian copperplate script. The pages in presenting a far from dry and academic recital of facts and dates manage to convey day to day happenings together with something of the character and personality of those who were the Club's officers and committee members.

Many of the great names in Suffolk painting were included among the members of the club and a number were elected to its committee. To succeed, any Society must rely to a large extent on its honorary officers and in this respect the Ipswich Fine Art Club appears to have been exceptionally fortunate. The Presidents, Chairmen, Secretaries, Treasurers etc. have had the ability and enthusiasm to organise and administer the Club's affairs while encouraging and inspiring the membership. In some cases they were professional artists of more than local repute, in others they were, in the best sense of the word, "amateurs". Both gave unstintingly of their time, in some cases for half a century or more, in order to advance the cause of art in the region.

In this connection the name of Sir Edward Packard is pre-eminent but many other well known personalities appear among the membership in the early years. F. G. Cotman, D.Tollemache, E. R. Smythe and his younger brother Tom, John Duvall, W. R. Symonds, Harry Becker and Alfred Munnings (the only East Anglian artist to have become President of the Royal Academy) were all contributors to the annual exhibitions.