3 Special exhibitions

During its history the Club has staged a number of distinguished special exhibitions. The first opened in June 1880 at the newly built Art Gallery and consisted of 57 Old and Modern Masters lent by one of the Club's patrons, Sir Richard Wallace of Sudbourne Hall. It was the only occasion that pictures from the world-famous Wallace collection (now in London) have ever been loaned to another gallery. With help from the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Club also staged a major show of Constable, Gainsborough and "Old Suffolk Artists" in 1887 and again a particularly important bi-centenary exhibition of Gainsborough in 1927. Apart from these special exhibitions the Club often mounted smaller ones within the main annual exhibition and in 1913 a few works by pupils of the Ipswich School of Art were shown including five by Leonard Squirrell. Then a student, he was to become a member of the Club and serve for forty two years on its committee.

The start of the Second World War was anticipated by a meeting held in August 1939 which decided to postpone the exhibition for 1940 "until times seemed more propitious". However, in the event, there was a gap of only one year.

In 1945 Anna Airy became the President of the Ipswich Art Club (the "Fine" was dropped in 1925 as "superfluous"). This was the first time there had been a woman President and also the first time for many years that the President was a professional artist. One of the most talented and versatile artists of her generation, Ann Airy is outstanding in the history of the Art Club. She was equally at home in oils, water-colours, pastels, etching and a variety of drawing media. There were few areas of the Club's activities which were not influenced by her enthusiastic interest and support. A powerful and commanding figure, she was a frequent and outspoken critic of much of what she called "modern art". She was impatient with anything which fell outside the standards of draughtsmanship and skill she set herself.

At about this time significant differences of opinion arose about the type of work which should be included in the Club's exhibitions. This influenced the relationship between the Club and the School of Art. The minutes indicate that the more adventurous forms of art were discouraged by the President and not a few of the Committee. This traditionalism was resented by some within the Club and by others who taught at the Art School. This caused a rift between the two institutions and established an unfortunate reactionary image of the Club that persisted for many years.

When Anna Airy died in 1964 the Committee recorded that during her twenty years of office she had done more than could have been expected of any President and the Club would never have another like her. To commemorate her interest in young artists, funds were raised for an Anna Airy Award Competition open to any exhibitor under 25 who had work shown in the Annual Exhibition. Nowadays, the award is so prestigious that it merits a biennial exhibition of its own to select the winners.

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