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About the Society

The Water Colour Society of Ireland was founded in 1870 in Lismore, Co Waterford and in the following year held its first exhibition in the courthouse there. 

         From 1871 to 1890 further exhibitions were held at various

         locations but in 1891 they were moved permanently to Dublin.

         The Society's present title was adopted in 1888.

         Our annual exhibition showcases work by our members and            is the highlight of our calendar.

Objective of the Society

The stated objective of the Society is : "to promote and develop nationally the use and appreciation of watercolour and associated media among artists, students and the general public."

How We Work

The business and affairs of the Society are managed by a committee of members elected every three years comprising of three officers and at least nine other members.

All work is done on a voluntary basis.

The Society has two sources of income: the members subscription fees and the commission charged on all works sold at the annual exhibition. 



Jayne Barry

Hon. Treasurer

Liam O'Herlihy

Assistant Treasurer

Neil Sholdice

Hon. Secretary

Angela Emsen West

Assistant Secretary


Pauline Doyle

Ann Gilleece

Elizabeth O'Kane

Marie Louise Martin

Shirley Giffney

Jim Doolan

Valerie Syms Martin


George McCaw

Pauline Doyle

Vincent Lambe

Honorary Members

Vincent Lambe

George McCaw

Pauline Scott

Neil Shawcross RUA

Ann O'Clery


Membership of the Society is conferred by the Committee in a secret ballot following review of a substantial portfolio of work submitted by the applicant.

Any artist working in water-based media may apply.

Our Members’ work is extremely varied, both in style and subject matter, and includes paintings in gouache, pen and ink, pastel and watercolour mixed media on paper.

To apply please fill in the contact form below or email:

University of Limerick

The national collection of the Society was founded in 1993 and is housed in Limerick University, where it is on permanent exhibition. 

In 2009 the University published an illustrated book of the collection.


In 1994 the Society published "Exhibition List 1872-1994" giving details of all works exhibited in those years - artists' names and addresses, title of the work and sale price.

The list records almost 25,000 works by 1,200 artists, including most of the prominent watercolourists of their day.

It is an invaluable source of reference.

'The Silent Companion – An illustrated History of The Water Colour Society of Ireland' by Patricia Butler was launched at 
The National Gallery of Ireland 27th September 2010.

A Galaxy of Geniuses

Watercolour emerged from the obscurity of European Studies in the twilight years of the 18th Century.

The establishment of the Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1804 in London marked the beginning of an odyssey that continues to this day.

Due to the talents of Turner, Girtin, Varley, Blake, Cotman, David Cox, Peter de Wint and others, it gained in popularity and its influence spread throughout the western world; practiced by artist and aesthete alike.

In Ireland the 19th Century saw the emergence of some very distinguished practitioners of the art.

The achievements of Rose Barton, Frederick William Burton, Francis Danby, Ernest Michaelangelo Hayes,

Daniel Maclise, William Mulready, Andrew Nichol, George Petrie PRHA, Walter Osborne, Jack B Yeats, John Bulter Yeats and many others have long been recognised as representative masters of their generations.

The Water Colour Society of Ireland was founded in 1870. Its Annual Exhibition has reflected the social and artistic intelligence of more than one hundred and twenty years of Irish culture. It was inevitable that many of its members would achieve international recognition as its base was broad, its members privileged and cosmopolitan.

Royal patronage in the person of HRH the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, KG, attracted the support of both talented artist and dilettante alike.

The Annual Exhibition was and still remains a highlight of the social calendar.

One looks back with pride and pleasure on those artists who, in the past, contributed to and lent their support to the Society.

First amongst them are the founder members - The Baroness Pauline Prochazka, The Misses Leane, Miss Phipps, Miss Curry and Miss Musgrave. In the course of time they attracted the talents of Nathaniel Hone RHA, Lady Butler (Elizabeth Thompson), Sir William Burton, Bingham McGuinness, Rose Barton, Mildred Ann Butler, Lady Ardilaun, Percy French, Evie Hone, Manie Jellet, Walter Osborne RHA, Helen O'Hara, Sarah Purser RHA, Tom Nisbet RHA, Brigid Ganley HRHA, Maurice McGonigal PRHA, Kitty Wilmer O'Brien RHA, Fr Jack Hanlon, Norah McGuinness, Niccola Carraciola RHA, Sean O'Connor and countless others who embraced the medium and left behind a legacy of charm and distinction to be enjoyed by all.

A debt of gratitude is owned to the University of Limerick which has now become a Pantheon of the Arts. The National Self-Portrait collection
 is now well established there, and the Water Colour Society of Ireland collection by contemporary members has been given its own gallery on the ground floor of the Foundation Building.

Thanks are due to the initiative of Dr Edward Walsh and his esteemed colleague, the late Dr Patrick Doran.

The Society is proud and honoured to have a presence in these august surroundings and confident that, as the collection expands by
 drawing on the past and with the support of future members, it will become a valued part of the European heritage.

 James Nolan RHA

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