Leicester Society of Artists was formed in 1881 and we have been holding Annual Exhibitions at major locations in Leicester from 1882 to the present day.

Minutes of LSA committee meeting 1881

Minute Book Leicester Society of Artists, 1880

The six founding members met on 28th December 1880 met at Mr Barfield's Studio in Leicester with the intention of discussing the formation of a Society concerned with Fine Arts.  Mr Barfield acted as Secretary, recording the meetings in a small bound pocket book. In the early months of 1881 papers were read and discussed and soon the members of the group were bringing their own sketches to the meetings. They decided to form a Society of Artists and by mid July the first officers were elected.  Mr G S Catlow, Art Master at Wyggeston Boys School became the Chair and Mr T C Barfield was  appointed Honorary Secretary. 

The early members were ambitious that the new society should succeed and lost no opportunity to engage the latest speakers.  There are references to fledging sketching groups. The first exhibition of  Leicester Society of Artists was held in 1882 at St George's Chambers.  The minutes record their difficulties of finding exhibition space in Leicester but in1897 Leicester Society of Artists first exhibited at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery (now Leicester Museum & Art Gallery).  The society continued holding Annual Exhibitions, one of the highlights of the artistic year in Leicester, at this major venue in an unbroken record through to 2019.  The LSA Annual Exhibition moved to Newarke Houses Museum for 2021 and 2022.

LSA Catalogue cover, 1881

LSA Catalogue cover, 1888


Well known artists - particularly those with London connections such as Alma Tadema, Sir James Linton, and Clara Montalba - were sought out as Associate Members of the early Society. Wilmot Pilsbury, Headmaster of the Leicester School of Art (now De Montfort University), became the Society's President from 1888 - 1890. Mr Barfield continued as Honorary Secretary from 1881 until 1922 and the last surviving member of the original group, Mr HW Bates, died in 1948.



Early members include George Moore Henton artist and early photographer. Born Leicester in 1861 he studied at the Leicester School of Art. His watercolours are accurate architectural records and show details of everyday life in both Leicester in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His expertise with the camera and left a collection of photographs, recording the architectural antiquities of the city and county.

Prizes are awarded to artists at the LSA Annual Exhibitions. The selector of the prizes changes each year, but is always an external judge of the works in the exhibition. The Ellis Prize and Henton Prize were joined in 1961 by the Society of Artists Prize. The Guy Dixon Prize commemmorates Deputy Circuit Judge Guy Holford Dixon who was an LSA President. The George Pickard Prize remembers the architect and sculptor George Pickard (1929-1993). A number of prizes are now generously funded by local and national companies.

Bryan Organ is Patron of Leicester Society of Artists.  Bryan Organ was also President of LSA from 1982 - 1986. His portraits are well known include HRH The Prince of Wales; Lady Diana Spencer, later Princess of Wales Lord Richard Attenborough and England rugby captain, Martin Johnson, and he is represented by the Redfern Gallery.

George Pickard RIBA (1929-1993) architect and sculptor. George Pickard studied at the Leicester School of Architecture, then served in the Royal Artillery from 1952-54 as a regimental artist engaged in camouflage design. From 1966-88 he was senior lecturer in interior design at Leicester Polytechnic and he was a founder-member of the Architectural Sculptors Group in 1972. George Pickard made a study of advanced designs and methods in flat glass related sculpture.

Douglas Smith, architect and painter, was the longest serving President of LSA for 27 years from 1987 - 2014. A public lecture series of high profile speakers, a themed exhibition at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery and the society's first website, funded by the Arts Council, were among lasting innovations achieved during time as President.

In 1983 we started an annual art lecture series featuring critics, artists and curators- read more about this on our Past Lectures page. Well known speakers include Ken Howard RA and Anthony Eyton RA on painting, Michael Howard on Cezanne, and Vivien Heffernan on the Picasso, Eric Shanes on Post-War American Abstract Art and Professor Simon Shaw-Miller about Paul Klee to link the major exhibition of his work at Tate Modern in 2013. In 2014 in commemoration of the First World War the author David Boyd Haycock presented 'A Crisis of Confidence, Young British Artists and the Great War'. The internationally recognised artist Chila Kumari Burman spoke about her work in January 2015 for the LSA Annual Lecture to accompany her solo exhibition My Rangilla Merry-go-round at Attenborough Arts Centre.

2015 saw the introduction of the LSA Student Award,  attracting work students studying art at Leicester colleges and universities.  There is a cash prize awarded, and winning students' work is included in the main LSA Annual Exhibitions.

LSA have experience of running themed exhibitions since 1999. For each exhibition the society  initiated the themes and developed the concept, and and curated  the exhibitions at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery Leicester. Project briefs were sent to the artists and the artworks were prepared specially for the exhibition.  Publicity, catalogues and preview events were funded and managed by us.

Beyond Words 2018 - An exploration of art and the written word - at the Old Library Galleries, Leicester

Little Selves 2017 - an exhibition of small portraits in collaboration with 8 colleges and schools, and supported by an exhibition of rarely seen miniatures by the museum

Simply Drawing 2015 - a celebration of the art of drawing

Drawing on Words 2014 - Theme of ‘language’; in collaboration with a Leicester writers group, who performed at the preview.  39 artists; 105 works - http://www.leicestersocietyofartists.co.uk/events/2013/drawing-on-words-exhibition.php

Upcycling Exhibition 2012 - Artwork made from recycled materials – inspired by ‘Kurt Schwitters’ at Tate Britain. 39 artists; 90 works - http://www.leicestersocietyofartists.co.uk/events/2012/upcycling-exhibition.php

The Douglas Smith Wonderbox - A single work of commissioned miniatures, each by individual LSA members, to celebrate the 25-year presidency of Douglas Smith - http://www.leicestersocietyofartists.co.uk/events/2012/douglas-smith-wonderbox.php

War and Peace 2011 - Partnered the museum’s own exhibition ‘Spirits of Conflict to Hands of Peace’. 39 artists; 90 works http://www.leicestersocietyofartists.co.uk/events/2011/war-and-peace-exhibition.php

125 Years in the Making 2010 - LSA’s 125-year birthday and celebrating partnership with the museum from 1897.  15 objects ranging from 1885-2010 from the museum’s collection were interpreted by LSA artists.  49 artists; 129 works http://www.leicestersocietyofartists.co.uk/events/2010/125-years-exhibition.php 

Art of Sport 2009 - To reflect the Special Olympic Games, held in Leicester in 2009. 36 artists; 91 works - http://www.leicestersocietyofartists.co.uk/events/2009/art-of-sport.php

Living City 2008 – interpreting Leicester. 39 artists; 110 works

Picasso Explored 2007 - Partnered the major exhibition at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery ‘Picasso: Attenborough Ceramics’. 38 artists; 130 works

Ancient Egyptians 2006

20th Century British Art 2005 – Selected item from the museum’s collection

20/21 Vision 2003 – Post-War British Art

New Expressions 2001 – German Expressionism, focussing the important collection at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery of German Expressionist works

Interpretations 2000 – Works in the ‘Victorian’ Gallery

Images 1999 – based on 'New Walk Museum & Art Gallery' itself


LSA catalogue dated 1889


Watercolour by Wilmot Pilsbury
Wilmot Pilsbury, A Worcestershire Cottage, 1902, Collection of New Walk Museum & Art Gallery

Wilmot Pilsbury RWS was was the first Headmaster of Leicester School of Art and President of Leicester Society of Artists in 1888.

Scultpure by George Pickard
George Pickard sculpture


Portrait of Douglas Smith by Bryan Organ

Portrait of LSA President Douglas Smith by Bryan Organ (detail)

Photo of Sioban Logan reading poetry

Poet Siobhan Logan at the preview of Drawing on Words

Our topics have included German Expressionism, 20th Century British art, Ancient Egypt, Picasso, and War & Peace, all linked with displays in the museum, together with a special exhibition in 2010 to celebrate our own 125 years of exhibitions. Reaching out in new directions, we have taken themes from City of Leicester, Art of Sport in 2009 when Leicester hosted the Special Olympic Summer games, Upcycling linked with the Schwitters exhibition at Tate Britain, and Drawing on Words, a collaborative exhibition with five Leicester poets.

Photograph of David Boyd Haycock

Front cover of David Boyd Haycock A Crisis of Brilliance


Chila Kumari Burman

Chila Kumari Burman, photograph by Andrew Jackson