Leader in contemporary figurative art, led by artists, for all
Mall Galleries empowers artists through a not-for-profit programme of exhibitions and events, prizes and awards, with a focus on figurative art.
Although the Federation of British Artists was founded in 1961, its story begins with the founding of the first member art society in 1823
On 21 May, a group of painters gathered at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London and formed the Society of British Artists, known today as the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), the oldest art society within the Federation of British Artists.
On 19 April 1824, the inaugural exhibition of the Society opened at 6½ Suffolk Street off Pall Mall.
The RBA has attracted many major artists as members, including Sickert, Lowry, and Whistler.
Image: RBA Annual Exhibition 2023
The New Society of Painters in Water Colours was founded. Nowadays known as the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI), its first exhibition opened at 16 Old Bond Street on 14 April 1832.
Since its founding in 1831, the RI has become internationally recognised as one of the leading art institutes. Its annual exhibition is the largest of its kind, featuring over 400 contemporary water-based media paintings from around the world.
Image: RI 211th Exhibition
The Institute of Oil Painters was founded, which became the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) in 1909.
The Institute is made up of over 60 members, and encompasses all styles and techniques: a tradition that goes back to its inauguration.
Non-members are invited to exhibit with members at the ROI Annual Exhibition, which showcases work of the highest standard in oil paint.
Image: ROI Annual Exhibition 2023
Founding of the New English Art Club (NEAC), whose inaugural exhibition opened at Marlborough Gallery, Pall Mall, in 1886.
The NEAC was founded by a group of artists dissatisfied with the entrenched attitudes of the Royal Academy. The club increasingly attracted younger artists, bringing with them the influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Many diverse styles of art have developed since, adding richness and variety.
Image: NEAC Annual Exhibition 2023
A group of artists joined together to found the Society of Portrait Painters, today the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP), devoted to the art and development of portrait painting.
The Society continues to make a significant contribution to the tradition of portraiture. It hosts an annual exhibition which offers £40,000 worth of prizes, and has a permanent collection of People's Portraits at Girton College, Cambridge.
Image: RP Annual Exhibition at Mall Galleries
The Pastel Society (PS) was founded, whose inaugural exhibition opened on 4 February 1899 in Piccadilly, London.
For more than 125 years, the Society has promoted all types of pastel and other dry media including charcoal and pencil.
Edgar Degas was an early exhibitor with the Society, which continues to attract artists whose work is technically skilled, original, and innovative.
Image: 124th Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society
The Royal Society of British Artists established a Drawing Club as part of its educational remit, which was re-named the Hesketh Hubbard Art Society in 1958 as a tribute to founder member Eric Hesketh Hubbard RBA.
Today, the Hesketh Hubbard Art Society has a membership of over 100 artists and is London’s largest life drawing group. Untutored sessions are held throughout the year, at which around 70 artists work from 3 or more models.
Image courtesy of Amelia Cross, one of three young artists to receive a membership bursary for 2024
Founding of the Society of Marine Artists, which became the Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA) in 1966.
The RSMA is an association of artists that promotes contemporary marine art across painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture.
Although the Society was founded in 1939, the outbreak of the Second World War meant that its inaugural exhibition was not until 1946. For many years the RSMA Annual Exhibition was held at Guildhall Art Gallery, before moving to Mall Galleries in 1981.
Image: RSMA Annual Exhibition 2023
On 26 February, the first meeting was held to discuss the ‘federation’ or bringing together of several art societies under one administrative umbrella, to pool and share resources, while retaining their independence and autonomy.
Among those attending were the Presidents of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, New English Art Club, and Royal Society of British Artists.
Image: 'Award Winning Artists' (2022) at Mall Galleries, which brought together prize winners from across the Federation
Plans came to fruition and the Federation of British Artists was formed as a charitable company. Initially it was based at the RBA Galleries in Suffolk Street.
The Federation is artist-led by design. The charity’s Board of Trustees is made up of nine artists at a minimum - one for each member society - whose duty is to lead the FBA.
Image: Artworks from the Federation’s fundraising auction in Frieze Week 2023, “Art for All”
Founding of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA), the youngest society in the FBA.
The SWLA aims to generate an appreciation of and delight in the natural world through all forms of fine art based on representing the world’s wildlife.
"Whether depicting a wasp or an albatross, a bear or a beetle, at the beating heart of the Society of Wildlife Artists is the quest to capture the essence of that creature and its place in the world," says the SWLA.
Image: SWLA 60th Anniversary Exhibition, The Natural Eye 2023
On 25 February, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened Mall Galleries, the new home of the Federation. The galleries occupy the long podium of John Nash’s 1827 Regency Terrace on The Mall.
The Terrace housed other notable residents before Mall Galleries, including Lord Cardigan (leader of the Charge of the Light Brigade) between 1832 and 1836.
Image: Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1
Fast forward fifty years and Mall Galleries has established a leading not-for-profit programme of exhibitions and events, prizes and awards, focusing on figurative art.
In an average year, Mall Galleries presents:
• 25+ exhibitions, from major group and solo shows, to art fairs and auctions
• Over 100 events, including workshops, demonstrations, talks, and tours
• A number of prizes and awards, bursaries, residences, and scholarships, worth over £100,000
As a charity, the FBA is for all. Its annual exhibitions are open call, so any artist may enter. Many prizes are awarded to those young or emerging, whose work is shown alongside more established names to create dialogue between diverse artists and artworks.
Image: A focus on figurative art
To this day, the art societies within the Federation of British Artists remain at the core of Mall Galleries. Together, they represent over 1,000 years of artistic excellence, and counting...
Their open shows support artists by offering a prestigious platform on which to showcase and sell work, build networks, win awards, and much else. They are central to our programme, which focuses on figurative art, and with other exhibitions, events and opportunities, further our mission to empower contemporary artists.
Image: RBA Bicentennial Exhibition 2023
To help ensure the future of the Federation of British Artists and enjoy exclusive benefits, join as a Friend of Mall Galleries.
As an independent charity that receives no government funding, we rely on the generosity of supporters. To be part of our story and sponsor an exhibition, event, prize or award, contact us today!
Image: A young visitor at FBA Futures, an exhibition of figurative art by new graduates
We have many annual exhibition catalogues of the member art societies from 1961, when the FBA was founded, to today.
To reference any catalogue, please contact us.