The Founders

The Dublin Sketching Club was founded on the 20th October 1874, at a meeting in the Westland Row house of Dr. W. Booth Pearsall, HRHA.

Those present included Dr. William Stokes, FRS, President of the RIA, Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.

Alfred Grey, RHA, was elected as first President and Alexander Williams, RHA, first Secretary.

Alexander Williams RHA
Bram Stoker

Early Days

Membership expanded rapidly.  By 1875 Bingham McGuinness, Nathaniel Hone, John Butler Yeats had joined. In the following years new members included Walter Osborne, Richard Orpen, Richard Moynan, Percy French and Sarah Purser.

Initially the members met indoors to draw and paint, but soon opted for weekly plein air outings. The minutes record an excursion, in 1885… “By train to Stillorgan and thence by car to Stepaside… Mr. Fogarty arrived all the way by bicycle”.

The Freeman’s Journal reported on these outings. One report began… “The Dublin Sketching Club, which ranks next to the Royal Hibernian Academy in the Dublin Arts World…”

John Butler Yeats
Walter Frederick Osborne

The Annual Exhibition

Since 1876 there were only three years when the Club did not hold an Annual Exhibition. Initially these were located in the Trinity College Riding School. A variety of venues were subsequently used over the years. The exhibitions were well received and the Dublin Art Monthly commented in 1927 ‘the 53rd Annual Exhibition should be a centre of interest for all art lovers in Dublin.’

However the earlier 1886 Exhibition to which the Club had invited several artists from London to participate, proved more controversial. Among these was James McNeill Whistler who exhibited 25 pieces, including his most famous work, “Portrait of my Mother”. The exhibition, showing work then considered to be ‘modern’, received an unfavourable review in the Irish Times. While the comments on ‘Whistler’s Mother’ were not too critical, the harshest criticism was reserved for his smaller works which were described by the reviewer, ‘as mere daubs’. A vigorous public controversy ensued. Long queues formed outside the exhibition hall in Molesworth Street.

An October Morning by W.F. Osborne 1885
James McNeill Whistler
Portrait of my Mother by J.M. Whistler 1834-1903

Despite the critics adverse comments , W.B Yeats who visited the exhibition said later, in ‘Autobiographies’,  his visit  had ‘made him happy for days’.

1885 Catalogue

By the mid 1990s, the lack of a suitable exhibition space created a crisis. Fortunately, a reforming committee put the Club finances on a firm footing. As a result they were able to arrange for the 1999 Exhibition to be held in the Concourse Gallery, Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown, County Hall. This excellent venue has now become the natural “home” of the Exhibition.

In the 20th Century

The Club continued to attract distinguished members Ernest Hayes, RHA, was President from 1946 to 1956. Charles Kelly, Editor of the “Dublin Opinion” was Secretary for a time. Flora H. Mitchell published sketches of the older parts of the city in her renowned book “Vanishing Dublin”.

Howard Knee was President for many years while his wife was Secretary/Treasurer. Tom Nisbet, RHA, exhibited watercolours with the Club over a long period. Other frequent exhibitors were Leo Earley, a successful painter and stained glass artist, Desmond Hickey and Liam Treacy

Flora Mitchell – Moore St
Tom Nisbet RHA – Grand Canal

In the 21st Century

Apart from the RHA, the DPSC is the oldest Irish art group in Ireland engaged in all forms of representational painting. Recognising this, members at the AGM of November 2000 decided to change the name from the Dublin Sketching Club, to the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club.

There are now almost ninety members, elected following a selection process and interest from artists in attaining membership increases every year. Many of the best known and most popular artists in Ireland are among the members. The quality and range of work exhibited, by these artists, increases the status of the Club and this has brought ever-growing numbers of art lovers to attend the exhibitions.

The members of the Club today, are proud of their long tradition and committed to emulating the standards and achievements of their illustrious founders.

Ernest Hayes RHA – Light on the Haystacks