The Fine Art Society are art dealers with two premises, one on New Bond Street, Mayfair, occupied since 14th February 1876, and given a new entrance facade in 1881 by E.W.Godwin (1833–1886), the other in Dundas Street in Edinburgh’s New Town. There has been an Edinburgh presence since 1972.
Founded in London in 1876 by a group of like-minded collectors led by William Longman of the publishing family; Archibald Stuart-Wortley MP, who was also a fine amateur artist; and Marcus Bourne Huish (1843–1921), lawyer, editor, writer and collector, who became the first Managing Director, while at the same time editing The Art Journal. Huish was a great Japanophile and one of the founders of the Japan Society. The early success of the gallery was based on publishing engravings of popular paintings.
The gallery has for many years largely concentrated on British art and design from 1700 to the present day; with the Edinburgh premises specialising in Scottish art of the same period. The Edinburgh branch of the company is directed by Emily Walsh.
The Chairmen were all drawn from the Longman family until the death of Mark Longman in 1972. Since then only Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden KT (until 1998), Sir Angus Grossart (until 2016) and Robin Holland-Martin (current) have held the position. Only seven people have held the position of Managing Director in the past 139 years, the present incumbent being Pippa Stockdale.
The gallery was a pioneer of the one-man exhibition, most famously that of James McNeill Whistler’s An Arrangement in White and Yellow in 1883. The Fine Art Society had commissioned Whistler to make a set of etchings of Venice in 1879, enabling him to escape London following his libel action with John Ruskin and subsequent bankruptcy.
Other living exhibitors at the London gallery included Sir John Everett Millais, John Singer Sargent, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Walter Crane, Leon Bakst, Sir Frank Brangwyn, Walter Richard Sickert (who described the gallery as The Best Shop in London), George Washington Lambert, Gluck and Joseph Southall. More recently Edward Bawden, Leonard Rosoman, Richard Eurich, Emma Sargent, Emily Young, Alexander Stoddart and Geoffrey Clark. Memorial exhibitions held at The Fine Art Society include Samuel Palmer in 1881, Laura, Lady Alma-Tadema in 1910, Sir Frank Brangwyn in 1958 and Edward Bawden in 1992 amongst others.
The Contemporary Gallery was established in 2005 and the new 1,000 square foot space added a progressive dimension to the already prestigious and established history of the gallery whilst retaining independent programming. The Contemporary team have embraced the nineteenth and twentieth century heritage of the gallery and increased cross-cultural links, particularly in Asia, Australia and the US.
The Fine Art Society has been taking part in key international art fairs over the years, most notably at TEFAF Maastricht, Masterpiece, London, Frieze Masters, London and at the London Original Print Fair. We have also exhibited in art fairs in New York, Miami, Hong Kong, Paris and Dubai.