The Fine Art Society are art dealers based in London and Edinburgh. Established in 1876, the gallery is one of the oldest fine art dealers in the UK, and has historic links to many of the most influential British artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Currently based in Michelin House, South Kensignton, the London branch of the company, specialises in British art from 1900 onwards, providing valuations and private treaty sales to collectors from around the world. Similarly our Dundas Street branch in Edinburgh's New Town, specialises in Scottish art from 1700 onwards.
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 Chairmen were all drawn from the Longman family until the death of Mark Longman in 1972. Since then only four people have held the position, the present incumbent being Annamarie Phelps. Only seven people have held the position of Managing Director in the past 142 years.
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 program was established in 2005, adding a progressive dimension to the already prestigious and established history of the gallery whilst retaining independent programming. The program 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.
2018 saw the London branch move from its historic premises on New Bond Street to a temporary space in Michelin House, South Kensington, whilst work was undertaken to find a new location.