Highlights of the Collection

The RBSA Permanent Collection consists of over 600 works by past and present Members and Associates of the RBSA and artists who have a connection with the Society or the Midlands. It includes paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, ceramics and jewellery. The policy of requiring newly-elected Members to donate a ‘Diploma Work’ ensures that the Collection continues to grow. There is also an aim to fill historical gaps when possible, such as the purchase of the Lines family sketchbook in 2005.

A number of ‘highlights’ of the Collection are featured below. They have been selected, researched and described by various members of the RBSA’s Volunteer Archive Team, many of whom are undergraduates and postgraduates from the University of Birmingham’s History of Art department. Unless stated otherwise, all photographs were taken by James White on behalf of the RBSA.

The Highlights of the Collection project began in 2012 with generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Young Roots scheme. It was developed throughout 2013 and 2014 with some funds from another grant from the HLF for the project ‘Celebrating 200 years of Art, Artists and Audiences in Birmingham’. The Highlights of the Collection is an ongoing project and we hope to add more entries in the future.



Robert Ball RBSA FRE (1918-2008)

The Quarry at Rowley Regis
BIRSA: 2011.632

Robert Ball worked in the mediums of prints, paint and wood engraving.

This particular work is an etching which depicts a scene of the quarry at Rowley Regis. What strikes me is how Ball has portrayed the sheer force and strength that the workers used to push the laden hopper up the steep inclined slope. The cross-hatched dark lines under the hopper create deep cast shadows that allude to the scorching heat from the sun under which the men are working. Interestingly, Ball stated that this particular quarry produces the Rowley ‘rag’ consisting of ‘the blue chippings which local people claim to be the best road surface in the world.’

Georgina Cotton, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.

Image -  © The Copyright Holder.


Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)

How Sir Belvidere Cast the Sword Excalibur into the Water
Print on paper
BIRSA: 2005X.41

Aubrey Beardsley was an English illustrator practising between 1890 and 1898.

I have chosen this print because it is part of the first commission Beardsley had and demonstrates the trademark characteristics of his work. Beardsley was able to transform the medieval narrative of King Arthur and modernise its representation in-keeping with the Victorian style. The striking contrast between black and white is influenced by traditional Japanese woodcut. The print is simple yet the decadence of the era is found in the detailing. This is what I love about Beardsley: the endearing paradox of his work.

Hang Nguyen, Undergraduate Wikipedia Volunteer, 2012.


William Breakspeare RBSA (1855-1914)

Newlyn Woman
c. 1880
Black chalk on paper
BIRSA: 2005X.57

William Breakspeare was one of a number of Birmingham artists who were associated with the Newlyn School, a group of artists fascinated by the people and way of life in the Cornish fishing village of Newlyn.

Breakspeare conveys the strength and spirit of the female figure by capturing her stance: her booted feet standing astride; her hands on her hips and her pelvis thrust forward. It is drawn in an assertive but nuanced manner, with the chalk sometimes pressed hard and sometimes allowed to drift softly along the paper, in a way that complements the character of the figure.

Chloë Lund, Part-Time Temporary Archive Assistant and Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2012.


Emmy Bridgwater (1906-1999)

Stark Encounter
c. 1940
Pen and ink on paper
BIRSA: 2005X.59

Emmy Bridgwater was a significant figure in the British Surrealist movement. Stark Encounter embodies the qualities for which Emmy was praised for in her work: it is simple and honest, yet somehow extremely affecting.

Artist and writer Toni del Renzio wrote of Emmy’s works, ‘We do not see these pictures. We hear their cries and are moved by them.’ This truly describes my experience of Stark Encounter. I see a formidable bird-shaped ghoul abducting a helplessly compliant female figure, but I also experience an unexpected emotional response to the medium, the composition and the aesthetic forms as well as the narrative.

Chloë Lund, Part-Time Temporary Archive Assistant and Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist’s Estate.


Richard Chattock (1825 -1906)

Tabbing at the Blast Furnace
c. 1872
BIRSA: 2005X.76

Richard Chattock was a Solihull-born artist, who specialised in printmaking, particularly etching. He published a manual for other artists called ‘Practical notes on etchings’ in 1863.

Chattock would have been familiar with the industrial nature of Birmingham and its surrounding areas. This etching manages to capture the nature of industrial work, making the viewer almost feel the heat of the furnaces through his depiction of flames billowing out across the yard. Other works in the RBSA Collection focus on the rural nature of the Black Country, whereas this one highlights how industry ‘ransacked its depths’.

Rebecca Whitaker Postgraduate placement, May 2015.


Dawn Imogen Sallie Cookson RBSA (1925-2005)

An Old Florentine
Carbon Pencil on Paper
BIRSA: 2008X.572

This powerful character study captures the most interesting and endearing features of the old Italian woman’s face.

Dawn Imogen Sallie Cookson’s artistic training led her from Birmingham School of Art in the mid-1940s to the studio of the Florentine artist, Pietro Annigoni. Travelling the globe - from the USA to South Africa - Cookson would have met hundreds of interesting characters and studied many faces. I believe this carbon pencil sketch encapsulates the wisdom and experience of the individual; the soft and heavy pencil marks detail the woman’s furrowed brow and defiant eyes, which hold the memories of her long life.

Jessica Stallwood, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.

Image -  © The Copyright Holder.


David Cox Hon. RBSA (1783-1859)

Lane at Harborne
c. 1850
Charcoal and Conté on paper
BIRSA: 2005X.105

Honorary Member of the RBSA until his death in 1859, David Cox is an exemplar of the RBSA’s rich history and an artist representing Birmingham on a national level.

Cox secured a reputation as one of the leading landscape painters in watercolour during the 18th and 19th centuries. I selected this work as it highlights Cox’s dedication to capturing nature. Following a decline in health, Cox returned to Birmingham but was restricted regarding how far he could travel to sketch. The darkened scene could be viewed as reflective of Cox’s awareness that his career was nearing its end.

Jessica Furlong, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2012.


David Cox the elder Hon. RBSA (1783–1859)

Bolton Abbey
Oil and pencil on panel
BIRSA: 2005X.103

This vigorously painted landscape immerses you in the countryside.

The painting shows Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire from a great distance. The limited range of tones makes the ruined monastery merge into its surrounding landscape, suggesting that both earth and manmade objects are of equal beauty. The loose application of the paint makes it difficult to distinguish features in the foreground, creating a dream-like quality, which intrigues the viewer and draws them in.

Hollie Pimm, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2015.


Benjamin Creswick RBSA (1853-1946)

John Ruskin
BIRSA: 2005X.112

Apart from being the leading British art critic of the Victorian era, John Ruskin was also an art patron, artist, geologist, teacher,
writer and philanthropist.

Ruskin is a significant figure for me because I was inspired to study art history by the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites and Ruskin championed
their work when it was ridiculed by most art critics. It is thought that Creswick modelled this bust from photographs and afterwards produced a second bust from life. Ruskin liked the young sculptor’s work and supported him for several years. In 1889, Creswick settled in Birmingham on his appointment as Master of Modelling at Birmingham School of Art.

Aileen Naylor MPhil, Archive Team Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist’s Estate.


Trevor Denning RBSA, SIA (1923-2009)

RBSA Gallery, New Street
Oil on Strawboard

BIRSA: 2009.609

Trevor Denning, one of the founders of the Birmingham Artists Committee, was an English painter, illustrator and designer.

This painting depicts the interior of the RBSA Gallery, which was exhibiting works by Denning at the time. Three visitors are present - an elderly woman and two men - but they all have unimpressed looks on their faces. Here Denning has portrayed, in a satirical manner, the anti-modernist perceptions expressed by the exhibition visitors. 

Georgina Cotton, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.

Image -  © The Artist’s Estate.


June Dudleston RBSA

Forest in Fall
BIRSA: 2005X.128

A scene of a forest in autumn, red leaves litter the floor while the silver birch trees still retain some of their yellowing leaves.

June Dudleston’s landscapes are achieved using oil paint and a palette knife, which gives her work texture. I think the choice of colours in this piece suggests sorrow and happiness through the contrast between the dark and sombre red and brown leaves against the paler and more optimistic yellow and white leaves. These qualities make the scene appear dreamlike, which is what draws me to it.

Ayesha Hussain, Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.

Image -  © The Artist.


Bernard Fleetwood-Walker PPRBSA (1893-1965)

Joan Woollard PPRBSA
c. 1950
Watercolour on paper
BIRSA: 2005X.139

This intimate portrait of the RBSA President seems to benefit from the friendly and informal conditions in which I imagine it was painted.

The comfort of the sitter as she lounges in an armchair with a relaxed smile on her lips is matched by the artist’s ease in applying the paint. The summer light that hits her gently from the left is conveyed naturally by leaving exposed the board on which it is painted. In this respect it differs from Fleetwood-Walker’s highly finished oil paintings, but reveals the same attentiveness to light, domesticity and his sitter’s temperament.

Chloë Lund, Part-Time Temporary Archive Assistant and Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The estate of Mrs Peggy Fleetwood-Walker.


Bernard Fleetwood-Walker PPRBSA (1893-1965)

Oil on panel
BIRSA: 2005X.138

This touching portrait was painted by former president of the RBSA, Bernard Fleetwood-Walker.

The girl’s delicately painted pale skin and gleaming eyes contrast against the darker tones of the background, making her stand out and catch the viewer’s eye. Her pink rosy cheeks give the impression that she is blushing and the position of her hand appears defensive, suggesting a shy nature. However, the slight turn of her mouth also indicates a flattered smile. To me, this combination shows that Fleetwood-Walker captured Caroline spontaneously.

Hollie Pimm, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2015.

Image - © the estate of Mrs Peggy Fleetwood-Walker


Peter Gross RBSA (1924 – 1987)

Joyce V
BIRSA: 2005X.163

Peter Gross was an oil painter who enjoyed dual careers as an artist and teacher. The subject of Joyce V is one of his students and was produced so that he could focus on developing his use of form and ‘un-muddled’ colour.

As suggested by the warped perspective and closed composition of the painting, it was produced as the artist and model stood opposite each other in a small room at his home. I interpret the expression and pose of the sitter as quite awkward, suggesting some discomfort caused by the student/teacher relationship or the self-consciousness typical of a younger age group. The simplicity of her outfit makes and artificial lighting of the room also emphasises her expression and position within the corner, creating a sense of isolation.

Nicola Onions, Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.

Image - © The Artist’s Estate.


David Harban RBSA

A Different View: Lichfield Cathedral
Etching/Aquatint on paper
BIRSA: 2009.610

The perspective of this print of Lichfield Cathedral puts the viewer in an inferior position, looking up at the cathedral.

The etching is of the cathedral alone, which conveys a more domineering quality to it. This print is very interesting because of the great detail of the cathedral, yet from having a plain background it looks remarkably flat. It really attracted my eye. There is contrast of flatness and three-dimensional, architectural detail making the building look more intimidating, which I think could have social hierarchal connotations alluding to the political and social power the Church and religion can have on society.

Rebecca Thomas, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist.


Elaine Hind RBSA

Blue Pot with Iris
c. 1987
BIRSA: 2005X.199

Purple irises flourish on each side of this large blue pot, their green stems and leaves forming handles.

When I saw an exhibition by Elaine Hind at the RBSA Gallery several years ago, her work impressed me straightaway. I admire her close observation of natural forms and her way of incorporating elements from nature into functional objects. Elaine studied ceramics at Birmingham College of Art. She was a Senior Lecturer at Bournville Centre for Visual Arts at the University of Central England, until she retired in 2005. Elaine contributed this piece to the Permanent Collection through the Diploma Scheme which requires Members to donate one of their works.

Aileen Naylor MPhil, Archive Team Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist.


Percy Hipkiss RBSA (1912 – 1995)

Design for a matching set of costume jewellery entitled ‘Sea Fantasy’
Gouache on grey mount board shading applied with pencil.
BIRSA: 2013.754

Percy Hipkiss depicted a range of subjects in a variety of mediums, producing jewellery designs, landscapes and life drawings in paint, pencil, and pastel.

I chose this work because of the exquisite detail. Using gouache on a grey background, Hipkiss has managed to accurately illustrate a 3D design in a 2D format, creating a piece of draftsmanship that, I think, is a work of art in its own right. The greens and blues, shimmering highlights and sinuous repeating curves capture the colour of the sea and movement of its waves.

Nicola Onions, Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.

Image - © The Artist’s Estate.


Harold Henry Holden RBSA (1885-1977)

c. 1935
Drypoint Engraving
BIRSA: 2005X.208

This study depicts two tree trunks knocked down by gale-force winds, which sweep dramatically across the scene.

The diagonal lines emphasise the power of the wind whilst the gnarled wood of the uprooted trees suggests they have stood in the space for decades. The strong markings are a credit to the artist’s ability to depict the movement, power and strength of nature. I interpret this image as one which connotes ideas of something new and energetic knocking down old and stagnant traditions.

Jessica Stallwood, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.

Image -  © The Copyright Holder.


Heinke Jenkins RBSA

We never had it so good
BIRSA: 2005X.222

This work from 1989 tackles important questions of social critique. In my view, the background refers to all the commodities that modern society has at its disposal but there is a sense of irony and uncertainty as to whether this actually makes for a better life.

Heinke Jenkins’ earlier work is more expressive so perhaps the black silhouettes are used here intentionally, to emphasise the alienation and lack of individuality of modern people.  The technique of the linocut gives a faint transparency to the black ink. Therefore the figures can be interpreted as reminders of transience. Also, the centrality of the stroller might suggest concerns about the future.

Patricia Nistor, Undergraduate 'Highlights of the Collection' Volunteer, 2014.

Image -  © The Artist.


Usha Khosla RBSA

BIRSA: 2005X.228

This bowl was Khosla’s diploma work and is part of a series of bowls in a similar style.

It is a large bowl made with rough clay to create a textured surface. Khosla has used slips, oxides and glazes to emphasise the rugged texture. The rich texture and colour conveys a rustic and rugged landscape scene on the bowl. The landscape depicted is rich and earthy, yet there is a mysterious feeling about it which I think is interesting, because Khosla’s travels have been a significant influence.

Rebecca Thomas, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist.


Frederick Thomas Lines (1808-1896)

Self Portrait
Watercolour on paper
BIRSA: 2007X.539

Frederick Thomas Lines was the youngest son of Samuel Lines, one of the founder Members of the Birmingham Society of Arts, the forerunner to the RBSA.

From an early age he showed signs of great talent as a portraitist, training in London. This portrait was found in a house clearance and purchased by the RBSA in 2007. There are very few of Frederick’s portraits in circulation today. I have therefore chosen this work as one of my highlights because the quality of this particular portrait is one of the best examples of his work that I have seen, depicting himself as a shy and somewhat guarded young man.

Connie Wan MA (PhD Candidate in History of Art, University of Birmingham) RBSA Gallery Coordinator (2006-2012), 2012.


Frederick Thomas Lines RBSA (1808-1896)

Tettenhall Church
Oil on Card
BIRSA: 2007X.477

St Michael and All the Angels Church was built on an old Saxon church site and so literally holds history in its foundations. Frederick Thomas Lines’ vibrant oil painting captures elements of this.

The viewer’s eyes are drawn from the darkened foreground to the brightly lit altar at the far wall while natural light cast from the windows throws shadows onto the Gothic and Norman architecture. Although the scene appears derelict, signs of worship are found in the bowl and chalice to the left of the interior. Lines’ mixture of wet and dry brushstrokes capture a snapshot of time in the history of the church, yet still promotes the unwavering continuation of faith.

Jessica Stallwood, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.


Henry Harris Lines (1801-1889)

Pencil on paper
BIRSA: 2007X.505

This drawing of Bridgnorth was made by Henry Harris Lines, the eldest son of Samuel Lines, one of the founder Members of the Birmingham Society of Arts.

This drawing formed part of a sketchbook of drawings by the Lines family, purchased by the RBSA in 2005. I think that the draughtsmanship seen in all of Henry Harris’s pencil studies are exquisite and this drawing captures the quintessentially English town in a modern picture postcard manner.

Connie Wan MA (PhD Candidate in History of Art, University of Birmingham) RBSA Gallery Coordinator (2006-2012), 2012.


Walter Jenks Morgan RBSA (1847-1924)

The Meeting Place,
BIRSA: 2005X.302

Walter Jenks Morgan was apprenticed to the Birmingham lithographer Thomas Underwood (1809 - 1882). He also studied at the School of Art and in classes led by the RBSA.

After studying painting at the Royal Academy schools in South Kensington, he became President of the Birmingham Art Circle and the Midlands Art Club.

I was interested in this work as an example of Morgan’s exploration of far-off lands and cultural experiences. It is one of his many paintings depicting Arabian street scenes, but this ‘snapshot view’ of a street stood out to me as it appears to capture the local culture. In addition, the contrast between the pale drapery and the bold lapis lazuli building façade gives a beautiful and striking appearance.

Alice Watkins, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2014.


Hilary Paynter Hon. RBSA

c. 2010
Woodcut on paper
BIRSA: 2010.622

Springtime landscapes usually convey the season by using a bounty of greens, but Hilary Paynter’s monochrome depiction of the Welsh mountains reminds me of the other senses that we experience in Spring.

In the foreground, individually carved blades of grass suggest the feeling of thick, luscious growth, from which a few delicate daffodils tentatively emerge. A clear white sky is reflected in the still lake, which evokes the fresh spring air. Best of all are the minute farmhouses, the size of matchstick heads, which seem to dwarf human existence in the face of this vast natural beauty.

Chloë Lund, Part-Time Temporary Archive Assistant and Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist.


Rachel Ricketts RBSA

Bronze/Resin Sculpture, mounted on slate
BIRSA: 2009.578

The texture of this goat sculpture is uneven, but still smooth. The idea that it is a bust of a goat is quite endearing and unusual because goats are rarely depicted, especially as a sole subject matter. This is why this piece of art stood out to me.

The sculpture is distinct because of its size. With it being an animal’s bust it could allude to a mocking of the hierarchy of artistic genres. Traditionally, only important people would have busts, not animals. This corroborates with the interesting title, Caprice, meaning a sudden, unpredictable change.

Rebecca Thomas, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist.


Elizabeth Ridgway RBSA

Summer Nap
Acrylic on paper
BIRSA: 2005X.341

Elizabeth Ridgway won the Tabernacle Art Prize awarded by the Museum of Modern Art Wales, as well as taking part in a large number of group and solo exhibitions throughout the country.

Ridgway’s painting Summer Nap resembles The Dream (1932) by Pablo Picasso, although the treatment of colour and shape is not as aggressive. She seems to have been influenced by the pose, the use of rounded shapes and the even patterns in the background.  The artist confessed her fascination with the domestic and the mundane, where she constantly searches for beauty. The work captures this attitude in the serenity of the figure and the delicate curves that dominate the composition.

Patricia Nistor, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2014.

Image -  © The Artist.


William Roden RBSA (1817-1892)

Head of a Woman
BIRSA: 2005X.343

Renowned during the Victorian era as Birmingham’s most prolific portrait painter, this delicate engraving shows a different side to the work of William Roden.

Featured in a recent RBSA exhibition, the unfinished and nameless state of this work creates an endless array of scenarios for a viewer to imagine. The averted gaze of the woman suggests shyness, yet is coupled with a coy and knowing smile. This ambiguity which surrounds the subject of the engraving and her unusual pose could be the source of this work’s enduring popularity.

Emily Robins, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2014.


Sir Henry Rushbury (1889-1968)

La Rochelle
Ink and watercolour on paper
BIRSA: 2005X.345

Sir Henry Rushbury was the son of a clerk in Harborne and completed a scholarship under Robert Catterson Smith at the Birmingham School of Art at the age of thirteen. 

Rushbury became an Honorary Member of the RBSA in 1956 and accepted the position of Honorary Vice President of the Society in 1966. He was known for being a war artist and produced many paintings in Paris after the destruction of the First World War. The brush marks of this watercolour sketch suggest the speed and energy of a fleeting moment in post-war Paris. However, the depiction of the public going about their daily lives implies a peaceful routine, creating an atmosphere of calm.

Alice Watkins, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2014.

Image -  © The Artist’s Estate.


John Salt Hon. RBSA

Pink Trailer
Lithograph on paper
BIRSA: 2012.618

John Salt can be considered a regional artist with an international reputation.

His photorealist scenes of suburban USA critique consumerist culture and subvert the idealised ‘American Dream’. Pink Trailer is a recent acquisition by the RBSA that I feel is a valuable addition to the collection. Although Salt’s work predominately features the USA as a backdrop, his fascination and focus on the automobile can be regarded as a subject rooted in his upbringing in Birmingham (a city of car manufacturing).

Jessica Furlong, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist.


Anthony Sawbridge PPRBSA

The Balloon Seller
c. 1988
Acrylic on Cardboard
BIRSA: 2005X.348

The Balloon Seller’s slightly sinister characteristics make it stand out among Anthony Sawbridge’s other pieces.
The almost awkward eye contact between the clown and the viewer creates an interesting dynamic to the painting, which may make some viewers feel uncomfortable under the balloon seller’s permanent gaze. It also demonstrates Sawbridge’s interest in the interaction between people and their environment. I think that the composition, colour scheme, detail in the clothing and architecture make this an interesting and unusual piece of artwork.

Tate Gronow, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2014.

Image -  © The Artist.


John Shakespeare RBSA

The Square Brush Technique
Oil on canvas board
BIRSA: 2009.579

John Shakespeare’s painting skilfully incorporates a number of RBSA Members and works within one portrait.

The work captures Simon Davis RBSA demonstrating the ‘Square Brush Technique’ (a style developed by Jules Bastien-Lepage), employing RBSA Associate Louise Sanders as his sitter. Over the corner of Davis’ portrait, Shakespeare’s own self-portrait Hazardous Occupation (2008) can be glimpsed. As the artist notes, it ‘peeks over enviously from behind’. To me, the work is representative of the collaboration, influence and interaction that is still so evident within the RBSA. The diversity of Birmingham’s artistic culture is united within the Society’s community, as are its artists within Shakespeare’s portrait.

Jessica Furlong, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist.


Bernard Sleigh RBSA (1872-1954)

Rough Sea at Tintagel
Watercolour and gouache
BIRSA: 2005X.353 

Bernard Sleigh worked in an individualistic, illustrative style to portray the scenes within his paintings.

Using watercolour and gouache in this work, Bernard Sleigh has not directly copied and portrayed the scene in a visually accurate manner. Instead, he has depicted the rough sea and the surrounding rocks in a way that makes the scene appear as if from fantasy. Sleigh visited Cornwall frequently; therefore I assume this is where his inspiration arose from. His detailed brush strokes within each wave emphasise the moving water, making it appear almost tangible as it crashes against the rocks. 

Georgina Cotton, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.

Image -  © The Artist’s Estate.


Joseph Southall PPRBSA (1861-1944)

The Old Portico
Pastel, pencil and charcoal on paper
BIRSA: 2007X.358

The grand portico of the RBSA’s former gallery stands proudly in a busy and bustling New Street.

Joseph Southall produced this work in the year that this impressive building was demolished. Having discovered Southall whilst volunteering in the RBSA’s Archive, I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on his painting, Changing the Letter (Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery), and continue to be drawn to his use of bright colour and attention to detail. Whilst The Old Portico exhibits Southall’s passion for the frivolous fashions of Edwardian society, many of his other works have a more serious political intent. As a committed Quaker and Socialist, his art often advocates themes of equality and pacifism.

Hannah Carroll BA (MPhil History of Art student at University of Birmingham) and RBSA Gallery Assistant and Archive Team Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © Reproduced with permission of the Barrow Family.


William John Wainwright PPRBSA (1855-1931)

Portrait of John Keeley RBSA
Oil on canvas
BIRSA: 2005X.376

William John Wainright’s oil portrait of John Keeley, a fellow RBSA member is full of emotion and depth.

William J. Wainright became one of the first associate members of the RBSA in 1881. Keeley’s black clothing against the dark background draws the eye straight to the face. Preferring to work in watercolour, oil is not Wainwright’s usual medium. However, he still conveys emotion in this portrait, which is why it is a highlight of the collection for me.

Ayesha Hussain, Archive Team Volunteer, 2015.


Jacqué Wakely RBSA

Tidal Wave
BIRSA: 2012.717

Menacing waves crash onto a battered, salty shore, whilst screeching seagulls swoop and dive above.

Depicting the beach at Sendsend near Whitby, it is this work’s capacity to capture the sounds and smells of the coast that attracts me to it, as well as the proficiency with which Wakely exploits her medium. From a distance, the scene can be mistaken for a painting, but at closer viewing, it becomes clear it is actually composed of intricate and variable patterns of thread. Today, the RBSA supports a number of artists working with textiles. This work is Wakely’s donated diploma piece.

Hannah Carroll BA (MPhil History of Art student at University of Birmingham) and RBSA Gallery Assistant  and Archive Team Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist.


Peter Wareing RBSA

Tall Vase
BIRSA: 2009.597

The vase has a very natural and soft shape, enhanced by the woodland pattern and flowing lines. The pattern is exaggerated and abstract giving a modern twist to the vase.

The decoration is unusual, influenced by earthy and natural forms. There is a nude figure lying down, depicted from a grotesque and exaggerated angle. The figure is disproportionate, but this fits with the abstract woodland. I like this vase as the figure is a surprise, you would not expect to see it when you walk round the vase.

Rebecca Thomas, Undergraduate ‘Highlights of the Collection’ Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist.


Lyall Watson (1908-1994)

Portrait of Henry Moore
Oil on Canvas
BIRSA: 2005X.378

At the time of this painting’s execution, Henry Moore (1898 - 1986) was heralded as the ‘greatest living Englishman’, a reputation that must have been difficult to translate onto canvas.

However, this is where I think Lyall Watson succeeds.  The background of sculptural forms seems to express Moore’s own creative work and his love of medieval architecture. This, when coupled with the contrasting colours of orange and blue, certainly makes for an arresting and unusual portrait. 

Emily Robins, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2014.

Image -  © The Artist's Estate.


Joan Woollard PPRBSA (1916-2008)

Jonah and the Big Fish
c. 2000
Mixed Media on board
BIRSA: 2006X.425

Joan Woollard, a Birmingham artist, was the first female President of the RBSA (1978-1980).

I chose Jonah and the Big Fish because not only is it my favourite piece of hers in the collection, but it also demonstrates her evolving style, turning to embroidery during the latter part of her life. The collage technique and the use of watercolour on fabric creates a three dimensional effect which gives it an intriguing transparency. The date of this particular work is unknown but I believe that it may have been made in 2000, around the same time as another piece she created also called Jonah and the Whale.

Hang Nguyen, Undergraduate Wikipedia Volunteer, 2012.

Image - © The Artist's Estate.


Joan Woollard PPRBSA (1916-2008)

The Races
Oil on canvas
BIRSA: 2005.404

Joan Wollard was President of the RBSA from 1978 to 1980. Her work traverses many artistic fields including drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and embroidery.

A day at the races was often a popular topic for French impressionists such as Manet and Degas, yet Wollard’s treatment of this subject matter is curiously British, utilising a palette of sombre colours evocative of a rainy summer afternoon. The thick impasto strokes suggest that the paint was blended straight upon the canvas in a rapid attempt to capture the moment. There is an unfinished quality to this painting, which I feel adds to its charm.

Emily Robins, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer, 2014.

Image -  © The Artist's Estate.