FELIXSTOWE ART GROUP – HISTORY
Following Local Government funding cuts, people attending Robert Campbell`s evening class decided they would like Bob to continue running outdoor classes. He felt he should not be employed directly and suggested they formed a club, which could then organise the classes.
The Art Group was founded on Monday 28th April 1952 when a public meeting was held at 220 High Road West. This meeting place, which no longer exists, stood on the corner of High Road and Church Lane in Walton, where the Walton village sign now stands. The ground floor of the house was Makinsons Framing and Art Shop and Mr and Mrs Makinson were among the founder members of the Group.
Initially the group was called the Deben Art Group. The first Chairperson was a lady interested in art but did not paint, O. D. MacDonald was Vice Chair and Howard Burnett, Secretary. MacDonald knew Carl Giles the cartoonist well and persuaded him to become Vice President and who held that position until his death in August 1995 aged 78. Some of his cartoon originals appeared at many of the group`s Annual Exhibitions.
Miss Joyce Havell, a descendent of the Havells who printed Audebons Birds of South America, was the first President of the Group. Following Miss Havell`s move from Felixstowe Bob Campbell was elected President in 1956 and held the position until he moved to Canada in July 1968.
In September 1952 the Group`s first Exhibition was held in the old Ambulance Hall in Orwell Road where Broadway House now stands. The first exhibition consisted of unframed works of mostly watercolours.
The Annual Exhibition then moved to the Marlborough Hotel and members of the Rangers Art Club, now called the Orwell Art Group of Ipswich, were invited to exhibit as guests, a connection which lasted for some years. The number of exhibits in 1955 for example was 78, with 9 from Ipswich Art School students and 12 from the Rangers – in comparison the number of exhibits in the 2010 Exhibition totalled around 200+ works with all Group members limited to a submission of 4 paintings.
By 1956 the exhibition moved to Hamilton Hall, where the Tesco premises now stand and O. D. MacDonald was the Chairperson.
In 1957 the exhibition contained a section devoted to 9 oils plus drawings by two students from Bradford Art School, as one had won a scholarship (they never said who). They travelled to Suffolk`s Constable Country to paint in a different environment and visited Bob Campbell in Kirton. As the exhibition was shortly to take place, Bob suggested to the Committee that these two young students could show their work. Many of their works were bought very cheaply. These two scruffy lads, with little money, turned out later to be top artists, especially David Hockney. The other, John Loker, settled in the Norfolk/Suffolk border exhibiting nationally.
Years later, one of the big auction houses advertised locally when they visited Ipswich and some people who had bought Hockney`s works for £2 – £5 or so realised £1200!
For many years two stalwart members of the Group were Elsie and Decima Hobbs who had known the Bloomsbury painters. When Elsie, the last of them, died she left money to the Group, of which the interest was used to set up in 1968 an annual “special” talk, The Hobbs Memorial Lecture, where an artist or someone closely connected with art was invited to choose their own topic. Painters, sculptors, museum curators, art gallery owners have all contributed. Although the original money no longer supplies enough funding for these special talks they continue to be included in the Group`s programme of talks, films, demonstrations etc.
In 1959 Malcolm Laurie joined the group and subsequently elected in 1961 as Secretary. He served in this position for 43 years. John Constable, great great grandson of the famous painter, was elected President in 1974 and following his death at the age of 73 in September 2002, Malcolm Laurie became President.
Malcolm was always interested in drawing and a Drawing Competition is held annually in his memory funded by money he left to the Group on his death.
In 1977 Reeve Lodge opened in Trimley St Martin to provide sheltered accommodation for the elderly. The Group was invited to supply paintings for the corridors and community rooms. This was undertaken on the basis of an annual turn around of work each Autumn and continued for many years. The collection included a large painting belonging to the Group by Bob Campbell.
In 1979 a window exhibition at the bottom of Bent Hill was mooted and eventually came into being with paintings regularly changed giving residents and visitors an opportunity to view and purchase the work of Group members throughout the year. The facility continues to be available for members to have the option to use.
As the original name of the Group, Deben Art Group, caused a misconception to newcomers about where we were based in 1980 this was changed to Felixstowe Deben Art Group but then some people mistook Deben for Debden so the change to the current title, Felixstowe Art Group, was made in 1986.
In 2001 the Group was proud to celebrate its 50th Anniversary by a dinner at the Orwell Moat House Hotel now the Elizabeth Hotel.
September 2013 saw a Welcome pack produced for new members plus the Group website was launched.
The aim of the Felixstowe Art Group continues to encourage art in the community, accepting as members complete beginners as well as experienced artists. To this end as well as the Gallery and Annual Exhibition providing Group members with the option to showcase their work the Group provides twice monthly talks, demonstrations, workshops etc. at Broadway House on Tuesday evenings. On Thursday afternoons at the Conservative Club, Felixstowe, members can work on their own projects with advice on painting if requested.
The current President is Anthony Osler, a well known Marine Artist, and is very supportive of the Group.