Sketching out History of Superb Art Society

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), September 7, 2015 | Go to article overview

Sketching out History of Superb Art Society


THE Gazette is working with Teesside University and mima to help tell the story of Middlesbrough's cultural history.

Your memories - such as the arrival of the Bottle of Notes - will form part of the major Localism exhibition which will take place at the gallery later this year. Organisers are asking readers to get in touch with pictures, stories and artefacts that have significance to either themselves or the area. The series will help reaffirm the important role the town and its residents play in the development of art and society.

| This week Alan Morley, Cleve-|land Art Society's 2013 Exhibition Secretary, reminisces about the early days of a sketching club which is still popular today.

Middlesbrough's art society, the Cleveland Art Society, was founded as a Victorian sketching club in 1884, making it one of the oldest, still-practising, art groups of its kind in the country. Its aim was "to cultivate the art of drawing, painting, sculpture and kindred arts and to encourage general art study in Middlesbrough and the neighbourhood".

Annual exhibitions were held, and they were very grand social occasions, with piano and violin renditions, accompaniments and literary recitations. Many dignitaries, town officials and industrialists were founding members or had connections. One of these early examples is Major Clive Dixon, son of a shipbuilder at Cleveland Dockyard, who became Mayor of Middlesbrough.

A highly-skilled illustrator and cartoonist, his work appeared in publications covering the Boer War and specifically the Siege of Ladysmith where it was used in the London Gazette.

As an officer in The Queens Lancers he was later killed in the First World War. An ordinary infantryman, incidentally, called Tom Dresser, we believe was also one of our art club members, and he became notable as a Victoria Cross hero in the same war.

After quite an animated postwar and "great depression" period, the club moved to a new headquarters above Guymer's Art Shop in Gurney Street.

It might have shifted its soul briefly over the river to Yarm and Stockton before weathering further hardships of the Second World War.

It then re-established itself again in Middlesbrough in the old Dunning Road Art Gallery before Middlesbrough Police Station was built on its site.

By the time of the Cleveland Sketching Club's 70th anniversary in 1954 membership numbers had risen to 168, with 28 student members.

Close links with the town's council had been long in place and exhibitions were often opened by either the Mayor or Mayoress.

It had begun to lobby the council for a bigger and proper art gallery for the town and started raising funds through sales of its paintings.

At the same time it founded the town's 20th Century modern art collection, the "Permanent Collection" contributing to it with paintings and drawings and purchases from its own raised funds. …

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