UCL logo




Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Institutions


Graphic Society


It was founded in 1833 by William Brockedon, artist and inventor, as a society for artists to hold monthly meetings (“conversazione”) and exhibitions; architect John Buonarotti Papworth was a founder member

Its membership was originally limited to 100, comprising forty painters, twelve watercolour painters, six sculptors, twenty architects and twenty engravers, together with a Treasurer and Hon. Secretary who could not be artists

Turner’s painting of Bamborough Castle was exhibited there in 1837 and pronounced to be “one of the finest watercolour-drawings in the world”, a judgement which was frequently quoted in 2007 as the painting returned to public view (see, for example, The Independent, 18 October 2007); it subsequently sold for almost £3 million at auction

The membership was increased to 125 in 1852, and female members were eventually admitted in 1887

It was wound up for financial reasons in 1890

One newspaper commented at the time “The Graphic Society of London is in extremis and will soon cease to exist. The reasons given for its death are the growth of societies not strictly limited to artists, the number of deaths of members, and the extend to which artists have abandoned London due to its murky atmosphere, which interferes with work” (New York Times, 9 November 1890)

What was reforming about it?

It was resolutely anti-commercial from its inception; its members were not allowed to sell their works via the meetings

It was also inclusive; non-members, including scientists, were encouraged to attend meetings

Where in Bloomsbury

The Treasurer in 1859 and 1861 was Lewis Pocock of 20 Upper Gower Street, and the Hon. Secretary was C. C. Atkinson, Secretary of UCL

Its members included about 70 painters, of whom a few lived in Bloomsbury, namely Alex Johnston of 43 Upper Gower Street, John Henry Mole of 5 Powis Place, A. Solomon of 18 Gower Street, and E. H. Wehnert of 12 Great Coram Street; there were also ten sculptors, including Timothy Butler of Euston Road

Twenty architects were also members, including four in Bloomsbury, namely Thomas Bellamy of 8 Charlotte Street, Thomas Donaldson of Bolton Gardens, Professor of Architecture at UCL, M. Digby Wyatt of 54 Guilford Street, and Thomas H. Wyatt of 77 Great Russell Street

Its twenty engravers included among their number Thomas Lupton of 4 Keppel Street

Members in 1859 but not 1861 included the painters Frank Stone of Russell House (who in 1851 had moved out of Tavistock House to let Dickens move in), and Francis Dillon of 3 Montague Place, and the architect Samuel Angell of 16 Russell Square

Website of current institution

It no longer exists

Books about it

None found


Its records from 1833 to 1890 are in the Royal Academy, ref. GS; details are available online via the Royal Academy library catalogue (opens in new window)

There is a finding aid, compiled by Jean Agnew: Report on the Records of the Graphic Society in the Custody of the Royal Academy of Arts (1974)

Some records are also in UCL Special Collections; no details are available online

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


Bloomsbury Project - University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT - Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 3134 - Copyright © 1999-2005 UCL

Search by Google