The RSW is an artist led, Scottish Charity that exists to promote the art of watercolour painting in Scotland and beyond. Currently we have over 120 members who are permitted to add the ‘RSW’ title after their name.

Our (active and very supportive) Royal Patron is HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay who recently, kindly invited all members of the Society to a Reception in Holyrood House, Edinburgh.

In addition to holding Annual Exhibitions (usually in Edinburgh) we arrange supplementary but important shows both in an Open format and member-only. The RSW has recently had a presence in London, Newport (Wales), Mallorca, Australia and nearer to home in Forfar, Dundee, and in 2013 we were part of the Perth Festival of the Arts.

A brief history of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour

The Scottish Society of painters in Watercolour has a pedigree dating from its foundation in 1876. It staged its first public exhibition in 1879 in rented premises in Glasgow. The first elected President was Francis Powell RSW who was already a member of the RWS. Today, the membership of over 120 is replete with the names of painters who have international reputation in Scotland, Britain and beyond.

In 1886, the Society had obtained Queen Victoria’s assent to adopt the prefix ‘Royal’ and indeed Royal patronage has honoured it throughout its history. With the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, the Society lost a Patron who had acted in that capacity for over half a century. The Society is honoured to have Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay as its current Royal Patron.

Scottish watercolour painting has long been characterised by a freedom of approach, a bold confidence in handling its materials and a robust way with colour. Among the Glasgow Boys, about to emerge in the 1880’s several were vigorous watercolour painters. The innovative use of materials and the freedom of handling are still an obvious characteristic of Scottish watercolour painting today. In the 19th century, the approach owed something to European example through Scottish contacts with especially Netherlandish painting. By the end of the century, galleries in Edinburgh and Glasgow showed painters from abroad, mostly from Holland and Belgium and the Paris ateliers.

The advent of new pigments such as water-based acrylic paint and inks has been a potent factor in the liberation of watercolour. In Scotland, the acceptance of a variety of materials, the use of collage techniques, and of different papers supports including hand-made Asian papers have all contributed to the vitality of its painting. The RSW is in every sense a 21st Century exhibiting Society, always capable of innovation and surprise. It has built on the influx of talent which has swelled its ranks in recent times and is at a stage when it is as unset in its ways as could be imagined.

All exhibiting societies require new blood to survive and the RSW tries hard to emphasise its contemporary relevance in terms of good painting and to encourage young artists to exhibit with it. The Annual exhibition is open to non-members and amongst the general spread of awards, there is one in particular, the Alexander Graham Munro Travel Award – which is available to artists under 30 years of age and is worth £3000. It has been awarded since 1990. Every year RSW Council members attend the degree shows of the four Art Colleges in Scotland seeking out eligible artists who use watercolour, inviting them to exhibit their work with the RSW.

The RSW is very proud of its historic origins and of the impressive cavalcade of important artists who have sustained it throughout its lifetime. Now, more than ever, it is concerned with the future and determined to make its painters known to the public throughout Scotland and beyond.