HISTORY OF BRIGHOUSE ART CIRCLE
Founded June, 1949
The Art Circle was founded after the Second World War by a group of mainly professional Brighouse Artists, several of whom worked in the studios of A H Leach on Sunnybank Road, Brighouse. Magnus Broadley, Eric Simpson, Molly Mason and Leonard Kersley were all founder members and names many people will remember. Others joined too: Jerry Lightowler; Ben Kendall; Benny Sykes, who taught at Victoria Central School; Albert Pile, who had been an official war artist during the First World war and was also a member of the Royal Society of Graphical Artist;, Herbert Dodding and Harold Lyle, both members of the Royal Society of Painters in Miniature and later Stanley Chapman who became President of the Art Circle for a total of twenty three years, being succeeded by Peter Shutt in 1979. Albert Pile illustrated the book ‘Portrait of a Town’, a history of Brighouse written by Reg Mitchell. Stanley Chapman followed in the footsteps of local artist Miles Sharpe, who was also a founder member, and painted scenes of Brighouse streets, snickets and old buildings to create an illustrated record of the ever changing town. He also illustrated several books, including a history of Hartshead Church and ‘Death of a Borough’ written by Reg Mitchell at the time of Local Government reorganisation during 1974. The book was a sequel to ‘Portrait of a Town’.
Membership was originally limited to thirty members who met regularly in the newly opened Waring Green Community Centre. There were no subscriptions at the outset, merely an arrangement whereby members simply had a ‘whip round’ among themselves when any funds were required. Finally, when this ad hoc arrangement was no longer appropriate, formal subscriptions were introduced and 2/6d per annum was levied from each member.
In the early years, weekly meetings were mainly of a practical nature. Painting evenings, life drawing and still life formed the greater part of the Art Circle’s activities. Alwyne Gower has been both associated, and a member on and off, since the late 1950’s when she posed as a costume model. Exhibitions were held once annually from the beginning, with the exception of 1950 when two were held. The Smith Art Gallery hosted the exhibitions on each occasion. The official opening of these exhibitions became quite an event and the Gallery would be packed with people coming to see and hear the celebrities invited to perform their official opening duties. Among them were Marie Hartley, the Dales author; Siedle Gibson, the famous ‘Lady in White’ who had entertained our troops on the quayside in Durban during the Second World war; Gerald French, famous portrait painter; Frank Armstrong, Dales artist and Raymond Dean QC, to name but a few. Ernest Boughton who has been a member for over 35 years and was introduced to the Art Circle by his neighbour Peter Shutt, still remembers seeing Siedle Gibson in Durban. The exhibitions displayed a high standard of competence and the Art Circle attracted many admirers from surrounding art clubs.
From the mid 1950’s it became more common to invite visiting artists to meetings to demonstrate their own particular styles and techniques. It is interesting to recall that in December 1965 Ashley Jackson gave members a demonstration, not of painting but of the art of glass gilding. Ashley was at that time virtually unknown and only at the very beginning of his career as a watercolour painter. He always claims to have a great affection for Brighouse for it was Stanley Chapman who first introduced him to watercolours and took him on to the moors above Nont Sarah’s and explained the intricacies of the medium. It was also the Smith Art Gallery in Brighouse that offered Ashley Jackson his first one man exhibition.
After more than 60 years the BRIGHOUSE ART CIRCLE has grown into a flourishing society for amateurs, from beginners onwards, up to professional artists and is still based at Waring Green Community Centre every Thursday evening at 7.30pm.