The railway for more than one hundred and fifty years has been a favourite subject for artists. Monet, Turner, Frith and Bourne all depicted 19th Century trains and railways. Gore and Hopper, to name but two depicted the heyday of the steam railway from the turn of the 20th century to the 1940's.
The Guild of Railway Artists was formed in the 1970's to forge a tangible link between artists whose interests include the depiction of the railway scene in all its facets both past and present. Founder members include renowned artists: Terence Cuneo, Don Breckon, David Shepherd, Philip D Hawkins and Alan Fearnley.
Amongst the aims of the Guild is the furtherance of the artistic portrayal of railways; the staging of Railway Art Exhibitions and assistance in the historical research necessary to accurately portray railway subjects with correct detail.
Since its formation the GRA has mounted successful Rail-Art exhibitions annually throughout the United Kingdom.
Members of the Guild include professional, semi-professional and amateur artists painting in a wide variety of mediums - oils, acrylics, gouache, tempera, watercolour, ink, pencil, pastel, airbrush, silk screen and even digital.
Although primarily a UK guild, membership extends throughout Europe, USA, Australia and South Africa. The GRA meets on a regular basis at Members Days, Selection Panel meetings and the Annual General Meeting. Area Group Meetings are also held in locations throughout the British Isles.
The Guild is managed by The Guild Council which is elected by the membership at the AGM and contains full and associate members.
The day to day running of the Guild is carried out by the Chief Executive, Frank Hodges Hon GRA (see right). In addition to national exhibitions the Guild is also involved with book publishers, and past projects include:
The Great Western Collection (1985)
To the Seaside (1990)
A Century of Railways (1996)
Along Artistic Lines (November 2003)
Emotions of Railway Art (August 2011)
The first "Railart" exhibition was staged by "The Wight Locomotive Society – Midland Area Group" (the supporter group of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway) at Locke and England’s Sale Showroom in Leamington Spa in November 1977. Some 150 pictures were exhibited by 18 artists. The artists included Sean Bolan, Terence Cuneo, Hamilton-Ellis, Lawrence Hammonds, George Heiron, Jim Petrie, Dick Potts David Shepherd, David Weston, and as far as we can ascertain it was the first ever national exhibition solely of "Railway Art".
Through this first "Railart" exhibition the Guild was "born", with 16 artists signing up as "Founder Members" in 1978. The Guild was formally inaugurated at its First General Meeting on 20th October 1979.
At the time of the First General Meeting in 1979 the membership had grown to over 50 artists which included those elected as the first Full Members – they being Alan Fearnley, Paul Gribble, Lawrence Hammonds, Jim Petrie, David Shepherd and Stella Whatley.
At the First General Meeting held in The Guildhall, York, at the close of the first Guild exhibition, on 20th October 1979, Alan Fearnley was elected as the Guild’s first Chairman and continued in post until 1984, Sean Bolan took over the chairmanship from 1984 until 1988. At the AGM of that year Philip D Hawkins replaced Sean Bolan as Chairman and served to 1995 in that role. At that year’s AGM a revised Constitution was agreed and Philip D Hawkins continued as President of the Guild until 1998. In 1998 Laurence Roche took the Presidency over and continued in the role until 2002 when he handed over to Mike Booth. Mike handed over in 2005 to our current President Lawrence Roy Wilson, GRA.
Since 1979 over 300 artists have belonged to the Guild either as Fellows, Full or Associate Members a further 100 or so people have belonged as Friends of the Guild.
At the First General Meeting Frank Hodges and Steve Johnson offered their services to carry out the administration of the Guild as Hon. Administrator and Hon.Co-ordinator respectively for a couple of years! Steve did 17 and Frank is "still in post"! now as the Guild’s Chief Executive Officer
The membership stands currently at Patrons 2 Fellows 3 Full Members 36 Associate Members 77 Friends 42. The Patrons of the Guild are The Hon Sir William McAlpine Bt and Pete Waterman. Artists elected as Fellows of the Guild are John Austin, Philip D Hawkins, David Shepherd OBE (and the late Terence Cuneo, CVO, OBE).
Honorary Life Membership of the Guild (HonGRA) was introduced by Laurence Roche on his election as President in 1998. The award is given in recognition of services to the Guild. The recipients to date have been Bevis Hind, Frank Hodges, Ellis James-Robertson, Eric Oldham, Roy Wilson, GRA and Steve Wyse.
Since our first exhibition at the Guildhall, York in 1979 the Guild has staged over 50 exhibitions at over 30 different locations spread throughout England and we have hung at those exhibitions some 3600 plus pictures.
We have also staged two travelling exhibitions, both in conjunction with the publication of a book. "The Great Western Collection Exhibition" toured over 40 sites in England and Wales on the Great Western Exhibition Train. It was also taken to Frankfurt for the 3rd International Model Railway Exhibition. The "To the Seaside" Exhibition toured 4 "Seaside Galleries" with a Preview Exhibition at Foyles Bookshop, London.