At the first General meeting of the newly formed Art Society in 1890, the President, Rev. W. Foxley Norris, stated that the primary aim should be the encouragement and improvement of art in Huddersfield and district.
Some former members, including Presidents, have held prominent positions in the arts or education, while others have achieved recognition as practising artists at a regional or national level. Of the Presidents, John James Hamer was Head of the Huddersfield School of Art for many years, while Norman Culley was a renowned Yorkshire architect. Of members, Harold Blackburn designed a public mural in Huddersfield, and Marion Rhodes produced etchings of Huddersfield views and exhibited at London's Royal Academy.
The Society was closely involved in the foundation of the present Art Gallery, which shares a building with the Library in the centre of Huddersfield, and has held its Annual Exhibition there since the gallery's opening in 1940. There has been an Annual Exhibition every year since 1891, with just a few exceptions in wartimes.
Until 2002, membership was subject to submission of work, from which applicants were given full or associate membership, only full members being asked to submit work for the Exhibition, and vote at general meetings.. Since 2002 however, all members have had equal status, but to maintain high standards, work is selected for the Annual Exhibition by an invited expert.
The widow of John James Hamer, Mrs Mary Hamer, died in 1964 and left a significant bequest to the Society in her husband's memory. As proposed in this bequest, an annual award is made to students to encourage their practice of and commitment to art. The award has taken various forms over the years, including for a period being made to school pupils and young practising artists, and currently is made to nominated students from each of three sixth form colleges.
The Society for many years had its own premises, in rooms at Station Street, on a long-term rental basis from Huddersfield, later Kirklees Council, but in 1988 made the historic decision to leave following a large rent increase. Since then, meetings have been held in venues on a sessional basis, sharing with the organisations who owned the premises and other user groups. These venues have been st Thomas's Church (1988 - 1995), Brian Jackson Centre (1995 - 2002), the Masonic Hall (2002 - 2006) and Gledholt Methodist Church (2006 - 2019). The Society's meetings are currently held at two main venues, Moldgreen United Reformed Church and the Friends Meeting House at Paddock.
Meetings continue to take place on Saturday afternoons, unusual amongst art societies. In past years, these took the form of lectures and demonstrations, while in recent years workshops have become predominant.
Since the 1960s there have also been weekly portrait groups, initiated and run for many years by former President Pat Pridmore, and more recently the life drawing group has also run weekly.
Outdoor activities in the summer months, from the 1960s, consisted of one weekend at a local venue, and one day at a venue for which a coach would be hired. In recent year the format has changed to three painting days at venues within West Yorkshire,
Paintings by former members.
The Society's collection of paintings was mostly dispersed in 2019 due to lack of storage space. Here are images of most of the works that were in the collection. Click on the links below.