It is not certain when the Launceston Drawing Club, which was to become the Launceston Art Society, was established, but it held its first exhibition on 19th November 1891 in the offices of Ritchie and Parkers’ in St John Street, Launceston. Other art societies that arose in the 1880s and the 1890s did not survive, as did the Launceston Art Society. When art education was still in its infancy the Society played an important role in broadening the spectrum of art available to the local community.
Many of Australia's celebrated artists have exhibited with the Society since its foundation and many of Tasmania's foremost teachers have been great supporters of the Society by exhibiting, judging and working on the LAS committee. Among them are Mary Greig our first president, Louisa Swan, Lucien Dechaineaux, Laura Dean, Jack Carrington Smith, Dorothy Stoner, Robert Campbell, Mildred Lovett, Vern Hodgman, Hope Evershed, Geoff Tyson and Alan McIntyre. Local art community support for the Society continues.
When the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery (QVMAG) decided to purchase a selection of Tasmanian art with funds from the Mary Nichol's Bequest in 1932, it was from a special exhibition of Launceston Art Society members that the works were chosen. From 1927 to 1929 LAS raised sufficient funds to restore John Glover’s grave at Deddington. Also in 1927 Madame Nellie Melba visited Launceston to give a concert and to open a loan exhibition of early Tasmanian Art organized by the LAS. In 1991, a highly successful LAS Centenary Exhibition was held at the Chalmer’s Church in St John Street, with over 300 exhibits. A history of our society was written by Jill Ferrall in 1976 (Northern Regional Library- Reference Section) and QVMAG published "The Launceston Art Society in Retrospect 1891 - 1983" for an exhibition of the same title. This was researched by Barbara Chapman and assistants.
Many current members have formal art degrees, diplomas and certificates. Members also hold solo exhibitions and exhibit at venues around the State. Over the years many members have won prizes at the Tasmanian Art Awards at Eskleigh, the Royal Launceston Show, Max Fry Rotary Exhibition, the Trust Bank, Wrest Point, Burnie and other art awards. While the Launceston Art Society has always had a large membership of amateur painters, over the years it has been able to maintain a balance between professional members and aspiring young artists.
The Launceston Art Society lacked any headquarters until room was made available in Ritchie's Mill in 1977. However, this did not last long so the Society was elated when the Eskleigh Foundation offered the Society their beautiful, historic home at Perth. This was our home from 2008 until recently, which included an Art Gallery, studio, office and workshop space. LAS can now be found in the Launceston RSL.
BAF AWARD 2011
The Launceston Art Society and Eskleigh Foundation won the Australia Business Arts Foundation Arts & Health Foundation Award in 2011.