Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Societies - Art Union of London

ART UNION OF LONDON, Office, Strand. Established 1836, and incorporated by 9 & 10 Victoria, c.48 "to aid in extending the Love of the Arts of Design within the United Kingdom, and to give Encouragement to Artists, beyond that afforded by the patronage of individuals." Each subscription of a guinea entitles the subscriber to one chance for prizes varying from 10l. to 400l. The subscription is annual, and the prizes are drawn every April, previous to the opening of the London Exhibition, from whence the works of art are required to be selected. Every subscriber is entitled to a print or prints over and above his chance.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

The ART UNION OF LONDON, 444 West Strand, was established in 1836, and incorporated in 1845; has for its object the cultivation of a purer taste in matters of the fine arts, and their general advancement in the British empire, by the encouragement of native artists and an improved taste on the part of the public. The annual subscription is one guinea, and each subscriber receives for that amount a fine engraving of some first-class painting, and also the chance of a prize picture or sculpture, value from 101. to 2001., which is drawn for every April. There are upwards of 15,000 annual subscribers.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865


A SOCIETY established 1836, and incorporated by 9th and 10th Vict., c. 48, "to aid in extending the love of the Arts of Design within the United Kingdom, and to give encouragement to artists beyond that afforded by the patronage of individuals." The annual subscription is one guinea, which entitles the subscriber to one chance for a prize in the scheme, ranging from 10l. to 200l., to be selected from one of the London exhibitions of the year. There are also prize medals, bronze casts, porcelain statuettes, works in cast-iron; line engravings, outlines, and mezzotints; lithographs and chromo-lithographs; etchings and photographs and wood engravings; and bas-reliefs in fictile ivory; and every subscriber is entitled to a print or prints.
    The Art-Union has, unquestionably, fostered a taste for art; and the increased means of art-education has benefited the country in increased exports of articles of taste, - such as plate, silk manufactures, pottery, and paper-hangings.

    The demand in England at this time for pictures is very great, and the prices paid for the works of our best painters are larger than has ever been the case before. Money judiciously spent in this way is well invested. The first purchaser of "The Strawberry Girl' gave Reynolds fifty guineas for it; the last, the Marquis of Hertford, was delighted in obtaining it for 2100 guineas.- Art Union Report, 1864.
    Fear who assisted at our first meeting, in the little gallery in Regent-street, now the Gallery of Illustration, were sanguine enough to expect a course of such continuing success as that through which the institution has run; or ventured to prognosticate that it would by this time have raised (mainly from the classes at that date spending little on art), and would have distributed in aid of art and artists, the sum of 324,000l.; producing during that period 35 engravings of high class, 15 volumes of illustrative outlines, etchings, and wood-engravings; 16 bronzes, 12 statues and statuettes, with figures and vases in iron, and a series of medals commemorative of British artists - to say nothing of the main operation of the Association, the distribution throughout the United Kingdom and the Colonies, of some thousands of pictures by native modern artists, and some hundreds of thousands of impressions from the engravings referred to. Such, however, has been the ease, notwithstanding the difficulty with which the subscriptions for the first year were made to mount to 489l. For the present year the sum of 11,743l. has been subscribed. The subscriptions for the year amount to the sum of 13,648l., showing an increase of 1941l. on last year -  Report, 1866.

Mr. Noel Paton's Illustrations of "The Ancient Mariner," given in 1864, with the text, was then allowed to be the greatest work offered to the subscribers. The Society has about 600 honorary secretaries in the provinces, ha the British Colonies, in America, &c., including Canton; it has expended about 150,000l. in the purchase and production of works of art; and in one morning the honorary secretaries paid to artists of the metropolis no less than 10,000l. The drawing of the prizes is usually held in one of the metropolitan theatres, in April, and the subscribers are admitted by tickets; office, 445, West Strand.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867