Timeline (1891 – Present)
A group of 30 artists meets in Edinburgh to discuss forming a new Society, separate from the Royal Scottish Academy. This is the first meeting of the Society of Scottish Artists.
The SSA holds its first Annual Exhibition at the Royal Institution in Edinburgh (which becomes the RSA). The emphasis is on providing a space for younger artists, while also showing work by distinguished painters and sculptors. 572 works are exhibited, including a Rodin bust of Victor Hugo loaned by Glasgow Corporation and works by Rembrandt and Raeburn.
The SSA has an uneasy relationship with the RSA, who refuse the Society use of the galleries on several occasions. Undeterred, the SSA appeals to both the Secretary of State for Scotland and Queen Victoria in an attempt to resolve the situation.
Some of the Glasgow Boys – James Guthrie, William York MacGregor, Alexander Ignatius Roche – are elected to the SSA.
The Royal Scottish Academy elects James Guthrie as its president. The relationship between the two institutions improves, and the Society secures the future use of the galleries for the Annual. Accepted artists include 19-year-old Francis Cadell.
The Society secures the loan of works by Cezanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse and Vlaminck for exhibition alongside members’ work.
Work by Picasso, Daumier, Degas and Forain is displayed.
Edvard Munch’s first UK solo show is mounted by the SSA as part of the Annual Exhibition. The 12 figurative compositions and landscapes selected by the artist shock and outrage the public and the critics. Record numbers of visitors flock to the show, which is seen as landmark exhibition of the 20th century.
Works by Polish artists are invited from the Institute of Art Propaganda in Warsaw.
The SSA stages an ambitious display of 24 works by Paul Klee, his first solo show in a public gallery in Britain. One of the works, Drohender Schneesturm, no. 291, is purchased and later bequeathed to the National Galleries of Scotland, where it remains in the collection.
The Annual includes work by Georges Braque and Chaim Soutine.
A major show of Surrealist work is mounted at the Annual, including work by Dalí, Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico and Max Ernst. Munch is made an Honorary Member of the SSA.
During the Second World War, several Polish soldier-artists are stationed in Edinburgh under a programme to present Polish culture to the public. Many show their work with the SSA, including the painter Adam Turyn, whose work is also later included in the 1991 Annual.
The French Government assists the Society in staging the first post-war exhibition of recent French art in the UK. The gallery is filled with contemporary French painting made during the Second World War, including paintings by Braque, Leger, Picabia, Picasso, Rouault and Utrillo.
The SSA becomes aware of a need to expand its exhibitions outside of Edinburgh, and holds the Annual in the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow for the first time. Afterwards, more Glasgow artists stand for election as members, followed by others from around Scotland.
SSA President Colin Thoms secures a loan exhibition of German Expressionist paintings.
A blockbuster show of works by Nicolas de Staël, who died the previous year, forms part of the Annual. Joan Eardley is on the Hanging Committee, and it is thought the show may have influenced her later work.
The Yeats Commemorative Exhibition at the Annual is the first comprehensive exhibition of the Irish painter Jack B Yeats.
Prints, drawings, tapestry and sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi form a significant part of the Annual. He also designs the exhibition poster, which is now in the collection of the Royal Scottish Academy.
A series of David Hockney’s line illustrations for Grimms’ Fairy Tales are displayed.
The SSA elects its first woman President, Elizabeth Ogilvie. She invites Ron Haselden to make an installation for the show; he hangs hundreds of speakers in the Sculpture Court for his acclaimed work Sanctuary.
Submissions of photographic works are accepted into the Annual Exhibition for the first time under SSA President Barbara Rae.
A retrospective of Paolozzi works forms part of the Annual, organised by SSA President Robert Callender with Archie Brennan. The artist donates four major works providing the recipients pay 10% of the purchase price to the SSA. According to Callender, writing in 1991, Edinburgh College of Art still owed the SSA its 10%.
Under the presidency of George Wyllie, submissions of time-based work, performance art and video installations are accepted for inclusion in the Annual for the first time.
The SSA is unable to use the RSA galleries for the Annual. Instead, member (and Honorary President) Richard Demarco offers the use of his gallery in Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh, for the exhibition SSA on Paper.
Body Parts, a festival of live performance art, is run as a collaboration between the SSA and the RSA. Participants over the three editions include George Wyllie, Beagles & Ramsay, Alastair MacLennan, Anthony Shrag and Alberta Whittle.
The SSA moves its Annual Exhibition for one year to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, alongside the college’s degree show.
The SSA elects two Co-Presidents for the first time, Jamie McAteer and Olivia Turner.
The Covid-19 pandemic forces the cancellation of the Annual Exhibition. The Society instead moves its programme online and find new ways to work digitally.
The Society’s Archives
The Archives of the Society of Scottish Artists are stored in the National Galleries of Scotland in Modern 2. For information or to arrange a viewing please email archivist Kirstie Meehan: KMeehan@nationalgalleries.org
Click here to be view a selection of images from our archives.