From the Permanent Collection – RWA masterpieces selected by the Friends

From Mary Fedden to Margaret Gregory, we pick our RWA favourites…

The RWA Permanent Collection is a treasure trove of British art.  This miniature online exhibition is curated by the FRWA Committee, who each choose one work from the archive…

(The dates below refer to the year of acquisition by the RWA, rather than the date the artwork was completed, though these are generally the same or very close.)


Sheila Tolley – June Morning, St Peter Port, Guernsey (1987)

Selected by Jane Boot, Chair:

“I have always loved the work of artist Sheila Tolley. In 1987 the RWA purchased June Morning, St Peter Port, Guernsey (number 759 in the RWA collection). The colours are soft and very atmospheric, giving the feeling of the early morning light. The harbour wall is stronger but pulls the whole painting together. I was very sad to hear that she had recently passed away.”



Margaret Gregory – Airs Light Inclinable to Calm (2003)

Selected by Ann Farthing, Talks Co-ordinator:

“In my own practice I have been analysing the work of two of my ‘Desert Island’ artists, Piero della Francesca and David Hockney. Centuries apart but united, to my mind, in an ability to create a sense of calm.

“The painting that I would like to choose from the RWA collection to reflect this theme is Airs Light Inclinable to Calm by Margaret Gregory. “



Warren Storey – Uphill Cliff (1962)

Selected by Ann Baber, Events Co-ordinator:

“This has got to be the one. I knew Warren personally as we taught at the same College ,different departments. He was such a lovely man, a true gentleman.  Also he has painted a much loved part of Weston- Suoer-Mare, our home town.”



Bernard Dunstan – The Bathroom (1958)

Selected by Suzanne Ewart, Talks Co-ordinator:

“Bernard Dunstan was President of the RWA from 1979 to 1984. I am particularly drawn to the luminous colour and simplicity of design and also Dunstan’s ability to capture a moment with tenderness and charm.

“Dunstan lived in Kew with his wife, Diana Armfield, and we would often  see them sitting on the bench together in the village.”



Douglas Portway – Seven Green Apples (1992)

Selected by Barbara Henderson, Trips and Visits Co-ordinator:

“I have chosen Douglas Portway from the RWA collection. I love the simplicity, the way he has used colour and applied the paint, and those lovely Matisse style apples – each one different from the rest.”



Robert Organ – Lyme Regis, March (1995)

Selected by Anne Jewell, Minutes Secretary:

This beautiful painting captures the movement of the wind, the sea and the clouds.  The four people on the promenade are walking against the wind with determination. You can almost hear the seabirds on the shore as they search for food, and the thunder of the waves as they reach land.  In the distance, a patch of blue sky is visible through the clouds  – a sign of hope.



Miss M Kerry – The Life Class (Untraced find – early collection)

Selected by Deborah Mann, Treasurer:

“It reminds me of the joy and intense work of the life drawing room, and of the special trust that can be built up over time between the students, teacher and model.”



Mary Feddon – Sicilian Flowers (1949)

Selected by Chrisie Nimenko, Fundraising:

“I am drawn to her colour palette and botanical details which feature in my own work. This painting also reminds me of warm summer days spent in the countryside in my garden and I can almost smell the painted flowers.”



Margaret Gregory – The Floating Circle (2003)

Selected by Andrew Nixon (blog editor)

“I’ll pick The Floating Circle (2003) by Margaret Gregory RWA. I named the FRWA blog after it purely because it was a great, arty-sounding name, but I’ve grown quite attached to it and now love it for itself. Since I’ve been involved with the RWA I’ve become much more appreciative of abstract expressionist art – Stewart Geddes’ talks about Albert Irvin were a revelation to me. When I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the Permanent Collection archive I spotted The Floating Circle high up in a corner and it was strangely thrilling to see the original.”



Ione Parkin – Ferrous Formations (2007)

Selected by Laurel Smart, Media:

“I have selected Ione Parkin’s ‘Ferrous Formations’ from the RWA Collection. I loved her work when she showed at RWA. I was fortunate to meet her in the gallery. She was very generous in our conversation, describing her processes and talking about her inspiration.”



The Friends of the RWA is an independent charity that supports the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol’s first art gallery. 
For just £35 a year Friends can make unlimited visits to RWA exhibitions and enjoy a host of other benefits, as well as making an important contribution to the arts in Bristol and the South West. Find out more and join up here.

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