This exhibition is a collaborative approach that celebrates the bridge between the
Plymouth Society of Artists, its eightieth anniversary and the St Ives Society of Artists.
Central to this relationship is the painter Robert Borlase Smart
Smart was born in Kingsbridge, Devon in 1881 and studied at the Plymouth School of Art
from 1897–1900, then at the Royal College of Art from 1900–01. He continued his
studies with Julius Olsson following a move to St Ives in 1913. At the end of his service
on the Western Front during the First World War he returned to St Ives where, amongst
others, was a prime mover in the formation of the St Ives Society. He quickly established
himself as a driving force with the group’s early fortunes. As Secretary and later President
in the ‘30s and ‘40s his unbounded energy encouraged the coalescing of the multi-
talented (and multi-opinionated) forces of the Society.
One-man shows included the Penwith Gallery, St Ives, 1949 and 1981, the City Art
Gallery, Plymouth, 1950 and 1975, and as recently as 2014 in the Society’s Crypt Gallery.
Although a traditional painter himself, Smart welcomed the modernists into the Society,
later to be established as the Crypt Group.
Concurrent with his position as President of STISA he was made the Plymouth Society’s
first Vice President, continuing in that role until his death in 1947.
In early 1944, under the guidance and enthusiasm of Lewis Duckett, Principal of the
Plymouth School of Art, a group of artists met to discuss the proposal of mounting an
exhibition in the City Art Gallery that coming autumn. Their work was to be shown under
the title of the Plymouth Society of Artists the purpose of which was to encourage and
foster a professional and progressive outlook in the fine arts of painting, sculpture and
printmaking for the benefit of Plymouth and Plymothians. Membership was to be restricted
to those living in the city, or with strong ties to it.
That aim, in itself, was simple but in the eight decades that have passed there have been
many and varied interpretations given to it and, equally varied, the exhibits. There have
been numerous changes that have taken place during this time; extended mobility is now
commonplace and has allowed many more practitioners to be within easy striking
distance of the city rather than be restricted to within its boundary.
In addition to the exhibition of work from both societies the show will feature a small but
significant dedication to Borlase Smart to include a work given by him to the maternal
grandfather of PSA member Hilary Soper. Frederick Colley was a painter and picture
restorer with an international standing who, during 1924, spent some time in St Ives. He
was gifted the painting by Borlase Smart inscribed on the back “as an appreciation of
valuable advice given to the artist”.
Lar Cann, Chairman