In 1887 a group of women artists, perhaps responding to the exclusive rules of the all-male Boston Water-Color Society, formed the Boston Water Color Club. The inaugural exhibition that year included forty-seven works by sixteen women artists; within a decade, the membership had doubled. More inclusive than the BWS, the BWCC invited guests to exhibit in their annual exhibitions and allowed charcoal and pastel drawings, echoing a pattern seen in New York, where pastels were excluded by the American Watercolor Society but allowed by the rival New York Water Color Club. An annotation in the brochure for the BWCC’s 1890 exhibition remarked that there were “almost as many pastels as watercolors” on view.
Like the BWS, the BWCC held its first shows in commercial art galleries in Boston, such as Doll and Richards and J. Eastman Chase, until being invited to show at the Boston Art Club in 1897. Perhaps to graciously acknowledge their new hosts, the club invited men to exhibit in their annual that year, which was three times larger than usual. By 1912 there were ten men listed as members of the club and many others included as guest exhibitors, although women continued to dominate both the membership and the annuals.
The venerable social club known as the Boston Art Club held its own annual watercolor show, and with the relocation of the exhibitions of the BWCC (in 1897) and the BWS (in 1899) to the same BAC galleries on Newbury Street, the clubs, their names, and their rosters became ever more confused in the press. The two watercolor groups exhibited together in 1939 and eventually merged. In 1960 the name of the new collective reverted to the Boston Watercolor Society, and in 1980 became the New England Watercolor Society, the name still used today.
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