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Early Membership Requirements

When William Hart, NA, became president of the Society in 1870 there were two categories of membership. They consisted of artists who lived within the city, called “Active Members,” and any others were known as “Associate Members.” This second category consisted of artists not residing in the city, and amateurs. One was considered an amateur if his or her major source of income was not based upon sales of their art work. This meant that non-resident artists were in the same category as amateurs. It is possible that this categorization was based upon the prejudice that anyone living outside New York City could not possibly be as fine an artist as one residing within the city limits.

President Hart established a third category of membership made up of connoisseurs and patrons. These members were known as “Honorary Members.”


American Watercolor Society First Annual Dinner Menu

Attendees at American Watercolor Society First Annual Dinner

First Annual Dinner
Menu Cover, 1888

Signatures of Attendees

Click on either image to see a larger view

Understandably, those living outside the city limits could not be expected to be active in the organization. Permitting patrons and connoisseurs membership was a sound move, attracting culturally-minded and wealthy patrons to swell the membership roles.

A resolution was passed in November 1870, to drop from membership any active member of the Society who failed to contribute works to three consecutive shows, or who neglected to pay dues for two successive years.

Entries in annual exhibitions were not exclusive to members, or even Americans. The catalog of 1870 lists works by Jerome, Delacroix, Meissonier, Turner, Rosa Bonheur, Ruskin and others. In 1872, when the membership of the Society was just forty-two, 341 paintings were exhibited, 96 of them by members.