In 1989, in a conversation at the Chelsea Arts Club, with Peter Peterson RBA, Sandra Pepys (then chair of the Society of Landscape Painters), Dennis Gilbert NEAC, Cinzia Bonada RBA and others it was mentioned that many of them often painted small scale works and that it would be good idea if there were a forum for exhibiting such works. The potential membership was discussed and a shortlist of names agreed on and the Small Paintings Society - subsequently renamed the Small Paintings Group - was founded.
It was agreed to approach Duncan Miller at his then gallery in Hampstead (now in Bury Street SW1) and he welcomed the idea to include only small paintings. The inaugural exhibition of the Small Paintings Group was at the Duncan Miller Gallery, 17 Flask Walk, Hampstead NW3 starting on the 1st of December 1991. It was composed of some thirty painters from many of the exhibiting societies including a number of Royal Academicians, and these formed the founding membership of the Group.
There is a long tradition of collecting small scale paintings in Britain. Many of the Grand Tour travellers in the eighteenth century purchased such works from the Bamboccianti or Bentvoeghels in Rome (the Bamboccianti were a loose and convivial group of northern, mainly Dutch and Flemish, artists working in and around Rome who produced works the size of a 'palma di mano' - a man's hand - convenient for Milord to take back home. They are the small jewels of many major collections - Dulwich, the Wallace, Kenwood and the National Gallery as well as numerous stately homes.
Membership consists of a maximum of 35 artists, many of whom also belong to other exhibiting societies - NEAC, RWS, RBA and others - and of course paint on a much larger scale as well. The paintings exhibited with the SPG are limited to 12" by 12" or 144 square inches in area and may be in any medium. These are 'cabinet' sized and intimate paintings and thus easy to place and affordable.
Since its inauguration The Group has had at least thirty exhibitions in London, Southern and Southeast England and also Jersey. Galleries include Piers Feetham Gallery (annually since 1997), Fulham; Russell Gallery, Putney; Wimbledon Fine Art; Chappel Galleries, Colchester; the Jerram Gallery, Sherborne and several others.