Fine Art Activities of the Bristol Institution

The Sub Committee for the Fine Arts

The Bristol Institution was formed of various sub-committees who looked after different aspects of the organisation. Because of the existence of numerous private art collections and local expertise in geology and the natural sciences, the Fine Arts were not represented in public in a systematic fashion until the Bristol Institution’s Sub Committee for the Fine Arts was formed on 13 March 1824.

Amongst the Sub Committee members were the Institution’s Vice President Richard Bright (1754 – 1840), John Scandrett Harford, (1785 – 1866), Reverend William Daniel Conybeare, (1787–1857), Daniel Wade Acraman (c.1775–1847) and Philip John Miles (1773–1845).

Membership of the Sub Committee varied over the years. The 1836 Memoir of the Bristol Institution reflects that 1820s exhibits “were chiefly obtained through the influence and exertions of Daniel Wade Acraman, Esq… and the judgement of Mr. John Norton.”

Despite dedicated patrons, and the initial fervour of the Sub Committee, a number of initiatives distracted resources and attention from the Fine Arts after the initial busy period.

By 1831, the Society of Bristol Artists was formed, attracting Bristol School artists and patrons.

William James Müller (1812-1845) , the Bristol School painter and son of the Institution’s first curator, John Samuel Miller (1779-1830) , was amongst the Bristol School artists who joined the new Society. From December 1844 onwards, the attention of P.J. Miles and J.S. Harford were redirected towards the newly established Royal West of England Academy (RWA).

Despite the short-lived nature of the heyday of the Sub Committee for the Fine Arts, their activities in the early years of the Institution reflect their ambition to bring the richness of local collections to the public arena and support local artists.