Our history below is based on information provided by Joan Weedon and updated by John Brown.
In the early sixties Eynsham saw an influential change in the village art scene with the arrival of Peggy Garland, an internationally noted painter and sculptor, and the Buchanan family of professional artists, Lillian and her brothers David, Norman and Norman's wife Constance.
Lillian was tutor at an evening art course at Bartholomew School and it was through discussions between some of the students that Eynsham Arts Group came into being. At that time the Bartholomew Room ground floor room was the village library and the librarian Amy Carter was also one of Lillian's students. She was able to advise of the impending move of the library to new premises in Back Lane. This was seen as an opportunity to have a meeting place.
Thus, in 1970 Joan Weedon put this forward to Mrs Morley who in turn raised it with Miss Sutton, as reported by the Oxford Mail's Anthony Wood in an article the following spring. (Mrs Morley was the farmer's wife who sold eggs to Miss Sutton, thereby making the connection which was to be the start of the Art Group.)
Miss Sutton approached Peggy Garland with the idea (they were both very strong and forthright in personality!) and an organizing committee was set up, consisting of mainly professional artists. The members were Peggy Garland (chairman), her sister Joyce Ward, Alan Mills, Lillian Buchanan, Hugh Cooper and Miss Sutton.
Arrangements were made with Eynsham Parish Council to rent the vacant room with the tenancy commencing 10 November 1970 with a rental of £10 per quarter plus rates and electricity. A first committee meeting had been held September 1970 when the rules and procedures were established. Membership 5 shillings, hanging fees 1 shilling, and entry sixpence were agreed. The room was given a coat of whitewash, furniture and heaters borrowed and a hanging rail installed for the Christmas Exhibition which had 87 visitors. By the following June membership had reached 30.
During the first ten years membership grew to around the 50 mark, a figure which has been maintained to the present day. The original membership selection process has long since been discarded, along with the vetting of paintings for exhibition. Current membership varies from professional artists to Sunday daubers, from those undertaking fine art courses and home study, to those who are self taught. Several members maintain the Group’s long association with the village class held on Friday mornings. Sadly most of the founding members have passed away. Several members have been with us for thirty years and more, whilst more recent members have provided fresh impetus and ideas.
The routine of Spring, Summer and Autumn exhibitions has continued, but with the Spring show now aiming to co-incide with the annual Oxfordshire Artweeks. Occasional print exhibitions have been set up. Exhibits have moved on from mainly traditional water colours to a varied range of media and techniques, and new ideas for framing and presentation. Consideration has also been given to digital art and giclee prints. Visitor numbers to the exhibitions fluctuate from 250 to 600, but can be affected by adverse weather on the day. Comments on the quality and standard of work displayed are generally very favourable. The monthly meetings promote discussion and advice, and additionally visiting artists / demonstrations are booked. 1990 saw a new agreement with the Parish Council for continuing use of the ground floor Bartholomew Room facility. In 2010 we celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the Group with a preview celebration for the anniversary exhibition.