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Welcome to "Museum Highlights", a project which is being undertaken in collaboration between the Reading Museum and the RGA.

The Reading Museum has a wealth of RGA members' work in their collections. The association between the two go back to the foundation of the RGA in 1930. However, with limited room, not everything can be on display. With kind permission from the Museum, we here take the opportunity to showcase those works exhibited by our members and celebrate the RGA's rich heritage and wonderful art. Eventually, all the works will be available as a new topic within the Museum's Online Collections.

Research is taken from "A History of the Reading Guild of Artists – 1930-1980" by EV Watson, RGA Annual Exhibition catalogues and the RGA Archives held at The Berkshire Record Office. Many thanks go to local historian Sidney Gold for his invaluable research compiled on behalf of the Reading Museum collections. The RGA is sensitive to any artists copyright in the use of these images, and have endeavoured to report accurately. If you have any further information or queries about any of these works or artists, please contact Martina at

Many thanks go to the support of Elaine Blake and the team (past and present) at the Reading Museum.

Venus of Laussel
by William McCance (1894 - 1970)
Chiaroscuro Lino Cut
Date: 1949
Reading Museum Accession Number
REDMG : 2002.46.1
RGA member: 1949-1957

Venus of Laussel was exhibited at the Reading Guild of Artists Twenty-first Annual Exhibition at the Municipal Art Gallery Reading. April 28 – May 26 1951. The catalogue describes the work as being a Chiaroscuro Lino Cut.

Chiaroscuro is an Italian term which means light (Chiaro) -dark (scuro) and refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest a 3-dimensional strong and dramatic effect. This technique was developed by artists during the Renaissance. This work is understandably sometimes described as a lithograph.

The title is derived from the small figure depicted in the top left corner of the image. The Venus of Laussel is a 46cm limestone bas-relief of a nude woman, painted with red ochre thought to be 25,000 years old and associated with the Gravettian Upper Paleolithic culture. It was discovered in 1911 by Jean-Gaston Lalanne at the commune of Marquay, south-western France.

Shortly after the Second World War, William McCance visited the Lascaux Cave in France, travelling with fellow artist, Reading University (and RGA) colleague Frank Ormrod which influenced a series of prints with anti-war sentiment.

William McCance first exhibited with the Reading Guild of Artists in 1949. At the time he was 'the successor of Robert Gibbings in charge of typography and book production at the Reading University, he was an artist of great talent and versatility...'. Born in Scotland 1894, McCance studied at the Glasgow School of Art, followed by teacher training. He was imprisoned during the First World War as a conscientious objector, an experience which is said to have influenced his work following the Second World War. Moving to London in 1920 he is known as one of the first Scottish artists to produce abstract work, influenced by Wyndam Lewis and the Vorticists. He also painted portraits and sculpted. He later became the Controller for the Gregynog Press in Wales, producers of limited edition books, before moving to Reading in 1943 to take up his position at the University of Reading. His wife and fellow artist Agnes Miller Parker, (whom he married in 1918) was an illustrator and print maker, and also a member of the RGA. Both exhibited for the last time with the Reading Guild of Artists in 1955, the year the couple separated. William remained a member for a further two years when he retired from the University and moved back to Scotland. Reading Museum held a solo exhibition of his work in 1960. William McCance died in 1970.

Bluebells and ferns
by Charles Ernest Butler (1864–1933)
Oil on canvas
50 x 44cm
Date: 1929
Reading Museum Accession Number
REDMG : 1930.61.2
RGA member: 1930

Bluebells and Ferns by Charles Ernest Butler was bought by Reading Museum along with Mapledurham Woods from the 'Roebuck' Tilehurst and Heat Haze in 1930 during the exhibition comprising of some 34 of his works on display in their Art Gallery.

The Reading Standard reported (June 14, 1930) with the descriptions of 'a delightful group of paintings of the Thames at Tilehurst and Mapledurham in which the artist has managed to catch the subtle effects of light and heat familiar to lovers of the river'.

Charles Ernest Butler studied at St John's Wood School of Art and at the RA Schools. A portrait, figure and landscape painter, C.E. Butler (1864–1933) was a member of the Reading Guild of Artists for just its foundation year, 1930. Of his exhibition earlier that year it is said 'The exhibition is full of colour cleverly manipulated and some of the sea and sky studies are truly glimpses of Nature seen through the perceptive and sensitive eye of a lover of colour'.

He had lived in London for most of his adult life, and at the time of this exhibition his address is given as The Studio, Egliston Road, Putney. Upon his death in 1933 he was reported to also be a clever musician, organist, conductor and composer.

The Waterhole or The Watering Hole
by A. Duncan Carse
RGA member: 1931–1938
(Vice-President 1937–38)
Reading Museum Accession Number
REDMG : 1977.4.1

A. Duncan Carse (Andreas) was a notable figure and decorative painter of the early 20th century who joined the RGA in 1931, serving on its Council 1934-35, becoming vice-president in 1937. With his death in 1938 the RGA was 'robbed of one of its outstanding exhibitors but also of its Vice-President'.

In 1961 his widow Florence bequeathed three paintings to the RGA, which in turn were donated to Reading Museum by the RGA and include designs for the mural for the dining room of Cunard's 'Queen Mary', Bird of the World and an oil painting The Waterhole (or The Watering Hole).

See Museum Highlights Archive for more details about the artist and to view another of his works Bargain Hunters.

The Blue Shadow
by Katharine Harris
Oil on canvas
Date about: 1963
78 x 68cm
Reading Museum Accession Number
REDMG : 1963.122.1
RGA member: 1953–1979
Was on the RGA Council 1960–63

This work was exhibited at the Reading Guild of Artists Thirty-third Annual Exhibition, Municipal Art Gallery Reading May 4th – May 25th 1963.

Katharine Harris (sometimes seen incorrectly spelt Kathleen and known as Kay) was a member of the Reading Guild of Artists 1953 – 1979 serving on the RGA Council for 1960 – 63.

She initially worked in watercolour but the majority of her work was in oil of botanical subjects, rural scenes and landscapes.

Katharine was married to Professor Thomas Harris, after whom the Harris Garden of Reading University was named. They lived in Elm Road Reading and later in Farley Hill, and for a year during this time she lived in Ghana West Africa, 1958.

Her sister was the mother of Alan Caiger-Smith whose modern ceramics produced at the Aldermaston Pottery, a selection of which can be seen in the Atrium Gallery, Reading Museum. Caiger-Smith was also a member of the RGA 1948 – 1982 (joining at a young age) and continued to support the RGA by hosting Summer Painting Days in his garden.

Arborfield Post Office
by Harold James Yates
Oil on canvas
58 x 51cm
Reading Museum Accession Number
REDMG : 1998.11.11
RGA member 1930-1934
Was on the RGA Council 1930-1932

This oil painting of the Arborfield Post Office was exhibited at the Reading Guild of Artists 4th Exhibition, Reading Art Gallery Nov 1st – 30th 1933. The Arborfield Local History Society have done considerable research into the Old Post Office, and they report that the building is thought to be late 15th or early 16th century. It was the home of the Mattingley family for over 200 years, becoming a post office in the late 1800s until the last Mattingley retired in 1968 and the post office moved from this location.

Harold J Yates was a lecturer in drawing and painting in the art department under Allen Seaby at the Reading University, 1923-1943. He exhibited at the first five Reading Guild of Artists exhibitions, 1930-1934, serving on the Guild's original council. At the time he lived in Shinfield, which is not far from Arborfield. He was described as an artist of some calibre, and his work was often picked out for special mention by reviewers of the exhibitions. He had an exhibition at the Reading Art Gallery in 1928 exhibiting 64 paintings, mainly watercolours but also some oils.

He is not to be confused with an artist of the same name Harold Yates (1916-2001).

Museum Highlights Archive


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