The early documents of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts are scant on the ground. Some exist in their archives in material form but a number no longer have material existence, and others are to be found in digital form, but only as poor quality photocopies of originals located at the Art Gallery of South Australia and State Library of South Australia.
With the advent of the digitised newspaper service on Trove, however, it has been possible to locate numerous reports of Annual General Meetings, Special Meetings, transcripts of Lectures, Lists of Exhibition Prizes and Judges’ Reports, and newspaper reviews of the earliest exhibitions, which offer quite detailed reports about the overall composition and quality of the early Annual Exhibitions and some individual works. Some of the prize-winning paintings from the earliest exhibitions have now been located.
The document compiles the digital and actual records that have been located to date of the first fifteen years, including some images of prize-winning pictures. This era predated the Society’s subsequent fall into decline for a couple of decades, through competing colonial interests, drought, then economic depression. Also, during that time it was focused on administering the School of Design (later the South Australian School of Art), and founding the National Gallery of South Australia (later Art Gallery of South Australia), and it was unable to exhibit in its own rooms, due to lack of space. The Society was ultimately reinvigorated under the pro-term Presidency of Harry Pelling Gill in 1892, followed by the Chief Justice and Deputy Governor, Sir Samuel Way.
The Society is always interested to receive original copies of Reports, catalogues, early volumes of its journal Kalori, images of paintings and any other material relating to the the early years of the Society (then known as the South Australian Society of Arts) and its artists.