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Norwich 20 Group of artists celebrates 75th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 15:06 06 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:20 06 June 2019

A Norwich 20 Group life class from 1944 - the year the art group launched  Picture: Norwich 20 Group archive

A Norwich 20 Group life class from 1944 - the year the art group launched Picture: Norwich 20 Group archive

Norwich 20 Group archive

A group of Norwich artists are still focused on the future as they celebrate their 75th anniversary.

Sea and Sky, Norfolk Coast by Martin Laurance of the Norwich 20 GroupSea and Sky, Norfolk Coast by Martin Laurance of the Norwich 20 Group

The Second World War was still raging when a group of Norwich artists got together to look forward to a new kind of art.

With petrol rationed, they all had to live within walking distance of the city, but were eager to explore experimental contemporary art and relate it to their own work.

Founder member Walter Watling, who had been wounded in the First World War, wanted to share opinions with fellow artists.

"Norwich 20 Group was established at a time of incredible change in art as it began to shift from more traditional representation, to what we now know as 'modern art,'" said current chairman Peter Offord. "It was inspired by artists like Picasso who was hugely controversial in 1944 because he was so innovative."

Eastern Sunset by Brigitte Anne Hague of the Norwich 20 GroupEastern Sunset by Brigitte Anne Hague of the Norwich 20 Group

Another founder member, Bernard Reynolds, wrote a book about the group which says: "There was a general feeling of elation, that we could at last look forward from the wartime gloom to a great resurgence of cultural activities."

The group launched with a party at the Assembly House - which was being used by the Army. Two years later the war was over and Norwich 20 Group held its first exhibition, in Jarrold. Press reviews were positive and, 75 years on, the group is still championing the contemporary.

Several graduates from Norwich University of the Arts are invited to join its main exhibition each year and Peter said: "It's a great way to refresh our discussions about art and bring in new and challenging ideas."

Norwich 20 began with 14 artists, and the original idea was to limit numbers to 20 so that the group would remain close-knit and supportive. However, by the 1970s so many people wanted to join that it was decided to increase the number. A few new members are admitted each year and there are currently 92 painters, sculptors and digital and installation artists, ranging in age from their mid 20s to their 90s. Many have exhibited throughout the UK and internationally.

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The monthly meetings, at the former Swedenborgian Chapel, in Park Lane, Norwich, on the first Tuesday of each month, (except July and August) are open to the public - who can bring work for appraisal and listen to art discussions.

"It's an incredible and unique group and we're delighted to have made it to our 75th anniversary and to still be championing contemporary art in Norwich, Norfolk and the region," said Peter. "We're privileged to have such diverse and accomplished artists in the county."

A series of 75th anniversary exhibitions includes:

June 17-29 - An exhibition called N2019G - 75 years, at St Margaret's Church of Art, St Benedict's, Norwich, showcasing work by current members, including abstract and representational paintings, large-scale silkscreen prints, photography, digital video, drawings and sculpture. Free entry, Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-4pm.

July 15-20 - Naked in Norwich, showing work by artists who take part in the regular Norwich 20 life drawing classes, at St Margaret's Church of Art, St Benedict's, Norwich.

October 8-19 - Metamorphosis, in the Undercroft Gallery, Norwich Market.

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