The Norwich Twenty Group was formed in 1944 from local artists, the majority of whom were professional. Of these, many were teachers at local schools and the Norwich Art School but there was at least one lawyer, Henley Curl who, of course, drafted the constitution.
Originally a discussion group, the members talked about and criticised each others work and debated such issues as the paucity of sculpture in public places, so what’s new! Guests were invited to attend as observers and speakers; the latter included such luminaries as Lucien Freud, David Hockney and Peter Blake. There were also working evenings often with a model.
Over the years the membership has included several nationally known artists. Mary Newcomb, Bernard Reynolds, Jeffrey Camp and earlier Cavendish Morton and Wilfred Pettitt graced meetings, initially at members homes but later, and inevitably, in public houses where the criticism often became somewhat intense. Although not a member Colin Self took an active role in proceedings as have numerous art historians and architects.
The Group celebrated its sixtieth anniversary in 2005 with an exhibition in the Bally Shoe Factory which included members past and present and the publication of Norwich Twenty Group: 60 Years of Art. The use of the Factory was repeated in 2006 and to make full use of the space, artists from Rouen and Novi Sad were invited to participate in a the Group’s annual exhibition entitled ‘Art Sans Frontières . They continued to do so in the years that followed. In turn members of the Group have exhibited in both cities. In 2009 we were joined by artists from Koblenz and we had a ‘return match’ in that city in 2011.
Also in 2009, the Group embarked on a project to marry the work of artists and poets. This resulted in an exhibition entitled Voicing Visions in St Margaret’s Church and involved 47 artists and 41 poets. The exhibition, which won considerable acclaim, was accompanied by an illustrated catalogue and DVD.
The constitution has changed to reflect the Group’s influence on the cultural life of City and County, the membership is no longer limited to twenty and the Group now has over seventy members several of whom exhibit regularly in the West End and abroad. All aspects of the practice of contemporary fine art are represented and you will see member’s work in exhibitions representing painting, sculpture, printmaking, installation art and photography.
Meetings are still held every month and the form of these is much the same as it was fifty-six years ago but the larger membership has meant that we now meet in the old Chapel in Park Lane in Norwich. The working evenings have been replaced by a weekly life workshop at Wensum Lodge which is open to all. In this respect the Group retains its involvement with education, as students are encouraged to attend at little cost.
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