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Notable Society members of the past - Mary Charlotte Greene

Mary Charlotte Greene, (1860 - 1951) Cambridge Artist. Joined the Cambridge Drawing Society in 1894 and became President from 1926 to 1929.


This is the first article produced by CDS Archivist Colin Lees, who is researching the history of the Society. More articles will follow, which collectively will form a greater archive for all to enjoy in the years to come.

Known to her family as Polly, Mary Charlotte Green was born in the village of Takeley, midway between Great Dunmow and Bishop’s Stortford, in the Uttlesford district of Essex, to a prosperous family whose fortune had been made in the brewing industry.

Mary Charlotte Greene (1)Though she lived to the great age of 91, as a child Mary was considered ‘delicate’ and consequently received little formal schooling. As a young woman, however, she went to live in Paris with her younger sister Helen, where she studied art at the Académie Julian. Unlike the Ecole de Beaux-Arts, the Académie Julian accepted women students and did not impose a language test upon foreign applicants. She later went on to study at the Royal Academy Schools in London.

Mary’s father died in 1881, whilst visiting his sugar plantations on the island
of St Kitts. In 1894 Mary’s elder brother, Sir William Graham Greene, Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty, purchased Harston House near Cambridge. Old- fashioned and in need of improvement, the house was nevertheless large enough for his widowed mother Charlotte and his sisters to live with him there.

Mary Charlotte Greene (2)Mary regarded Cambridge as an artistic backwater, set in what she described as ‘impossible country’, far from the artistic life she had enjoyed in Paris and London; but as a dependent spinster, she had little option but to accept the move and make the best of it. Initially she took little artistic inspiration from the flat Cambridgeshire landscape and wrote, “I wandered over the countryside looking for subjects to paint and found none that I cared for.”

Around 1900, Mary’s recently widowed sister Florence moved in and took charge of Harston House, leaving Mary free to follow her artistic pursuits. She gave weekly art lessons to a small group of children at the Old Vicarage in Grantchester; she began visiting Cambridge and, though she had a studio at Harston, established another in the city, off St Andrew’s Street, where she held exhibitions.

Mary joined the Cambridge Drawing Society in 1894 and was its President from 1926 until 1929. She gave lessons to other members, including Gwen Raverat who would go on to become a celebrated wood engraver. Early Society meetings were held at her Cambridge studio and though several sources claim that Mary’s membership ended with her Presidency in 1929, it is clear from CDS records that she remained an active member throughout the 1930s and 40s until her death in 1951. Six of her paintings were displayed In Memoriam at the Society’s annual exhibition in 1952 and today a collection of her works is held at the Cambridge and County Folk Museum, though they are not currently on display.

Mary Charlotte Greene (3)

In his boyhood, the author Graham Greene (1904-1991) spent summer holidays at Harston Hall, and in his autobiography A Sort of Life remembers his aunt as “dear muddled-headed Polly who painted bad pictures and wrote ambitious plays for the village institute”. His judgement of her work is a matter of opinion, of course, but examples currently available to view on-line reveal that – whatever their artistic merit – they form an important record of areas of the city which have changed greatly or have long since been lost to the developer’s wrecking-ball.

Sources: (i) CDS records; (ii) the Harston History webpage and (iii) A Picture of the Cambridge Drawing Society by Anne C. Clay.

The photograph of Mary C. Greene in her studio is from the Harston History website and the picture of Red Lion Yard can be found on the Art-UK website, along with other examples of Mary’s pictures.

Summer Party 2017

Cambridge Drawing Society Summer Party 2017


Summer Party 2017 1

Some 90 CDS Members and Friends, together with family and friends came
together for the Society's annual Summer Garden Party on the 25th June. The party is a great opportunity for members and Friends of the Society to get to know each other, discuss their shared passion for art and exchange ideas. 

This year it was hosted by our President, Janice Anderson and her Husband Derek at their lovely house and garden in Cambridge. As with the previous year, the weather leading up to the event had been changeable, but on the day it was pleasently warm and enabled everyone to enjoy the garden at it's best. Summer Party 2017 4

The success of the party relies on help and support from many volunteers. Huge thanks go to Anne and Jeff Tossell , who had to overcome a mechanical failure of their hired trailer, to deliver their marquee on time. Thanks also go to Neil Warmsley, who joined with Janice, Derek, Ann and Jeff to erect the marquee on a blustery Friday before the party. Our gratitude to Janice's daughter Becky, who worked endlessly in the weeks leading up to the party to ensure the Garden was at it's best for the event. Thank you to Harry Baker and Derek for sharing their photographs of the day. Finally, we are all indebted to Janice and Derek for kindly making their home available for the party and also for providing the wonderful spread of food and drink, which was enjoyed by all. 

Summer Party 2017 3Summer Party 2017 2

Cambridge Sixth Form Young Artists Exhibition 2017

Cambridge Drawing Society present awards at Cambridge Sixth Form Young Artists Exhibition 2017

Cambridge Drawing Society was again proud to present the Society's awards for outstanding work by Cambridge sixth form artists showing at the Cambridge Decorative and Fine Arts Society Exhibition for young artists, held at Cambridge Central Library from 4-17 July 2017.  The exhibition features young artists from schools in the Cambridge region, who are studying A Level Art. 

 Abigail Baker-Smith Presidents Cup 2017

Abigail Baker-Smith from the Leys School - A Portraint Of My Grandmother - Presidents Cup Winner 2017

Cambridge Drawing Society loaned it's display screens for the exhibition and awarded two prizes, the silver President’s cup for the artwork that the CDS judges, Godfrey Curtis, Clare Maria Wood and Colin Hayes, considered to be best in show and a £100 token for the most innovative work. The cup, was presented to Abigail Baker-Smith from the Leys School for a wonderful portrait oil painting. The £100 prize for most innovative work was awarded to Hugo Allison from Long Road VI Form College, for a woollen coral sculpture. Abigail and Hugo will be given the opportunity to exhibit these winning works at the CDS Spring 2018 exhibition to be held at the Pitt Building in Cambridge.

 Hugo Allison Most Innovative Award 2017

Hugo Allison from Long Road VI Form College -  Woolen Coral Sculpture - Most Innovative Work Winner 2017

CDS Member Sue Jones Opens New Print Studio

Introducing you to a new print and artists workshop, located near Saffron Walden and lead by leading Printmaker Sue Jones. Stoneman Press opens in September 2017 and will offer expert tuition in an extensive range of print techniques.

Congratulations to CDS member Sue Junes, on the opening of her new printStoneman Press
studio, Stoneman Press, located at Wimbish near Saffron Walden.

Sue will be holding an open day at the studio on Saturday 16th September from 11am - 4pm, where you can meet the tutors, try out some printmaking techniques, browse various works on display and book workshops.

For much more information visit the Stoneman Press website at 

In Memorium - Frances Colquhoun

Frances Colquhoun

Cambridge Drawing Society member Frances Colquhoun sadly passed away in June after bravely fighting a prolonged illness. Frances had been a member of the Society for sixteen years and exhibited her work in every CDS exhibition, including the Spring 2017 exhibition, despite being very ill at the time.

Frances Colquhoum Memorium

Frances originally trained as an actor, and she was ever ready with an amusing story and was always good company. Long serving member, Anthony Hopkinson, fondly remembers her Joyce Grenfell impressions were often better than the originals. Frances and Anthony often collaborated in Cambridge Open Studios events and he recalls that she had a great way with people, especially the young. She would always encourage youngsters to look at artworks and say what they really thought.

As an artist, Frances seemed equally happy with oils, watercolour and pastels, though oils were probably her favourite medium.

Society President, Janice Anderson, along with other long standing members, remember her willingness to support all the Society’s activities and in particular her incredible catering efforts. For many years, she was responsible for magnificent post AGM suppers and delicious lunches on Selection Days at the Cambridge Guildhall. Nothing was too much trouble for Frances and she was always willing to help.

The Society has lost one of its most valuable members. Frances will be greatly missed by all.

Tracey Ashman features in Venue magazine

Tracey Ashman, Printmaker, Cambridge, Venue Magazine

Tracey Ashman Venue Front CoverCDS Member Tracey Ashman's latest work appears on the front cover of the Spring edition of the Venue magazine. Tracey was approached by the magazine for an article, after being invited to exhibit her latest series of works at the Cambridge Contemporary Art gallery. The two page article in the magazine explores Tracey's inspiration for her latest series. The exhibition at Cambridge Contemporary Art runs from March 11th through to April 2nd,

Marco Humprey-Lahti MRBS Wins Award

CDS Member Marco Humphrey-Lahti awarded 2016 Brian Mercer Stone Carving Residency Pietrasanta Italy, by Royal British Society of Sculptors.

CDS member, Marko Humphrey-Lahti MRBS has been awarded the 2016 Brian Mercer Stone Carving Residency in Pietrasanta, Italy by the Royal British Society of Sculptors. This is a fully supported scholarship for Marko to work with artisans for 3 months at world renowned Fondazione Sem in Italy. Marko will be experimenting with marble from Carrara from 1st March - 31st May 2017. His resulting works will be exhibited at the Royal British Society of Sculptors HQ in London towards the end of 2017.

Autumn 2016 Leys School Exhibition

Autumn 2016 Leys School Exhibition

This year the Society again held it's 2016 Autumn exhibition in the Leys School, Cambridge.

97 local professional and amateur artists exhibited 265 original pieces of work for the first time. The diverse selection of works included paintings, drawing and prints, together with ceramic and stone sculptures. Many artists also displayed cards for sale, which proved extremely popular.  Overall, the exhibition provided a broad range of work, with something of interest for all visitors. This exhibition turned out to be the Society's most successful in the last six years in terms of works sold. Once again visitor feedback has been positive, highlighting the high standard and diversity of the work. 

The Other Gardener (Dakin)

Visitors had the opportunity to vote for their favourite work. This year they chose The Other Gardener (above), a charcoal drawing by Andy Dakin. In previous exhibitions Andy has consistently been in the top ten. Well done Andy for getting the top position this time!

Great North Fen 1 (Howard)Iona Howard, one of our member artists who specialises in printmaking provided the raffle prize, which was an original print "Great North Fen". The winner of the draw was Lucy Winter from Great Shelford. Lucy is a Friend of the Society. Congratulations Lucy!

The Society is grateful for the professional help and support of the Leys School to enable us to complete one of our most successful and well received Autumn exhibitions in recent years.

The Society's next Spring exhibition will be held in the The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street Cambridge, running from Saturday 1st April to Saturday 8th April 2017.

Cambridge Sixth Form Young Artists Exhibition 2016

Cambridge Sixth Form Young Artists Exhibition - Cambridge Central Library

Cambridge Drawing Society was once again delighted to assist the Cambridge Decorative and Fine Arts Society at the Exhibition for young artists, held at Cambridge Central Library from 6-18  July 2016.   The artists, from schools in the Cambridge region, are studying art for A level and all displayed a very high standard of work, ensuring an extremely difficult task for the judges.

Best in show.

Zoe Dawes from St. Mary's Convent - Presidents Cup Winner 2016

Cambridge Drawing Society lent its display screens for the exhibition and awarded two prizes, the silver President’s cup for the artwork that the CDS judges, Godfrey Curtis and Clare Maria Wood, considered to be best in show and a £100.00 token for the most original. The cup, which will be engraved with her name, was presented to Zoe Dawes from St Mary’s School for an impressive still life oil painting. The £100 prize for originality was awarded to Alexandra Ruchmskaya-Sweet from Long Road VI Form College for a large painting of a city scape in oil, acrylic and collage. 

Sixth Form Young Artists Exhibition - Most Original Work Winner

Alexandra Ruchmskaya-Sweet  from Long Road VI Form College -  Most Original Work Winner 2016

Summer Garden Party 2016

Annual Summer Garden Party

Curtis House 2016

 70 CDS Members and Friends, together with family and friends enjoyed the summer garden party hosted by Godfrey and Pauline Curtis in their beautiful house in Comberton on Sunday 19th June.  Although the weather leading up to the event had been very changeable, on the day it was pleasently warm and enabled everyone to enjoy the garden at it's best. 

The Society is not only indebted to Godfrey and Pauline for their wonderful hospitality but to all the members who helped make this occasion a success.  A huge thanks go to our President, Janice Anderson and member Tracey Ashman who teamed up and provided a delicious buffet. Thanks to Anthony Hopkinson, who again acted as shopkeeper for a ‘bring and buy’ sale of unwanted art materials. To Richard Baker and John Tordoff for making themselves available in the morning to help with the erection of the marquee and finally, to Harry Baker for his professional photographs capturing the day.

As always, the party proved a great opportunity for members and Friends of the Society to get to know each other, discuss their shared passion and exchange ideas. 

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Summer Party 16 8

100 Artists now featured

100 CDS members now have their biographies on the CDS website!

Eve Corder happens to be the 100th Cambridge Drawing Society member to publish their biography in the members' section of the CDS website. I'm afraid there is no prize to go along with achievement.

Thank you to all these members who have taken advantage of this facility, and contributed to raising the profile of their own work and showcasing the abilities of the CDS membership.

Remember that the CDS Twitter account is active, and many items of interest to CDS members are tweeted or re-tweeted there. If you do use twitter (even if it's just a little bit), do consider following the @CambDrawingSoc. Of course, you can always see what's been tweeted on the home page of the website.