The Chelsea Arts Club was founded on March 21st 1891 on the suggestion of Whistler and now has 1600 painters, sculptors, architects, designers, photographers and filmmakers, and 800 writers, dancers, musicians and other kinds of artists as its Members.
Inspired by memories of the great Arts’ Balls held in Paris to celebrate ‘Mardi Gras’ the early members of the Chelsea Arts Club arranged parties in their studios. Dancing, drinking and supper grew into fancy dress parties in the nearby Chelsea Town Hall.
As the numbers grew the venue shifted to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and by 1910 the first of the Chelsea Arts Balls took place at the Royal Albert Hall. The prefabricated ‘Great Floor’ provided the largest dancing space in the world and London society rose to the occasion. The Illustrated London News describing it as the:
In 1946, the first Ball after the War proved very controversial when two artists’ models were persuaded to appear nude on one of the floats being paraded. In subsequent years an element of boisterousness and drunkenness not seen before crept in and stewards were kept busy breaking up fights.
By the mid 1950s the Chelsea Arts Ball was the most scandalous social event in the calendar and a flavour of the event can be seen in this British Pathé film clip:
CHELSEA ARTS BALL
I have been a member for a number of years and have assisted the Club with matters concerning paint colour. More recently I have measured a colour seen by the Secretary on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery so that a paint could be matched by Papers and Paints for use in the Club.
The Club has a tradition of painting the exterior before a big party. Here is an example of a recent scheme:
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