The Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall was founded on the 8th of February, 1949, following a meeting arranged at the Castle Inn, St Ives. Nineteen artists were the founder members. The new society was formed by many who had resigned from the St Ives Society of Artists and others who sympathised with their dissatisfactions concerning STISA and its policies. The Penwith Society would include both painters and craftsmen, unlike STISA, and would also offer both professional and lay memberships.
The 19 founding members were: Shearer ARMSTRONG, Wilhelmina BARNS-GRAHAM, Sven BERLIN, David COX, Agnes E DREY, Leonard John FULLER. Isobel HEATH. Barbara HEPWORTH, Marion Grace HOCKEN, Peter LANYON, Bernard LEACH, Denis MITCHELL, Guido MORRIS, Marjorie MOSTYN, Dicon NANCE, Robin NANCE, Ben NICHOLSON, Hyman SEGAL and John WELLS.
It was agreed that the Society was to be founded as a memorial tribute to Borlase SMART. Officers were elected, and at a general meeting a longer list of artists and craftsmen was invited to become members. Those invited and those who accepted are listed in the Chronology of the Tate (1985) publication.
By 1950 the cracks had begun to show and some of the founding members resigned, including Segal, Cox, Berlin, Isobel Heath, Lanyon and Morris, due to the suggestion put forward to institute divisions (A, B, C) or groups of artists, divided as to whether or not they were A Traditionalists B Modernists and C Craftsmen. Opposition was most vociferous from Lanyon, and at this point he began to exhibit with the NSA in Newlyn, becoming its chairman in 1961. A number of the Founder Members resigned over this issue. The Penwith Society abolished the A and B group rule in 1957. The Penwith Society still operates today (2010) and Kathleen Watkins, appointed Curator/secretary of the Society in 1967 still holds the post. Margo MAECKELBERGHE is Chairman of the Gallery management council.