The Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers was a society of etchers established in London in 1880 and given a Royal Charter in 1888. In 1991, the Society was renamed the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.
The Society was established as the Society of Painter-Etchers for the promotion of original etching as an art form, inspired by the French group of the same name which existed in Paris. The first six fellows, all elected on 31 July 1880, were Francis Seymour Haden, Heywood Hardy, Hubert von Herkomer, Alphonse Legros, Robert Macbeth and James Tissot (Whistler had a row with his brother-in-law, Haden, and would not join). It achieved its Royal Charter in 1888, becoming the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers.
By 1911, when King George V granted a Charter of Incorporation and Bye-laws, the RE, as it came to be styled, had grown in prestige and become fully established. From 1919, in token of solidarity, Presidents of the Royal Academy have always been elected Honorary Fellows of the R.E.
The Society of Painter-Etchers had remarkably few Presidents. They were: Sir Francis Seymour Haden (1880–1910), Sir Francis Job Short (1910–1938), Malcolm Osborne (1938–1962), Robert Austin (1962–1970), Paul Drury (1970–1975), Harry Eccleston (1975–1989), and Joseph Winkelman (1989–1991), when the Society was renamed. Winkelman continued as President until 1995. Presidents after this were David Carpanini(1995–2003), Anita Klein (2003–2006) and Hilary Paynter (2006-).
In 1920 the membership was expanded to allow artists who produced prints from media other than metal, which allowed the election of woodcut artists such as Gwen Raverat. Another innovation in the same year was the formation of a Print Collectors' Club to be limited to 300 members each of whom received an annual presentation print.
Full fellows were entitled to use the initials R.E. after their name and associates, a class of membership established in 1887, could use the initials A.R.E. Notable members (and their date of election to a full fellowship) included: William STRANG (1881), Joseph Pennell (1882), Auguste Rodin (1882), Herbert Dicksee (1885), Walter Richard SICKERT (1887), Sir David Young Cameron (1895), Sir Frank BRANGWYN (1903), Ernest Stephen Lumsden (1915), William Walcot (1920), Edmund Blampied (1921), Gerald Brockhurst (1921), Laura KNIGHT (1932), Charles Tunnicliffe (1934), Sir William Russell Flint (1933), and Joan Hassall (1948).
Its address is: Bankside Gallery, 48 Hopton Street, London, SE1 9JH, England.