The Northern Arts Club has been in existence from 1907.
The Northern Arts Club started out in rented premises at 410 Union Street, then moved to 1 Bon Accord Terrace, before the members decided to take the bold step of purchasing their own building at 8 Bon Accord Square in the Christmas of 1919, enabling members to enjoy a permanent home.
The first president of the Club was Mr Thomas Fotheringham who was one of the moving spirits in the formation of the Club. In the entrance hall, hangs a permanent Memorial bronze bas-relief with portrait, which was commissioned from the sculptor Mr William Banbury.
The Club has a long history and has enjoyed some well-known artists as members over the years. As an example, George Russell Gowans RSW (1843-1924), born in Woodside Aberdeen, was a renowned landscape artist. His paintings featured regularly in the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour and in the Aberdeen Artists' Society of which he was a founding member. A number of his watercolours, including Muir of Dinnet are held at the Aberdeen Art Gallery.
Another well-known artist was John MacDonald Aiken, ARSA ARE, (1880-1961). He was a painter in oils and watercolours, as well as an etcher and stained glass artist. He became head of Grays School of Art between 1911-1914. He exhibited widely in London and Paris and is in the collections at the Aberdeen Art Gallery.
The Gallery also holds paintings by James A.H. Hector ("Alnack Water" and "Dordrect"); Douglas Strachan (Venice); Archibald D. Reid and Thomas Train, all notable Artists and members of the Northern Arts Club.
Over the years, the club has retained a very interesting collection of records, including the minutes of club meetings. Dating from 1907, these provide a fascinating insight into the running of the club and reflects the changes in local social history.
During the early years of its existence, the club became a hub for many different social gatherings. Members enjoyed billiards, whist drives, bridge matches and music evenings along with performing their own plays. Weekend excursions were organised to Drum Castle, Hazelhead, Muchalls, Torphins and Dyce; and a yearly club picnic was held in June.
Other records show the changes at 8 Bon Accord Square over the years; invoices from local tradesmen chart the removal of coke fired furnaces and the change to gas central heating: Gas lighting makes way for electric lighting. The records also remind us of the names of many local companies and Banks such as the British Linen Bank that no longer exist.
It also records the fluctuating fortunes of the club during and through WW1 and WW2. There is a Memorial framed art photograph of Captain Dunn, held to be the best Chess player in Scotland. We have letters from 1942 detailing the Fire Prevention Scheme which covered properties in Craibstone Street and Bon Accord Square. There was a mix of volunteers and men paid to be in attendance each night from 8pm to 8am to watch the properties and deal with any fires.
All of this makes the club hugely important and unique. The club has changed over the years and it is certainly more relaxed now than it was, but the constant is that the members retain their enthusiasm and interest in the Northern Arts Club. It has been run and continues to be run by the members for the enjoyment of all. The founding purpose of the club was to "promote good fellowship and union among those interested in the Arts and Artistic Crafts". This ethos still guides us today along with a determination to carrying the club forward into its next centenary celebration.