The purpose of the “Friends” of the Rye Art Gallery remains much the same now as it did at the very beginning.
Mary Stormont set up the Rye Art Gallery charitable trust in 1957 and in 1962 following her death the bequest including the buildings and her art collections became the start of The Rye Art Gallery Trust as we know it today.
Mary Elizabeth Stormont (nee. Sapsworth), was born in Hackney, London, England on 2 January 1871. Against the wishes of her parent’s Mary wanted to marry the painter Howard Gull Stormont so the couple soon eloped to Rye. They were married at St Mary’s Church in 1898. They set up home in their arts and crafts house called Ypres Studio, Rye. They became the focus for local and visiting artists all over the UK and from Europe. Mary became a founder member of the Rye Art Club with her husband Howard. The Rye Society of Artists that exists today was born out of this original Rye Based arts club and its first chairman was Howard Stormont supported by his wife Mary.
She exhibited paintings throughout her life, showing regularly at many locations, notably the Royal Academy, the Bruton Galleries (London), Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool), Royal Institute and the Ridley Art Club. She first exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Show in 1899 she took part over the years in at least 17 Royal Academy Exhibitions, her last being in 1940 where she submitted one of her signature flower paintings that Rye Art Gallery now has in their permanent collection.
After her husband died in 1935, Mary continued to live and work in Ypres Studio (Now Rye Art Gallery). A place that continued to be a hub for local painters and friends particularly, visiting her during the summer and setting up their easels on the terrace for informal painting classes. In 1957, with the help of her friends, particularly Mary Eason and the family lawyer Peter Herbertson, she set up the Rye Art Gallery Trust, which on her death in 1962 became the beginnings of the Rye Art Gallery as it is today.
If you would like to become a Friend, you can download the Application Form, complete and return it to the Gallery.
Please also read the Friends brochure.