London flight: Nashville artist Sarah Webb breaks ground in Britain
By Susan Chappell
Banner Arts Writer
Nashville painter Sarah Webb has been inducted into the Society of Women Artists and is the first American to become a member of the London-based organization.
The society, founded in 1855, includes professional women who make their living in the art field. Its 138 members are spread across Europe.
Webb, who has studios here and in London, first heard about the prestigious group about six years ago. She has exhibited her paintings in the societies annual show as a nonmember since 1989.
Her work is part of the organization’s 133rd annual exhibit, which is on view at Westminster Central Hall opposite the Houses of Parliament in London.
The 12-member selection committee elected Webb in January after critiquing six of her paintings. A unanimous vote of the committee is required for life membership in the society.
The 46-year-old artist is known for her realistic portrayals of European Society and her figure studies of women. The average price for her pieces is $15,000 to $20,000.
“I think of my work as contemporary realism,” says Webb in an interview from her home in Nashville. “I want to paint life as I see it today.”
A couple of the oils that helped Webb gain entry into the Society of Women Artists were part of what she calls her “blue jeans paintings.”
The idea came about seven years ago when she decided to do a series on women but didn’t want them to be complete nudes.
“I looked down, and I was wearing blue jeans, and I thought they were a universal theme. I decided it would be great to combine the two.”
Her figure studies not only focus on American women but those from various nationalities as well.
“I wanted the series to show the “new woman” or the strong, confident woman,” explains Webb, who uses real people rather than professional models for her pieces. “I think now more than ever this is the time for women, and I really want to portray that.
Artist: Series on women catch attention of art society
“It doesn't matter what nationality they are if they have the same qualities,” she continues. “That's really what counts.”
She says it was this series, which she is still working on, that attracted the attention of society president Barbara Tate.
“I’ve been to so many exhibitions and have seen a lot of degrading paintings of women,” Webb adds. “I felt like someone should do a group of paintings showing beautiful women, which I think they are.”
Webb is now included among such notable British and European artists as Rosa Bonheur, Lady Elizabeth Butler, A.K. Browning, Dame Ethel Walker and Dame Laura Knight.
The organization also is strongly supported by members of the Royal Family.
Locally, the artist received the1992 Athena Award and the 1987 Best of Show award in the Tennessee Art League’s annual Central South Art Exhibition.
“I am excited about being a member,” Webb says of the society. “I think it is a very worthwhile organization with a great Heritage.”