A group exhibition in the central gallery of the British Pavilion in 1912
A group exhibition in the central gallery of the British Pavilion in 1912. Benches designed by artist-craftsman Frank Brangwyn are the middle of the room ©

Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia, Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee

Now with its own pavilion, Britain seemed determined to showcase as many artists as possible. Artworks by over 140 British artists were squeezed into the new Pavilion’s six gallery spaces in some years; paintings were hung very closely and atop one another in what was called a ‘salon style’, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Due to the outbreak of the First World War, only three Biennales occurred during this decade. 


The British Committee of art enthusiasts and philanthropists made the first of many requests to the British government to take responsibility over the British Pavilion. So, the Committee approached the newly-formed Exhibitions Branch of the Board of Trade, established in 1908 to look after organising official British participation in exhibitions abroad. However, the government refused and would continue to reject their requests until the 1930s

The British Committee continued to organise the large group exhibitions at the Pavilion, and in 1910 a vast total of 114 British artists presented work. Artworks were chosen by Scottish painter George Henry, British sculptor Francis Derwent Wood and the artist Grosvenor Thomas. Born in Australia, Thomas came to England as a young man and, having learnt to paint in Glasgow, he was often regarded as a peripheral member of the 'Glasgow Boys’, the influential modern art group. Thomas not only chose the works but he also hung them in the Pavilion


English painters Gerald Moira and Sir Ernest Albert Waterlow joined British sculptor Francis Derwent Wood on the artistic sub-committee in 1912. They selected over 145 British artists, the largest number to ever show at the British Pavilion throughout its history. 

The Committee members who organised and financed the exhibition remained much the same; Sir Kenneth S. Anderson and Sir David Salomons were the only new additions (Salomons had in fact bought the pavilion for the Committee back in 1909).


The selection of around 90 artists who showed work in the Pavilion in this year included Edmund J Sullivan, Francis Dodd, David Muirhead Bone and David Young Cameron, who were all known for their etchings and feature in the British Council Collection

Edmund Davis, a patron and art collector, was a new addition to the British Committee. The English painter Gerald Moira stayed on the artistic sub-committee in 1914 and was joined by landscape artist Sir John Alfred Arnesby Brown and Scottish sculptor John Tweed.

1916 and 1918

Due to the First World War, the Venice Biennale was suspended in 1916 and 1918.

Further information

You can read Britain at the Venice Biennale 1895-1995. Published by the British Council, 1995. Edited by Sophie Bowness and Clive Phillpot. 

If you would like a list of British artists who took part in the Venice Biennale, please contact us.