Our History

The origins of the Copley Society of Art date back to the 1870s, a time when interest in the visual arts was gaining momentum in Boston.


In 1876, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston opened the doors of its new building in Copley Plaza, and in 1877 the School of Drawing and Painting (later renamed School of the Museum of Fine Arts) began its first classes.


In 1879, members of the first graduating class of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts felt the need to keep the ties they had formed, and to help each other in their struggle to become prominent artists. In May of that year, largely through the efforts of Alice Spencer Tinkham and H. Winthrop Pierce, the Boston Art Students Association (now the Copley Society of art) was formed.


By 1891, membership in the BASA no longer required an affiliation with the Museum School. Also, it was opened to patrons as well as active artists. By 1892, the Association listed 416 members.


In 1893 the BASA leased the Winslone Skating Rink located on Clarendon Street near Trinity Church. Renamed Grundmann Studios in honor of Otto Grundmann, the greatly admired artist, teacher, and first head of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, this unusual building was transformed into beautiful exhibition halls with rooms for studios, meetings, and classes.


1897 is the year the first major exhibition was held, "One Hundred Masterpieces," in the Grundmann Studio Building with works on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


In 1899 the organization organized an exhibition of the work of John Singer Sargent, titled "Portraits and Sketches," coinciding with the unveiling of Sargent's murals at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


In 1901, the organization was renamed The Copley Society of Boston after its founding city and America's most famous artist of the 18th century, John Singleton Copley, in an effort to further extend the Society's programs to the greater Boston Community.


in 1904, the Copley Society of Boston held the "Memorial Exhibition of the Works of James McNeil Whistler," the artist's first retrospective exhibition, which attracted a recorded 41,111 visitors from across the United States.


In 1905 the Society exhibited paintings by Claude Monet in conjunction with with a group of sculptures by Auguste Rodin.


The Copley Society hosted European selections from the "International Exhibition of Modern Art," later to be named the "New York Armory Show," including works by Marcel Duchamp, Raoul Dufy, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh.


The Copley Society sponsored "Watercolors by Winslow Homer, Dodge MacKnight and John Singer Sargent," held at the Boston Art Club.


The Copley Society purchased its first permanent home, a 6-storey brownstone at 158 Newbury Street in the heart of the Back Bay in Boston.


We were named as one of five members of the Boston Art Commission.


1977 is the year of the first annual "Copley Artists' Auction."


To inaugurate 100 years, a "Centennial Exhibition" was held featuring works by both current and early artist members.


In 1989 the exhibition "Contemporary Boston Afro-American Artists" was held featuring works by Allan Crite, Robert Freeman, Paul Goodnight, and Lois Mailou Jones.

This was also the year of the first annual "Student Show" which was opened to students from 40 New England art schools.


The Copley Society Sponsored "Art Boston," a major exhibition and fair at the Park Plaza Castle, with over 50 participating galleries.


In 1992, a biennial exhibition titled "Manifest" was first held surveying contemporary Art in New England. In this year we also awarded the first annual Robert C. Vose Jr. and Ann Peterson Vose Scholarship in American Art History.


In 1993 the Copley Society awarded its first annual Robert Brooks Memorial Student Scholarship for Excellence in Painting.


In 1995 the Copley Society began the Copley Workshop Program, a series of 3 and 5-day workshops at locations throughout New England.


In 1996 The Copley Society began several education outreach programs with the Boston Public School system including a program with the Muriel S. Snowden International School.


Major building renovations stabilize the Copley Society's future at the historic brownstone location on Newbury Street.


In 2003 the Copley Society of Boston became "The Copley Society of Art" and launched a new identity campaign with the acronym of "CoSo." This renaming reflected the Society's commitment to the future of contemporary artists on a larger scale as defined by its increasingly diverse activities and divergent history.


In 2005, the Copley Society of Art established the CoSo Circle to promote the arts amongst young professionals, ages 21-40.


In 2006 the CoSo Circle awarded its first CoSo Circle Scholarship.


In 2008 the Stone, Bush, and Mahoney Fresh Paint Scholarship was established in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Fresh Paint annual event.

Also in that year, the Copley Society of Art celebrated the Harvard Centennial with an offsite exhibition at the Harvard Club of Boston, sponsored by Boston Private Bank & Trust Company.


In 2010 Co|So hosted a marine art exhibition titled "Atlantic & Beyond," juried by marine art specialists John Stobart and Russel Jinishian.


In 2011 Co|So established a new off-site exhibition space at Boston Private Bank & Trust Company in the Prudential Center.


In 2014 the Charles Family Foundation established the Annual Cape Ann Artist Residency


In 2015, Co|So established the new off-site exhibition space at Dayton Home located in Wellesley, MA.


Charles Family Foundation revives studio space at the Charles Fine Art Gallery for the Cape Ann Artist Residency.


Artist Exchange program is initiated to promote artist collaboration at the gallery.


The Annual Fresh Paint Auction & Gala celebrated 30 years.


The Copley Society of Art celebrated 140 years of history and exhibited "Copley Masters and Fusion: SMFA at Tufts Graduate Student Show" to celebrate Co|So Masters and the founding of the Copley Society of Art


Established a collaboration with the Langham Hotel in Boston, installing more than 100 artworks from Co|So Artist Members for the hotel's permanent collection


In collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MA) Co|So hosts "Emergence," an exhibition featuring artworks by staff members at the MFA


Today, the Copley Society of Art continues to play a vital role in the Boston art community. With over 300 artist members participating in as many as 20 exhibitions each year, Co|So is uniquely positioned to provide aspiring artists with an entry into the mainstream art world, and more established artists with a venue for exhibiting their work in Boston. Artist membership is based on competitive review; juried exhibitions and a professional credentialing system offer artists the opportunity for further distinction.