Our grants programme sets out to help artists in England and Wales to launch, sustain or develop their careers. We take a broad view of artistic practice and aim to support work which is innovative and challenging as well as high quality work in traditional media.

The Grants programme is currently suspended and no further application are being considered.


The charity was established in 1810 and was granted a Royal Charter in 1827 as the ‘Society for the protection and relief of artists in the several studies of painting, sculpture, architecture and engraving, and their widows and orphans’. The charity then consisted of two funds: The Annuity Fund was declared dormant on 16 April 2002 and through supplemental charters of 1952 and 2002 became known as the Artists’ Benevolent Fund. Its aim is now defined by the Trustees as being ‘ a charity that supports visual artists of all kinds including makers, architects and digital artists. This gives the Trustees a wide area of discretion.

Now the work of the ABF reflects the changes in the art world that have happened since the beginning of the nineteenth century.

  • By the middle of the century the Society had grown considerably. It enjoyed the support of famous artists, politicians and royalty. Private philanthropy was important in the Victorian era and the Queen herself supported the Fund.

  • Competition between artists was fierce but not quite so intense as in this Punch cartoon from the 1860’s! The Royal Academy was an important institution and the Society too had a vivid corporate life including sumptuous charitable dinners which were attended by celebrities of the period. These raised large sums of money for the Benevolent Fund. From Ken Baynes Collection.

  • The Tate Gallery was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1897. So called ‘modern’ European art was not exhibited until 1918. Throughout the inter-war years anything new remained controversial, opposed by many artists and the general public. Today the contrast is complete and Tate Modern is said to be the most visited art gallery in the world. New media have found an important place in the art world.

  • The Tate Gallery was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1897. So called ‘modern’ European art was not exhibited until 1918. Throughout the inter-war years anything new remained controversial, opposed by many artists and the general public. Today the contrast is complete and Tate Modern is said to be the most visited art gallery in the world. New media have found an important place in the art world. From Ken Baynes Collection, reproduced by permission of Penguin Books

  • With the introduction of the welfare state after the Second World War artists stopped contributing to the Funds and the Annuity Fund was declared dormant in 2002. The ABF still supports widows of former members. The watercolourist Dennis Flanders was an active member and this image of St Paul’s across the Thames from Bankside is evocative of the changes that have happened over the past 80 years: St Paul’s survived the Blitz and Bankside welcomed Tate Modern. Image copyright Mrs Dennis Flanders. It may not be reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder.


In 2008 the Trustees obtained the approval of the Charity Commission to revise the Objects of the Fund to best serve the needs of today’s artists.

  • Lisa Gee [Chair]

    Since 1999, Lisa has been Director The Harley Foundation and Gallery, a Nottinghamshire-based charitable trust whose mission is to support the visual arts, artists and makers. The Foundation funds the Harley Gallery museum and exhibition spaces as well as three groups of studios which offer subsidised work spaces to around 30 artists and makers. She is also Chair of The Mighty Creatives, one of 10 bridge organisations funded by Arts Council England to help young people access art and culture and which champions young people’s creativity and imagination.

  • Ken Baynes ARCA

    Ken began his career as a stained glass designer but has subsequently worked as a graphic designer, exhibition organiser and educationalist. He has written and presented programmes on design for Channel 4 and organised the ground-breaking Art and Society exhibitions for the Welsh Arts Council. He was Visiting Professor at Loughborough Design School. His books include: Art in Society; The Art of the Engineer and Design: Models of Change.

  • Tessa Jackson OBE

    Tessa Jackson is Chief Executive of Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), London. Iniva offers a platform for artistic experiment, cultural debate and the exchange of ideas in relation to global artistic practice. Tessa has over 25 years’ experience within the arts and in particular the visual arts as a curator, gallery director, writer and consultant in Britain and internationally.

  • Phillip Roberts FCA

    After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in 1972 has practised in London and is a partner in a family firm specialising in the financial and taxation affairs of artists and galleries throughout London and the South East. Has served as Trustee and/or Treasurer for a number of arts oriented Trusts and organisations and has been Treasurer of ABF since 2009.

  • Barney Hare Duke

    Barney’s work is divided between managing projects as part of A FINE LINE: cultural practice (AFL) and as Artistic Director of the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) in Stoke-on-Trent. AFL operates as a cultural agency in the visual arts, working with artists, curators, academics and arts organisations. With a specialism in craft, AFL has been responsible for the development of an extensive programme of international artists’ exchange residencies. The BCB has developed over five years to become the largest single ceramics event in the UK. With an ambitious programme of artists’ commissions residencies and public engagement projects which culminate in the biannual festival. The BCB initiative is recognised as playing a key role in the economic and social regeneration strategies for Stoke-on-Trent.

  • Richard D F Bagley BA FSA[Scot] FIRPM

    Richard is a solicitor and company secretary who has also spent time as a policy adviser on company affairs generally. His appointments have included General Counsel of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, the Institute of Directors and first Corporation Secretary of the Commonwealth Development Corporation. He has lectured for the Institute of Chartered Secretaries on corporate governance and directors’ duties and is currently a trustee of several charities, chairing Thrive and a Council Member of the Selden Society. He has a keen interest in the patronage of artists both here and in the Commonwealth.

Consultants (former Trustees)

  • John Thacker Dip Arch. RIBA

    John joined the practice of Shepheard Epstein Hunter in 1967. He became a director and then Chairman of the company which had become Shepheard Epstein Hunter PLC Architecture Planning Landscape. The hallmark of the company was a belief in architecture as an holistic art embracing planning and landscapes. The firm was responsible for many University Development plans including Lancaster, Warwick, Keele, Leicester, Hull and The Open University. It also designed numerous academic buildings for these universities as well as major projects for King’s College London, London School of Economics and the University of East Anglia. The office also was responsible for major inner city re-development plans, including the Salford Quays and major housing developments in both the private and public sectors. John is a Trustee of The Middle Orchard Trust which is a registered charity for the award grants towards architectural education.

  • William Wilkins

    William Wilkins CBE, DL is an artist and cultural entrepreneur. He has exhibited widely in New York, London and Cardiff and has been responsible for a number of major initiatives in Wales including The National Botanic Garden of Wales, the restoration of the 17th.c. gardens at Aberglasney and of Llanelly House, He also set up Artes Mundi, the major international art prize and exhibition based at the National Museum of Wales. He is a trustee and advisor to the Derek Williams Trust and honorary fellow of a number of universities as well as of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

    ‘William Wilkins: paintings and drawings’ by David Fraser Jenkins was published in October 2014. www.graffeg.com