The story of art at Bluecoat begins in 1907 when a group of former students from the Art Sheds - the Applied Art and Design Department of the University of Liverpool - who’d created an independent art school at Sandon Terrace (near the Anglican Cathedral, under construction), rented rooms in the vacant school building. The group established a community of working artists and expanded membership to others interested in art and ideas, preparing the ground for Bluecoat to become the UK's first arts centre, which was formally constituted in 1927 with the establishment of Bluecoat Society of Arts.

The Sandon organised its first public modern art exhibition at Bluecoat in 1908, which included a painting by Monet, then, in 1911, Sandon artists exhibited alongside Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh and Cézanne in the first Post-Impressionists exhibition. In the first two decades of the century, the building was developed into an artistic hub, featuring exhibitions, concerts, talks and parties. The Sandon's art, music and drama groups were active for many years, and its dining room hosted visits from illustrious composers like Stravinsky, Holst, Bartok, and musicians, actors and choreographers like Kathleen Ferrier, George Balanchine, Margot Fonteyn and Laurence Olivier.

Though it had a close - and occasionally strained - relationship with Bluecoat Society of Arts, which it had helped create, the Sandon remained a paying tenant of the building, continuing to play a vital role in the post-war period, when its music group was especially active. An LP recording of music by three of its members was released in 1965, backed by a miscellany of sound, including an interview with sculptor Herbert Tyson Smith about his eventful years at Bluecoat. A colourful account of the Sandon was published by life-long member Roderick Bisson in 1965. Sandon activities reduced in the 1970s, the society folding the next decade. Its archive, some of which is reproduced here, is housed at Liverpool Record Office. The image above is from George Harris' frieze design for one of the legendary Sandon cabarets.

1905

The Art Sheds with Charles Reilly

1911

Catalogue from the Sandon Studios Society's Exhibition of Modern Art, including work by the Post-Impressionists

1910

Bluecoat with sign advertising a modern art exhibition

1920

Sandon artist, George Harris

1920

Sandon cabaret design by George Harris

1920

Sandon artist, Henry Carr in fancy dress

1950

Sandon Life Drawing Class

1906

Notice of establishment of the Sandon Terrace Studios

1910

Amendment to rules on committee

1924

Standing orders of the house committee

1930

Rules of the Sandon Studios Society

1943

Notes regarding a Sandon Studios Society by-law

1947

Sandon Studios Society meeting notice

1954

Sandon Studios Society Council nominees

1956

Motion on Sandon Studios Society rates

1896

Robert Anning Bell, Fanny Dove Hamel Lister in Fancy Dress, 1896, oil on panel, private collection

1908

Letter to artists from Fanny Hamel Lister regarding joining the Sandon

1908

Catalogue for Sandon Society of Artists Exhibition of Modern Art

1912

A Bushel of Chaff

1912

Sandon Bulletin No 1, March 1912

1912

Sandon Bulletin No 3, Autumn 1912

1913

Sandon Bulletin No 4, January 1913

1913

Sandon Bulletin No 5, Spring 1913

1913

Sandon Bulletin No 7, November 1913

1914

Sandon Bulletin No 8, April 1914

1923

Sandon Studios Society Literary and Dramatic Group Minutes Book

1926

Sandon Studios Society Annual Report, 1925/26

1926

Minutes of Sandon Studios Society General Council meetings

1952

Catalogue from the exhibition, Merseyside Artists from the Sandon Studios Society

1965

Sandon Sound LP

1965

Sandon Studios Society and the Arts, by Roderick Bisson

1968

December 1968 Sandon Bulletin

1969

January 1969 Sandon Bulletin

2013

Archiving the Arts Centre exhibition

1900

Sandon Studios Society Crockery

1931

Letter to H. Hinchcliffe Davies regarding the return of Jacob Epstein's sculpture, Genesis

1922

Sandon Studios Society Notable Visitors Book Entries

1934

Sandon Dining Room Visitors' Book

1939

Catalogue for Liverpool Artists' Exhibition at Bluecoat

1980

The Sandon Music Room

1950

Sandon Studios Society Cartoon, artist unknown