Royal Watercolour Society Open 2023

Royal Watercolour Society Open 2023

The DEADLINE for entries is Monday 9th January.

The RWS chooses to invite open entries for an exhibition at the Bankside Gallery via a separate open competition rather than in an annual exhibition dominated by artwork by members. Instead they have a Spring and Autumn Exhibition by members and a seperate open art competition for non-members.

the RWS Open is the largest open-submission water-media exhibition in the world, attracting thousands of submissions nationally and internationally each year.

I’d love to know how many the number of artists it has attracted in the past. I’ve commented in the past on this claim and

  • I’d have expected one of the American open entry competitions to have maybe attracted more….
  • the RWS needs to be very careful about using claims like that because unless they know the number of entries they attract beats those who submit work to the RI’s Annual Open Exhibition – otherwise they could get into trouble with the Advertising Standards people.

Why enter the RWS Open

The primary benefit of this competition is it acts as a platform for applying for membership of the Royal Watercolour Society. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say don’t even think about applying unless you have submitted to this competition and been selected and hung!

Other benefits are:

  • your selected artwork is hung in the RWS Open exhibition at Bankside Gallery, located next to Tate Modern on the Thames Path
  • your selected artwork will appear on the Royal Watercolour Society website for the duration of the exhibition and afterwards
  • You can become part of a network of present and past exhibiting artists
  • If you come to London for the Private View, you get to meet Members of the RWS for networking and potential Membership proposal. 
  • you are eligible to win various prizes and awards (to be announced).

The RWS Open – Call for Entries

You can view the artwork selected for the 2022 RWS Open exhibition on the RWS website. I suggest you also pay attention to which artworks won prizes.

Who can enter

Applicants must be 

  • living; and 
  • aged 18 or over on Monday 31st October 2022

What you can enter

Artists may submit up to 6 paintings

    • Any painting in watercolour, acrylic, gouache, ink, any other water-based media or a combination is eligible

Note media is water-based and not water-soluble. Try finding a definition of “water-based” that is not tautological! My definition is that it excludes all oils, solvents, resins and volatile organic compounds i.e. the paint remains watersoluble – but I doubt if that would satisfy the RWS! Call for Entries: RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2020

    • There are no limitations on style or subject matter
    • The work must have been made by the applicant

Poorly presented paintings or works that differ significantly from the photograph that was entered will not be accepted.

    • All work should be on a paper support 
    • i.e. paper, cardboard, etc (not canvas, wood, plastic or any other surface)
  • AGE: The painting must have been completed sometime during the last 4 year from the deadline date (9th January 2023)
  • FRAMED: Framed works must not exceed 200 x 200cm
  • ORIGINAL: No prints, copies, reproductions or photographs are eligible
  • FOR SALE: All work must be for sale


The RWS Open Exhibition of selected entries will be held at the Bankside Gallery from Friday 3rd until Sunday 19th March 2023.

Critical dates for those wanting to submit entries are as follows

  • Monday 9th January | Deadline for submissions (11.59pm)
  • Monday 30th January | Results of selection from open entries announced
  • Monday 27th February | Delivery of selected work to Bankside Gallery (11am – 5pm)
  • Thursday 2nd March | Exhibition Private View (tbc) and awarding of prizes, by invitation only

The Bankside Gallery is located next to Tate Modern on the Thames Path.

How to enter the RWS Open

You can enter up to 6 watercolour paintings.

A fee is payable for each painting and discounts are available on the fee(s) payable for:

In order to submit an entry you need to:

In relation to pricing, the RWS advise that you should…. 

You should consider framing, transport costs and the Gallery’s commission of 40% + VAT when pricing your work.

Acknowledgement of your entry and payment will be emailed to you. Please check your junk/spam folder if you do not receive this email.

Delivery and Collection

  • You must deliver your artwork to Bankside Gallery on Monday 27th February (11am – 5pm)
  • All unsold works must be collected from the Bankside Gallery (11am – 5pm) on Monday 20th March 2023. 


Selection is down to a small group of RWS members. For the 2023 RWS Open, the selectors are the President of the RWS plus two other members and a guest Judge

  • Laura Freeman | Chief Art Critic of The Times
  • Jill Leman PRWS ( | Artist and President of the Royal Watercolour Society
  • Christie Bird RWS | Artist
  • Charles Williams RWS | Artist

EXTRA Things you need to know about your paintings

  • The paintings remain at all times the liability of the artist. While every care will be taken when handling paintings, neither the Gallery nor the RWS can accept liability for any damage. You may wish to insure your work against loss or damage while it is in transit or at the Gallery.
  • For your work to be insured against theft under Bankside Gallery insurance:
    • your paintings must be framed, glazed and fitted with mirror plates. 
    • Other display options are welcomed but these are displayed works at your own risk.
  • Framed paintings must be supplied with 
    • mirror-plates screwed to each side of the frame with a pair of screws. 
    • Bubble wrap or card wrapped around the mirror-plates should prevent damage during transit.
  • If you chose alternative display options you must ALSO ensure that 
    • your works can be safely stored and 
    • you must provide a safe and secure way in which they can be wrapped and protected if sold. 
    •  You must also provide clear instructions on the hanging of your work.
  • You will receive labels via email for your works. 
    • Please fill out the information with the details of your work and fix one to the front and one to the back of your work with magic tape. 
    • Please make sure the label on the front can be easily removed without leaving residue on the glass.


Past Blog posts

See my blog posts below about some of the previous exhibitions below. These include gallery shots of works in the exhibition and links to the websites of prizewinning artists.


I’ve become disillusioned in recent years by the quality of the work selected – and stopped reviewing the exhibition. Matters improved in 2022.

Leave a Reply