The Friends of York Art Gallery was founded in 1948 as a charitable organisation, to help the development of the Gallery in all ways possible, establish a circle of supporters, and promote the appreciation of the fine arts in York and the surrounding area. Works of visual art help provide solace, inspiration, recreation, refreshment, insight, and the experience of beauty for all. In pursuit of its educational mission the Friends furthers the appreciation of the arts by organizing gallery talks, lectures, visits, and other activities, and by co-funding, with the Department of History of Art at the University of York, an MA studentship for a young scholar who wants to combine his or her research with experience of working in the Gallery. For a collection of web postings by members of the Friends about the Gallery and its holdings and the art world in general click here.

Over the years since 1948 the Friends have helped the Gallery to acquire numerous works of art of all periods from the Middle Ages to the present day, comprising paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture, and ceramics (a particular specialism of the Gallery). These include such choice and well-loved works as David Hockney, Egyptian Head Disappearing into Descending Clouds; Allan Ramsay, Portrait of Jean Abercrombie; and William Etty, Preparing for a Fancy Dress Ball. The Friends have also funded essential conservation work, including the restoration, in 2018, into full working order of the 18th-century automaton clock, attributed to James Cox (maker of the famous Silver Swan in the Bowes Museum), now installed in the Burton Gallery.

A selection of the art to which the Friends have contributed appears on the Acquisitions page.

The story of the Friends’ remarkable contribution to the cultural life of the City of York can be found in ‘The Friends of York Art Gallery: A Brief History’ by Sarah Sheils. Copies are available at the Gallery Shop or via the Friends of York Art Gallery, York Art Gallery, Exhibition Square, York YO1 7EW. This publication is given free of charge to new members.