In the early years of the 20th century, women artists found it difficult to gain any kind of recognition within Scotland, for the art establishment was strictly a male preserve. In response to this, in 1924 William McDougall, whose daughter Lily was a talented painter, founded the Scottish Society of Women Artists. Its aim was to give encouragement and opportunity to women artists and to provide a much needed platform for applied arts. The SSWA existed until the late 1980s when it was re-formed under a new name, Scottish Artists and Artist Craftsmen, and given fresh impetus. This in turn became Visual Arts Scotland in 1999.
Today, VAS continues to embrace all aspects of the visual arts; with a membership of around 500 ranging from established figures to recent graduates and emerging artists we represent both fine and applied artists from all across the country. The Annual Exhibition, held in the Royal Scottish Academy, continues to show a diverse cross section of the best in Scottish art in a nationally esteemed venue. VAS is one of the few organisations that actively promotes and exhibits the work of contemporary visual and applied artists side by side and is a multi-disciplinary platform where painters and textile artists, sculptors and ceramicists, and photographers and textile artists exhibit together.