Young English artists returning from studying art in Paris mounted the first exhibition of the New English Art Club in April 1886. Among them were Thomas Cooper Gotch, Frank Bramley, John Singer Sargent, Philip Wilson Steer, George Clausen and Stanhope Forbes. Another founding member was G. P. Jacomb-Hood.
Early exhibitions were held in the Egyptian Hall.
The Impressionist style was well represented at the NEAC, in comparison to the old-school academic art shown at the Royal Academy. For a time, the NEAC was seen as a stepping-stone to Royal Academy membership. Today the NEAC continues in a realistic, figurative style, while the Royal Academy has embraced abstract and conceptual art.
Historic NEAC members and exhibitors include Thomas Kennington (founder member and first secretary), Prof Fred Brown (founder member), Frank Bramley (foundation member), Walter Sickert, William Orpen, Augustus John, Gwen John, Philip Wilson Steer, Henry Tonks, James Whitelaw Hamilton, Alfred William Rich, James Dickson Innes, Margaret Preston, Charles Wellington Furse, William Rothenstein, Lindsay Bernard Hall, Thomas Cooper Gotch, Mary Sargant Florence, Henry Strachey, Clare Atwood, Evelyn Dunbar, Eve Garnett, Frank McEwen, James Jebusa Shannon, James Jebusa Shannon, Cecil Mary Leslie, Mary Elizabeth Atkins, William Brown Macdougall, Neville Bulwer-Lytton, 3rd Earl of Lytton, Muirhead Bone, Robert Polhill Bevan, Dugald Sutherland MacColl, Neville Lewis, Charles Holmes, Carron O Lodge, Geoffrey Tibble, Alexander Mann, Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, Thomas Esmond Lowinsky, Frank Hughes, Albert Julius Olsson, Helen Margaret Spanton and Leslie Donovan Gibson.