Art unions were popular in the nineteenth century as a way of showing the middle class works of living artists. Unions held exhibitions annually and charged members a fee. After paying the fee, artists received a print from an engraving specifically commissioned for the exhibition. Members could also win a painting from the exhibition. Due to anti-gambling laws, the unions were not popular with some of the people.
The first art union formed in Berlin in 1814. London formed one in 1836, followed by Edinburgh in 1837. Unions in Glasgow (1841) and America (1839) followed. Within ten years, the American union had more than nineteen thousand members. Some unions were active in the United States as late as the 1930s. The London art union published a monthly magazine that had quite a bit of influence.