Curriculum

There was a diversity of views on the nature and purpose of art education from the outset.  Hogarth, Gainsborough and Reynolds (each of whom had been apprenticed in England) took part in struggles that accompanied the academies of art established in the 18th century but, in the early 19th century, the question of art education took on a new urgency.  In the wake of the Napoleonic wars Parliament was asked to encourage the practice of drawing and design to strengthen manufactures for export.  The Government School of Design prompted development of other, regional schools.  The following is a description of one of those schools that will serve to give an idea of the character of provision in the mid-19th century:

"The Government Schools ran courses in elementary drawing, shading from the flat, shading from casts, chiaroscuro painting, colouring, figure drawing from the flat, figure drawing from the round, painting the figure, geometrical drawing, perspective, modelling and design.  All these courses were introduced from the start at the Glasgow School apart from that of design.  The course in design was the 'summit of the system' . . . After 1853 the above pattern of courses was extended to 26 stages that formed the national curriculum for art schools.  This system was known as the South Kensington system.”  [12]

It is clear that drawing formed the essential channel into practices that reached back to classical Greece and renaissance Italy.  In general, whilst a great many subjects were studied in great detail, students were not encouraged to stray far from a closely prescribed syllabus and the models provided.  Such an art school would still be familiar to those who studied in art schools through to the middle of the 20th century.  Over the next fifteen years that syllabus was abandoned in favour of the encouragement of the development by each student of his or her personal art practice; as this era of personal development progressed so the range of art practices greatly increased.

[12]  Rawson, G. (1999), The Glasgow Government School of Design, Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History, Volume 4. A history of early art education was researched by Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton at Norwich School of Art and published as A Happy Eye (Jarold: Norwich), in 1982.