An insight into Art Education

We paid a visit to the V&A yesterday. As Usual we walked away perfectly satisfied and stimulated.

One particular little side exhibit in the British Galleries illustrated aspects of a design education. In Britain from 1837 onwards the government established design schools in centres such as London, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. Previously drawing schools had been run from private studios.

When the schools were established a curriculum was designed and teaching exercises developed which became known as the “South Kensington Method”. The exercises focussed on drawing ornamental shapes from models and examples including casts which can also be still seen in the Museum today.

Kate Greenaway tile design

This design won a scholarship prize for Kate Greenaway who became famous for her illustrations for children’s books. The National Competition provided funds for 15 students to study at the National Art Training School at South Kensington.

Diagram showing the harmonious relationships of colourThis “Diagram showing the harmonious relationships of colour” was used as a teaching aid in about 1853. The colour wheel aimed to illustrate what colours would go together. Today they look quite muted. It was accompanied by The Elementary Manual of Colour written by Richard Redgave who drew up the first curriculum of the National Schools of Art when they were established.

WS Singer's sketchbookThis is WS Singer’s sketchbook. He became a designer of church furnishings. The book shows tracings of drawings from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Carl August Menzel panelThis panel is a print, by Carl August Menzel illustrating a series of classical patterns which was part of a set used by architects, interior designers and manufacturers. This print is mounted on card and was copied by students.

John Ruskin, did not like the South Kensington system as he believed this copying and tracing stifled imagination and he started The Ruskin School of Drawing in 1871.

Another little piece of Art Education history that you may want on your next trivia quiz night, the South Kensington School in London, became the Royal College of Art (RCA) in 1896. At the time is shared a site with the South Kensington Museum that became the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899.


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6 Responses to An insight into Art Education

  1. Interesting! I enjoyed the textiles collection at the V&A, but most of the stuff there is not Sir’s thing, so we have to co-ordinate visits carefully.=)

  2. Juno says:

    How I envy you the V&A visit. I haven’t been there for over 30 years (it’s a bit far to travel from South Africa) but when I lived in London even then it was one of my favourite places to visit. Thanks so much for sharing all this information with us; it all makes lovely reading over a cuppa.

  3. Beth in IL says:

    It is a bit far for me too. But my dh wants to go to England and visit museums. Thanks for sharing your trip with those of us who are planning our own Trip of a Lifetime!

  4. Christina says:

    Of all the places you have visited so far, this one has evoked more envy than any other. When I visited London all those millions of years ago, I didn’t even know the V&A existed. Now of course I have no hope of ever getting there, hence the green face. It’s so great that you, of all people, are doing this, as you are so generous with your information. Thanks a mill.

    • sharonb says:

      Hi Chris – sorry you are green – but hope you enjoy reading about it anyway as I know Jerry will share some photos and Sunday hopefully I will return again. If it is any consolation the textiles and musical instruments are in storage at the moment

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