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