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Title: Political, economic, social and cultural determinants in the history of early to mid-nineteenth century art and design education in Britain.
Author: Romans, Mervyn.
Awarding Body: University of Central England in Birmingham
Current Institution: Birmingham City University
Date of Award: 1998
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The history of public art and design education in Britain is known principally through the publication of five books. They are Quentin Bell's The Schools of Design (1963), Gordon Sutton's Artisan or Artist?(1967), Richard Carline's Draw they Must(1968), Stuart MacDonald's The History and Philosophy of Art Education(1970), and Clive Ashwin's Art Education: documents and policies 1768-1975(1975). All of these texts offer a substantially corroborative account which suggests that in the early nineteenth century, Britain experienced economic problems (particularly in the textile industry) caused by superior French design adversely affecting consumer demand for British products. The 1835/6 Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures was established in response to this concern. The outcome of its deliberations was that a school of design was opened in London in 1837 to train artisans in design. In brief, this is the 'dominant', history of nineteenth century art and design education in Britain whose orthodoxy is now frequently quoted in a variety of arenas. More recently an alternative interpretation has been proposed by Peter Cunningham. In his largely unacknowledged PhD research (1979) he suggests a stronger argument for the origin of the schools of design is to be found elsewhere. Cunningham claims that during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century there was an increasingly audible philanthropic or civic public voice calling for a recognition of the benefits to be derived from art. He suggests that the motivation for schools of design, ostensibly for the artisan, was thus actually to create schools of art for the middle classes. This thesis challenges both positions, arguing that their polarity disguises the complexity of this history. Following a review of the historiography of nineteenth century art and design education in Britain, it examines the relationship of the historical methodologies used by the 'dominant' historians, and Cunningham, in relation to the limitations of their conclusions, and sets out a model for revised readings of the subject. Through a close analysis of the 1835/6 Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures (for the first time given extended consideration here) it seeks to explore the underlying issues that gave rise to the schools of design. It examines the personnel of the Committee and the witnesses and seeks to contextualize their attitudes. The public response to this Committee, through newspapers and journals, is also considered. The economic argument of the 'dominant' history is challenged showing that such a rationale for the schools of design is flawed. Then, two key questions are posed - Who were the schools of design for? and What were they for? In relation to the first question, the language of early to mid-nineteenth century social class used in this Committee is explored, paying particular attention to the 'labouring class', 'artisan' and 'middle class' definitions. In relation to the second, the importance of 'taste' in the early to mid-nineteenth century is considered, and its connection to art and design education. The conjoining of 'taste', fashion, consumerism and the growth of capitalism in relation to art and design education is discussed, as is 'taste' in relation to social conditioning. An interrelationship of these elements is proposed. The thesis presents a more 'thickly textured' history of early to mid-nineteenth century art and design education than has previously been offered, with the objective of fostering a pluralist approach in future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History