enabled the department to turn out certificated teachers for the schools of the country of a certain standard, and to give to students a general theoretic idea of art, has been found wanting, since, in practice, when the student in design leaves his school and desires to take up practical work as a designer or craftsman, he requires special knowledge, and specialized skill in design for his work to be of use; and though he may be able to impart to others what he himself has laboriously acquired, the theoretic and general character of his training proves of little or no use, face to face with the ever shifting and changing demands of the modern manufacturer and the modern market.
A growing conviction of the inadequacy of the schools of the Science and Art Department (now the Board of Education), considered as training grounds for practical designers and craftsmen, led to the establishment of new technical schools in the principal towns of Great Britain. The circumstance of certain large sums, diverted from their original purpose of compensation to brewers, being available for educational purposes and at the disposal of the county councils and municipal bodies, provided the means for the building and equipment of these new technical schools, which in many cases are under the same roof as the art school in the provincial towns, and, since the Education Act of 1902, are generally rate-supported. The art schools formerly managed by private committees and supported by private donors, assisted by the government grants, are now, in the principal industrial towns of Great Britain, taken over by the municipality. Birmingham is singularly well organized in this respect, and its art school has long held a leading position. The school is well housed in a new building with class-rooms with every appliance, not only for the drawing, designing and modelling side, but also for the practice of artistic handicrafts such as metal repoussé, enamelling, wood-carving, embroidery, &c. The municipality have also established a jewelry school, so as to associate the practical study of art with local industry. Manchester and other cities are also equipped with well-organized art schools.
The important change involved in the incorporation of the Science and Art Department with the Board of Education also led to a reorganization of the Royal College of Art. A special council of advice on art matters was appointed, consisting of representatives of painting, sculpture, architecture and design, who deal with the Royal College of Art, and appoint the professors who control the teaching in the classes for architecture, design and handicraft, decorative painting and sculpture, modelling and carving. The council decide upon the curriculum, and examine and criticize the work of the college from time to time. They also advise the board in regard to the syllabus issued to the art schools of the country, and act as referees in regard to purchases for the museum.
Of other institutions for the teaching of art, the following may be named: The Royal Drawing Society of Great Britain and Ireland, which was formed principally to promote the teaching of drawing in schools as a means of education. The system therein adopted differs from the ordinary drawing courses, and favours the use of the brush. Brushwork has generally been adopted for elementary work, too, by London County Council teachers, drawing being now a compulsory subject. Remarkable results have been obtained by the Alma Road Council schools in the teaching of boys from eight to twelve by giving them spaces to fill with given forms—leaf shapes—from which patterns are constructed to fill the spaces, brush and water-colour being the means employed. At the Royal Female School of Art in Queen Square, London, classes in drawing and painting from life are held, and decorative design is also studied. There are also the Royal School of Art Needlework and the School of Art Wood-carving, all aided by the London County Council. The City and Guilds of London Institute has two departments for what is termed “applied” art, one at the South London School of Technical Art, and the other at the Art Department in the Technical College, Finsbury. The Slade School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, University College, Gower Street, confines itself to drawing and painting from the antique and life, and exercise in pictorial composition. There are also lectures on anatomy and perspective. The Slade professorships at Oxford and Cambridge universities are concerned with the teaching and literature of art, but they do not concern themselves with the practice. There are also, in addition to the schools of art named and those in connexion with the Board of Education and the London County Council in the various districts of London, many and various private clubs and schools, such as the Langham and “Heatherley’s,” chiefly concerned in encouraging drawing and painting from the life, and for the study of art from the pictorial point of view, or for the preparation of candidates for the Royal Academy or other schools. The polytechnics and technical institutes also provide instruction in a great variety of artistic crafts.
A general survey, therefore, of the various institutions which are established for the teaching of art in Great Britain gives the impression that the study of art is not neglected, although, perhaps, further inquiry might show that, compared with the great educational establishments, the proportion is not excessive. Now that the Education Act 1902 has given the county councils control of elementary and secondary education and charged them with the task of promoting the co-ordination of all forms of education in consultation with the Board of Education, it is probable that an elementary scholar who shows artistic ability will be enabled to pass on from the elementary classes in one school to the higher art and technical schools, secondary and advanced, without retracing his steps, thus escaping the depression of going over old ground.
The general movement of revival of interest in the arts of decorative design and the allied handicrafts, with the desire to re-establish their influence in art-teaching, has been due to many causes, among which the work of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society may count as important. From the leading members of this body the London County Council Technical Educational Board, when it was face to face with the problem of organizing its new schools and its technical classes, sought advice and aid. Success has attended their schools, especially the Central School of Arts and Crafts at Morley Hall, Regent Street. The object of the school is to provide the craftsman in the various branches of decorative design with such means of improving his taste and skill as the workshop does not afford. It does not concern itself with the amateur or with theoretic drawing. The main difference in principle adopted in this school in the teaching of design is the absence of teaching design apart from handicraft. It is considered that a craftsman thoroughly acquainted with the natural capacities of his material and strictly understanding the conditions of his work, would be able, if he had any feeling or invention, to design appropriately in that material, and no designing can be good apart from a knowledge of the material in which it is intended to be carried out. It should be remembered, too, that graphic skill in representing the appearances of natural objects is one sort of skill, and the executive skill of the craftsman in working out his design, say in wood or metal, is quite another. It follows that the works of drawing or design made by the craftsman would be of quite a different character from a pictorial drawing, and might be quite simple and abstract, while clear and accurate. The training for the pictorial artist and for the craftsman would, therefore, naturally be different.
The character of the art-teaching adopted in any country must of course depend upon the dominant conception of art and its function and purpose. If we regard it as an idle accomplishment for the leisured few, its methods will be amateurish and superficial. If we regard art as an important factor in education, as a language of the intelligence, as an indispensable companion to literature, we shall favour systematic study and a training in the power of direct expression by means of line. We shall value the symbolic drawing of early civilizations like the Egyptian, and symbolic art generally, and in the history of decorative art we shall find the true accompaniment and illustration of human history itself. From this point of view we shall value the acquisition of the power of drawing for the purpose of presenting and explaining the facts and forms of nature. Drawing will be the