In 1963, just prior to my last issue as editor of Athene, I was invited by Elliot Eisner, editor the American journal Studies in Art Education to contribute an article on the state of art education in England to an international edition with similar contributions from France, Germany, Australia, Egypt and Pakistan – to be published in Washington by the National Art Education Association (NAEA) the following year.

The account that I gave at that time refers to a moment of history in which English education in general was undergoing radical structural changes and my contribution therefore became a critical commentary on those changes as well as an account of their effect on art education. Although, like certain other contents of this website, the essay was written fifty years ago, it can be said that the structural changes discussed in it remain largely in place today. And though they have been tweaked from time to time by social or political interests, they still provide the infrastructure for a curriculum that also remains largely in place, though more liberal and enhanced, of course, by technological advances that were unimaginable in 1964.

However, from that moment onwards, equally as influential as such structural and technological innovation, was the beginning of an actual revolution within the philosophy of art itself, set afoot as the second half of the century began, by the discovery, of Marcel Duchamp’s “pictorial nominalism,” as illustrated by his so-called “Ready-Mades” which were just then being taken seriously after almost half a century. This late recognition of the Duchamp phenomenon, indeed, was only brought about when those friends, with whom his life’s work had been stored, made it public on their deaths in the early 1950s through bequests to Yale University, the Museum of Modern Art and the Philadelphia Museum. It is thus almost certain that the challenge to aesthetics that Duchamp’s works engendered, was to prompt the interest of such philosophers as Morris Weitz, George Dickie, and the early Arthur Danto, who a few years later began to argue that “Art” is an “open concept” with no “necessary and sufficient conditions” that need be filled in order to establish a work within it. Indeed, this (the so-called “Institutional Theory of Art”) was so well established by 1964 that Weitz was even quoted in the same issue of Studies in Art Education as the essay below; and though it cannot be said that art teachers knew much of it, even then, the ground beneath them was being paved with the new philosophy while at the same time the most influential artists of the period had begun responding to Duchamp with actual works—works that were discussed increasingly in the glossy art magazines. Thus it was that an international revolution in the philosophy and practice of art took place which was slowly to trickle down into the educational system of the Western world in the form of “happenings,” “performance art,” “minimalism,” “conceptual art” and so forth—marking the end of Modernism almost before the educational system had begun to teach it, and pointing towards the polymorphous “pluralism” of today’s Post-Modern situation.

* This essay conforms with American orthography.


Art In English Education Now


Theoretically, teachers in England are free to teach what they like and how they like, although examinations external to the school in fact very much influence the matter of their lessons. Teachers are responsible only to the head of the institution in which they work, who is in turn responsible to the county education authority; but this authority makes little attempt to dictate either the content or the method of instruction, or to prescribe books. Experiment and innovation from the teacher are encouraged, and inspectors, in effect, have these days become specialist advisors. The county pays the teacher’s salary in full, but is assisted in wider financial burdens by grants from the central government. (1)

Nursery schools are not plentiful, (2) and the- state school system in England begins for most children at the age of five when they join the infant section of a primary school. At the age of 11 they all leave this primary school, regardless of their attainment, and, according to the results of a public examination, are graded for attendance at either a grammar secondary school for the brightest, or a technical secondary school, or a so-called “modern” secondary for the less able 66 per cent.

There are also private schools with a better staff-pupil ratio than the state schools and with most of their pupils in residence. (3) The fees for these hover around £400 a year; otherwise, education at school level is free. Higher education is also free unless the parent earns a large income, when he is expected to contribute on a sliding scale. However, higher education is available to very few who have not attended private schools or grammar schools.

Primary Schools

The great misfortune of primary schools is that they have to contend with the transfer examination of their 11-year-old pupils. It is not difficult to imagine the conflicts which beset a liberal-minded, arts-loving head teacher who feels a responsibility to his brightest pupils to get them through this heavily competed test, or to imagine the anxiety in which the yearly drama of the exam is played out. Anxious heads are deterred from experimental approaches because of this test, even though in every other sense they are free. Inquiries show that in most schools, for instance, pupils are “streamed” according to ability long before the examination: the promise of glory sometimes excusing years of dreary cramming. Only a few primary heads run un-streamed schools. Thus, art experiences in the primary school, together with music, dance and drama, is often restricted increasingly as the child nears eleven—neighborhood pressures and inter-school rivalry covertly defeating the liberal policies that both the Ministry and county authority advocate.

This state of things has developed out of the Education Act of 1944 which brought the formerly independent grammar schools into the state system, yet totally failed to predict the clamor that was to ensue to get into them.

However, although teachers may succumb to the pressures, it is true they do so often with a good deal of guilt; for in another direction the ethos of primary education has changed considerably. Deweyism exists (however episodically) in many schools, especially among the under-nines, widening the context in which art activity can flourish and drawing warmth out of teachers who were once afraid to let it show. Many primary schools use class-teaching methods exclusively, so that lessons, which need not then he rigidly time-tabled, permit a complex of creative work at one time.

So far developments of this sort have been piecemeal, and reliant on the imagination of individual teachers, but one of the Minister’s numerous recent moves has included instructions to a Central Advisory Council, headed by Lady Plowden, to scrutinize primary education for the first time since 1933. The report which will ensue from this, together with the result of concurrent research on the desirability of streaming primary children, and measures already afoot to end the examination at age 11, should stand to develop creative education on a more coordinated basis. (4)

Secondary Schools

It might be argued that the centrally important 1944 Education Act was flawed by the patrician mentality of the government that framed it. They did not see, or if they saw they did not disapprove, that by ending the fee-paying system and awarding a formerly middle-class grammar school education only to those who might qualify, the Act would prove a social irritant. Thus the grading of children at the age of 11 became not a simple means of selecting able children, but of awarding or withdrawing social status. It also became clear that selection techniques were themselves socially loaded, perhaps inevitably, in favor of the middle class child. Saddest of all came the realization that children assigned to the new “modern” schools mostly left at age 15, having no incentive to remain.

So pressure for the ending of the so-called “eleven-plus” examination has come not only from liberal educationalists in the primary schools, but from growing public concern about the effects of the secondary system in general. One answer has been to build very large “comprehensive” secondary schools which offer courses at all ability levels and to which all the children of a neighborhood go automatically (5). Another has been to get even nearer to America with “high schools” and “colleges.”

But many counties have not yet made a move at all, and, meantime, the “secondary modern” schools, that were set up to develop nonacademic talents of the less able child through a liberal curriculum, have abandoned their original non-examination role and increasingly plan courses to enter pupils for the same leaving examinations as the grammar schools—neglecting a majority for the sake of the few who show promise. However, the minimum school-leaving age is being raised in 1968 to sixteen and through yet another committee, the Beloe Committee, the Minister intends to introduce a leaving exam which will give a sense of purpose to the nonacademic child. London has already instituted its own version of this exam, the art section of which is sweepingly original in the way it eliminates anxiety from the test situation.

Thus to detail specific aspects of art teaching in the “secondary modern” or the “secondary grammar school” is to arrive rather tardily on the scene. Briefly, after the 1944 Act, art was to have had a prominent place in the secondary modern school, and, as a new generation of teachers replaced the old guard of pre-war days, this policy had some success—even where it was not fully understood. But the failure of these schools must in part be explained by the failure of teachers to meet the opportunities for creative education which were undoubtedly given them. A less revolutionary aim was allotted the grammar school. Grammar schools inherit 700 years of a tradition which is highly resistant to change, and are bent on gaining entry for their pupils to universities which, because of the honors degree system, prefer academic before studio qualifications. Few universities rate art on the same level as science or the humanities. So, even although art may be time-tabled fully for the lower half of a grammar school, it will be subscribed for among senior pupils only by those who intend to take art school training or those after a “soft option.” Even then the form of the examination to which the pupil is committed will largely restrict the scope of his activity. Yet, having said this, it must be admitted that art does gain ground in the grammar school, and four times as many pupils take art as take music in the school leaving examinations for the very reason that art is increasingly creative and, as it is taught at present, music not. Indeed, music teachers want to widen the scope of their exam for this reason.

But until university entrance demands change, little in the calendar of the grammar school will be conspicuous as a liberal, non-vocational activity. The former headmaster of Eton, after interviewing boys for a science scholarship award, remarked recently, “only one was in a class which was studying what might by stretching the term be referred to as a book.” (6) As The Times Educational Supplement pointed out then, “equal opportunity has driven leisure out of schools. Now that it is financially possible for every child who merits higher education to get it, no one can afford to miss out by reading irrelevant literature” (or, it seems, by painting pictures or making pots).

However, while schools maintain isolated specializing, there are some older schisms that show signs of amelioration. Outside direct influence of the schools, “high” culture and “mass” culture are less mutually exclusive: the young of all social levels have found a sense of style and a consumer economy in which this is articulated. Taste becomes dependent less on social class not only because of mass advertising, but through increased social mobility due to the 1944 Education Act and the breaking up of kinship patterns through mass re-housing programs. Indeed, with the first mass-media generation now entering teaching, even the age determinant of taste difference is less operative and young teachers find common ground with the children more naturally than ever before. (7)

Comprehensive Schools

It may be that if the solution to problems of secondary school selection lies in building large “comprehensive” schools, this tendency to social homogeneity will accelerate, although there is the risk (pace America), that neighborhood isolationism could appear in the big towns.

In some ways the effect of such schools on art education is already apparent. For instance, the head of an art department in one of them is better paid than anywhere else, so he gets his job under competitive conditions. A department of lavish equipment and a staff of six or so well-trained specialists is a force to be reckoned with, as well as a rich source of ideas.

It has also become apparent that through comprehensive schools the content of art education has grown. The stimulus of inter-school rivalries and the scope for spectacular exhibitions breeds a variety of inventions whose effects spread beyond the walls. Ideas come in with the new teacher fresh from the art schools’ five-year diploma course who is increasingly taken on in preference to those from training colleges (see section on teacher training below). Bauhaus type basic courses from the art schools and their ritual procedures are now beginning to appear in general education, too.

On the other hand, such schools create problems due to pupil anonymity; and the therapeutically permissive relationships that can exist through class teaching in smaller schools are barely possible. It is not surprising that contingent with the new large schools, a number of very small schools are being set up to take children whose emotional unbalance cannot cope elsewhere. (8) Indeed, art teachers may be led to ask in some cases whether the large school will prove too unsafe for certain sorts of expression to emerge at all and whether their teaching should come to rely on change and variety rather than involvement at depth over a long period. This would be the more unfortunate if it equated too well with the sometimes gimmicky ideas imported from art schools.

So, in England you will find schools where the art has a modern look: collage, constructivism, and experiments in new media are increasingly common, and there is a new daring in the various applied arts. You will find a growing emphasis on the “analytic” drawing of natural forms: shells, rocks, leaves, seedpods, feathers, and so on, which even nine-year-oIds may he found examining and recording with microscopic care, and you will find a prodigious amount of pottery and clay-work. Yet seldom will you find a child helped to realize his personal fantasy life or to develop, through painting, a deeply personal style. Lurid themes and popular iconography seldom appear—indeed, to elect for an atmosphere in which they safely might demands a therapeutic insight which pedagogic training and school administration so far seem unable to supply.

Art education in England is in a manic phase—the depression on which it has turned its back is plain for us to see in some schools still; but manic and depressive are yet two sides of the same coin—one which sooner or later, it may be hoped, we shall tender in the purchase of a “still, small voice.”


Up to the present time, grammar and technical schools have demanded graduate teachers, and the secondary modern and primary schools have been staffed by non-graduates. But, with the revolution in secondary schooling already under way, a new pattern is emerging in which these schools will demand graduates exclusively. That time is still far off, but recommendations of a recent committee under the chairmanship of Lord Robbins have included the doubling of university places by 1980 through measures which include the elevation of some teachers’ colleges to the status of a university, and the introduction of a system which for the first time will permit the training college leaver to be credited with part of a degree.

Distinctions between the graduate and non-graduate have already been blurred by a recent extension of the training college course to three years, although its entrance requirements remain lower and vocational programs are of equal importance with academic. There has been much discussion about whether this extra year should be used for more advanced academic study. It has been somewhat surprising to find that Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools, who apparently approve of the new equation of training colleges with primary schools, at the same time favor this. (9) A survey conducted among teachers by the journal Teachers’ World showed them, in contrast, favoring programs to make teachers “more mature” and to inform them better about children. It might be argued that where the arts are concerned, both aims can be furthered at the same time.

What is certain is that college tutors are too often poorly fitted to do either. Too many art lecturers have been trained in a narrow workshop tradition without academic thoroughness; too many are selected on principles of showmanship rather than range of mind. There is even some slight evidence that a candidate can be too well qualified to merit short-listing.· Art education is unknown as a discipline precisely for these reasons. Furthermore, few lecturers have taught in difficult secondary schools; most remain as far from the starker problems of urban education as they are from the complex thought of philosophers of art education. Some begin lecturing after minimal teaching experience—maybe in some private school with a high staff/student ratio. Whatever changes are to come, the training of the non-graduate in the past has been academically slack and socially unreal. Only the next generation of teachers will show us if this state of affairs is changing.

The Art College Graduate

In terms of time spent on specialist study, the teacher who comes from an art school gains enormously. He not only spends four years specializing, but does so every day of the week. Afterwards he takes a one· year professional course for an Art Teachers’ Certificate (A.T.C.) at one of the 16 centers open to “graduate” art students. This limits his scope usually to secondary level, but should he take to more general teaching, his extremely unorthodox background and long involvement with creativity may, with the right temperament, make him uniquely valuable.


So far, teachers who acquire an A.T.C. at art school have graduate status everywhere but in academic calendars, so nowhere can they register for an M.A. Only if they were to choose to start again as undergraduates, to work for a B.A., could they afterwards take up approved post-graduate work—when they would need to register under “education” or “psychology.” In some instances they might do an Academic Diploma in Education, for which a study is required, but this is way below the status of an M.A. The result is that it is left to psychologists to research art education problems from outside. (10) Thus between 1955 and 1961 only 15 theses dealing with art education were submitted for higher degrees in the whole of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

However, the reorganization of English art schools, now beginning, does involve the institution of the first general studies courses and the raising of entrance requirements to near university level. These, together with the rationalization of design courses, may succeed in raising the status of the art student to a truer graduate equivalence; and, as more rigor appears, it may be that facilities for research will also arrive. England does have a National Foundation for Educational Research and an Advisory Center for Education, already, and only recently the Gulbenkian Foundation has given £10,000 for the first research center in art education. (11) So, here again, change is on the way.

Supply of Teachers

With regard to the supply of teachers, the future is difficult to predict. Professor H. C. Dent has pointed out that there are about 400,000 people teaching in Britain (which represents one person in 25 of the population suitable to teach) and that it is extremely unlikely that competition from other directions will ever permit this proportion to change. But Britain has been no spendthrift where education is concerned, and this assessment may be over pessimistic. If the Robbins Committee, mentioned above, is heeded, or if, as seems possible, the Labor Party comes into office in the next election with its plans vastly to multiply the number of university places, perhaps Professor Dent will be proved wrong. Clearly there is room for a big increase in England’s education budget. Sir Charles Snow, for instance, revealed recently that, in America, private patronage alone donates every year four times as much to education as is spent by the government for the whole of the U.K. (12) Clearly, too, unless more training coIleges are built, the recently added third year of study will worsen the present position. England has for years been in a position of chronic teacher shortage, and many present criticisms of teaching must be mitigated by the classes of 40 and more that exist everywhere.


Art teachers in England can join two quite separate bodies: The Society for Education through Art (S.E.A.), and The National Society for Art Education (N.S.A.E.). The former, which has about 800 members (but many more subscribers to its journal Athene) is dedicated to a general educational principle and eschews matters of professional self-interest, leaving these to the National Union of Teachers. It was a tribute to the pioneering work of S.E.A. that the UNESCO International Seminar, which framed the idea of an International Society for Education through Art (I.N.S.E.A.), was held in England in 1951.

It is perhaps worth mentioning here that, ever since, S.E.A. has been hoping for the closer integration of that organization with the older Federation pour I’Education Artistique, which is rooted in Europe, and is happy that the two giants have succeeded recently in forging from their antagonistic cooperation something more durable.

Another S.E.A. contribution to the fifties was the sponsoring of a week’s conference at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1956 attended by all the progressive education societies of Britain. This saw the formation of a Joint Council for Liberal Education, to which all the societies were affiliated, and through which they coordinate their lobbying power on educational issues.

S.E.A. also organizes an annual exhibition called “Pictures for Schools” in an effort to encourage local education authorities to buy works of art. It is significant that such an institution should be necessary before public money can be spent, and sad that, although it is spent (this show’s sales are second only to those of the Royal Academy) the works are not always of highest quality. But, of course, few authorities could afford top-price artists, and people who spend public money are bold, indeed, to choose from the avant-garde.

S.E.A. runs its tiny office, its varied regional activities, its international liaisons and conferences, a bulletin, and a journal without external patronage. And like many small progressive groups, it lives optimistically in an atmosphere of frequent crisis.

N.S.A.E. is a good deal larger, but less concerned than S.E.A. with general education. It has its own academic dress and appoints “Fellows” on the approval of a written thesis; it runs local district activities and a residential annual conference which has produced in these last years some of the most accomplished papers in the field. Furthermore, N.S.A.E. is represented on most of the Minister’s committees—unlike S.E.A.—but there is more inertia in the larger organization, which represents the established, the orthodox; while S.E.A. is smaller and nimbler and more venturesome.


Larger more public aspects of art education are financed by the British Government through its direct maintenance of national museums and its distribution of meager annual sums through The Arts Council of Great Britain. The minimal size of government patronage over these last years has been a standing scandal. The National Gallery, for instance, has received less over the last ten years than at least one major American gallery gets annually, so that it is quite unable to compete in the international market, relying for its major acquisitions on pictures, from the great private collections, which may be substituted for death duties.

The function of the Arts Council is to shore up the financial structure of the performance arts and to organize traveling art exhibitions. Without its work, Britain would be an arid country indeed. Yet, until this year its reports have borne titles like “Art in the Red” and “The Struggle for Survival.” So great a dearth has there been that the Royal Festival Hall remains unfinished after 12 years, and work is only just beginning on the National Theater, the Concert Hall, the Opera House, and the new Art Gallery, which were by now to have stood with it. For instance, last year the Arts Council was granted only £1,745,000. As its secretary has pointed out, this represents one-twelfth of the money spent by the government on keeping down the price of eggs!

It must be said, however, that with limited means the Arts Council has done a vital job in its 17 years of life, not least by means of the high quality of its exhibitions. The most recent annual report lists 52 of these, most of them large, and none of which the enthusiast could afford to miss.


The current year finds higher art education in England in the final stage of an absolutely radical reform. Note has already been taken of low entrance requirements and the workshop nature of courses which till now have isolated art schools from the university and depressed their status, whilst as the ‘fifties progressed, inferiority feelings were deepened further by the awareness that England lagged behind both the United States and Europe in applied arts. Indeed, it needed only the American exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1956 to bring English art teaching to its knees. What was to he done? Certain art schools responded with attempts to reorganize teaching programs around the aesthetic fundamentalism of the Bauhaus, and their doctrinaire intensity became a focus of health-giving controversy. In the snap and crackle of the debate, one realization became clear, that the National Diploma in Design (N.D.D.), to which all art school courses led, was not framed adequately to meet the changing situation, and the central issue soon became whether this diploma should be replaced.

Instituted in 1946 in a spirit of post-war liberality, the N.D.D. had been intended, in the fine art section, to break with the old Beaux Arts regime of anatomy and perspective, and test simply drawing and painting from life and figure composition—in other words, tests which contained more objective, measurable elements were eliminated and those retained where the criterion of excellence would rest in the examiner’s sensitivity. This was all very well, before the American Exhibition called everybody’s bluff! and within a year, the government had been prevailed upon to set up a National Advisory Committee on Art Education to restore confidence; and in 1957 this committee recommended the introduction of a new diploma with higher standards, so that, by 1960, another committee under Sir William Coldstream had framed the structure of this award—now to be called the Diploma in Art and Design or Dip.A.D.

Admission requirements for this new diploma accrue in two stages, so that candidates with qualifications that might admit them to a teacher-training college below university entrance level, might add to these by attending a pre-diploma, one-year, course that could prepare them for three years of subsequent diploma study proper—a loophole being left for the student of outstanding talent to enter even without minimum qualifications, in the best spirit of English romanticism. It may he added in this respect that of the 1,600 students who entered for the N.D.D. final examination in 1960, rather less than half would have been eligible to enter this new Dip A.D. course, and even the post-graduate Royal College of Art would lose most of its students if such requirements were made of them at the present moment!

The Dip. A.D. prospectus names four broad areas of specialization: fine art, graphic design, textiles and fashion, and three-dimensional design (including product design).

Under these headings all the 30 or so courses of the old N.D.D. have been regrouped, so that where, before, the student studied only one or two narrowly extended features, he will now range over about half a dozen. Furthermore, his specialist study will stem from experience in fine art, whatever course he takes, and 15 per cent of his time will be taken up by a general course of complementary studies. Americans, for whom general study quotas amount to 50 per cent, should realize that a similar amount will be impracticable in English art schools until they become integrated with universities. (13)

The quite separate consideration of the university question made by the Robbins Committee has produced recommendations for the setting up of liberal arts colleges that will take this integration further. The intention is emphasized by the Minister’s direction that the new diploma courses may be taught only in schools specially approved, and that other art schools should turn to industrial, vocational training. In this light, yet another government committee, this one chaired by Sir John Summerson, has had the task of assessing for suitability those schools which have applied to teach the new courses. It reflects the Minister’s determination to raise the status of higher art education that, although 85 of England’s 200 art schools applied, only 29 were approved, and only four qualified to teach all four areas of study.

It might be argued that violence was necessary to break the self-perpetuating cycle of workshop training, but criticism of such a rejection has been quick to follow, especially where some parts of the country are entirely bereft. The assessment of suitability seems to be without reference to the number of graduates needed in each area of study; and many students have already completed pre-diploma courses set up by the 85 schools while applications were being reviewed, only to find now that they are debarred from going on unless they enter a savagely competed struggle.

Some voices have doubted the possibility of meaningful assessments of student work for this diploma any more than for its predecessor. It has been suggested that to differentiate between liberal and vocational is not entirely desirable, nor to elevate one at the expense of the other, while it is feared that the number of fine craftsmen will be seriously depleted.

On the other hand, since schools are free to organize courses in their own way once they have been approved, the opportunity is left open for a variety of even idiosyncratic approaches that will foster some of the more novel ideas already being developed. Also, among its virtues, the new scheme will focus the interest of the grammar schools more approvingly on higher art education and to have made some impression at that level, could, in the long run, count for much.


The Royal College of Art

The Royal College of Art is England’s main school of post-diploma studies. Its awards (Associate of the Royal College of Art and Designer of the Royal College of Art, given to fine artists and designers respectively) are regarded popularly, though not academically, as higher degrees --.and its influence has been seminal to the changing scene in higher art education over the last decade.

Originally established in 1835 as a school of design, it has been reorganized drastically twice—under W. R. Lethaby in 1901, and in 1948 after it was felt to have lost sight of its original aims, which had been “in relation to industrial and commercial processes.”

The 1948 reorganization came significantly four years after the Government’s Board of Trade had established the Council of Industrial Design, (14) and credit for the changing status of the design profession must go to the part these two institutions have played—and not least to the royal College’s principal, appointed in 1948 to carry out its reorganization, Mr. Robin Darwin.

The new principal made drastic changes among his teaching staff and replaced large comprehensive departments with smaller, highly specialized ones, each with its own professor. He established a creative relationship with industry in which the college undertook research, or even tendered in the professional market, until it has now a series of major design achievements to its credit—from the restyling of diesel locomotives for British Railways to the stained glass of Coventry Cathedral and the uniforms of B.E.A. air hostesses. He negotiated new premises and higher staff salaries and instituted twice-yearly gatherings of the heads of all the regional colleges of art, as well as, rather tardily, in 1958 initiating a general studies course for the first time in the history of the college.

What endeared Darwin to many educationists, however, was his continued defense of the teaching in the Faculty of Painting, where, he claimed, it would be wrong and false to dictate in any way. He held this position against repeated criticism, maintaining that his own generation must come to terms with youth, however painfully: “It seems to me, he said, “that if an idea is genuinely valid for the young, then it is not only folly, but wickedness, in those who are older, to deny it.” Consistently forthright, he has refused, along with the staff, to take credit for the many successes of his students, except in as much as the college has provided an atmosphere in which serious work is respected.

Thus, to get into the painting school at the Royal College has meant an opportunity for the student to fashion himself as a serious artist, and in so doing to open himself to any influence that seems to beckon. Such a policy has already brought its rewards, for while some students have inevitably foundered, others, their nerve strengthened by a three-year security of tenure, have formed the vanguard of a number of lively movements.

It has been claimed that the students in the faculty of painting are the aristocrats of the Royal College, and that their wayward arrogance stands to give a perodic shot in the arm to the jaded design departments around. Such has been the intention, anyway, but, as the professor of graphic design recently pointed out, (15) where craftsmanship and skilfully reasoned calculation have lost ground in the fine arts, they have gained it in graphics, and it is interesting to observe that in certain sorts of formal painting the traffic in ideas seems to be reversed, especially where the painting school has benefited in certain instances with regard to the imagery of advertising and the popular arts.

The R.C.A. thus has advantages over London’s other “post graduate” institution, the Slade School of Fine Art – especially in the range of its applied-art departments. Perhaps for this reason the Slade figures less in the public eye, although it too has produced original younger artists. It is also the home of a sustained idiom of figurative painting in heavy impasto that is the legacy of the late David Bomberg, who may be genuinely nominated as the only teacher of recent decades to have impressed his own mark on the younger generation – though in the context of this discussion it is to be emphasized that he taught at neither the R.C.A. nor the Slade but as a highly unfashionable part-time teacher at a minor polytechnic! (16)

The Institute of Contemporary Arts

As might he expected, the overhauling of the United States has not been accomplished by the new generation entirely without prompting from the wings, and much credit for the vitality of the present scene must go to critics like Lawrence Alloway – who headed a team of self-appointed pioneer thinkers at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, where he was deputy director through the fifties. This group, calling themselves the “Independents,” were concerned with validating pop·art iconographies as early as 1952 (it is ironical therefore that this genre did not catch on in England until it arrived later on from the United States). Alloway, indeed, was the first critic to welcome American painting to Britain, and, through his writing and personal contact, to graft it onto the Royal College. His recent appointment as curator of the Guggenheim Museum in New York has considerably depressed the London scene.

It is from the l C.A. also, that extreme criticism of English design teaching has arisen. Writers like Reyner Banham have emphasized the pragmatic nature of the design process and attacked the writings of Lewis Mumford and Herbert Read as metaphysical and misleading. They have stressed what is usually ignored in design aesthetics—that mankind endows artifacts with symboIic meanings—and emphasized that it is the nature of things in a technological society to change rather than crystallize.

Such thinkers as Banham were at one with those who wished to take the design process out of the studio into the laboratory and, if necessary, to think in terms of the design of whole systems rather than single items. In England this movement has got as far as the instituting of a post-graduate, interdisciplinary course at Manchester University under Professor Denis Harper, and an applied psychology research unit at Cambridge University, to which Tomás Maldonado has accorded a leading international position. It would seem that since the Robbins Committee, as mentioned earlier, has asked for the transformation of five technological institutions into the equal of M.I.T., other developments will be forthcoming.

The “Young Contemporaries” Exhibition

The impatience of the student with his teacher has been a conspicuous feature of art training in some way ever since romanticism, but seldom have students gained more than retrospective victories. It took the Second World War to precipitate a situation where something positive could happen, by depositing in the art schools ex-service veterans of independent mind and large gratuities (G.I. Grants, in the USA). These students emancipated themselves from their tutors in one gesture. They established an annual ex-hibition of student work selected entirely by themselves. This exhibition, called “Young Contemporaries,” still appears annually in London, and by giving critics and Bond Street dealers a chance of patronage, it has functioned as a check on the worst constraints of teachers—forcing them to make judgments in the light of day, or, more intimidatingly, in the glare of Bond Street. It will he interesting, indeed, to see what part this exhibition can play in maintaining for students their emancipation during the post revolutionary period now beginning.