This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Last year the Education Committee of Geneva authorised their School of Industrial Arts to receive a certain number of West Riding art masters as external students during May and June, and fifteen art masters were sent by various West Riding education authorities. They worked in the school as students for over six weeks, and on their return, full of enthusiasm over all they had seen, they strongly recommended the County Education Committee to arrange for a loan exhibition in Yorkshire of the work of the pupils of the Geneva school. With the aid of the Leeds Education Committee this was eventually done, and the work submitted by the Geneva pupils (i) for promotion within the school, (2) for the certificate of capacity, and (3) for the diploma during 1904 was exhibited in the Leeds City Art Gallery last month.
The system of teaching and the aims of the Geneva School of Industrial Arts differ so widely from those in practice by any art school in this country, that before reviewing the exhibition it may be well to quote from the interesting statement of facts on these points made on the opening day of the exhibition, by M. Becherat Gaillard, director of the school, although it will be remembered that something has already been said in these columns on the subject by Mr. T. C. Buttertield, A.R.C.A., head of the Keighley School of Art, who was one of the band of West Riding masters who availed themselves of the generous invitation of the Geneva Education Committee.
The school is a public institution administered by the City of Geneva and the Swiss Government. It was founded in-1876. At that time the decorative and other artistic work in connection with the exterior and interior of buildings - in fact, most craft work - was carried out almost exclusively by imported French and Italian artists and workmen. Now such work is generally executed by native Switzers, who have received their training in the Geneva School, which has become the training centre from which the factories and workshops recruit their art workpeople. The aim of the school is to qualify boys and girls of the artisan or higher grade of the working-class to fill leading positions in the artistic crafts and trades. Pupils are received who have completed their fifteenth year, and they are taken through courses of training extending over four or five years, according to the particular calling for which they are fitting themselves; that is to say, the school takes picked boys and girls as they are leaving the elementary schools and teaches them to be skilled craftsmen.
The applied and practical character of the teaching at the School of Industrial Arts distinguishes it from the School of Fine Art, and also from the schools which concern themselves specially with the teaching of Decorative Art. These latter schools give particular attention to theoretical teaching, while the School of Industrial Arts directs the attention of its pupils exclusively to the practical side, without, however, allowing them to neglect the studies of design, modelling, and composition, which, of course, are indispensable in the pursuit of any artistic craft. Students are required to follow theoretical and practical courses simultaneously, spending daily four to five hours in the art rooms, and four to five hours in the workshops. They are thus kept to the constant exercise of hand and brain, and, finally, are sent out into the world armed as breadwinners. At the same time if the pupil develops an unmistakable bent for the fine arts, the school does nothing to repress it; on the contrary, it encourages it, and a pupil of talent will be helped in his living so that he may be free to win his way to success as a painter or sculptor.
The school is a happy combination of school and workshop, where the students are practically apprentices, paying no premium, receiving no pay, and turning out excellent work under the direction of experts. All materials, even to marble, silver and gold, are supplied to them free of charge. The articles produced, however, become the property of the school, and the sale of them is a source of revenue.
As has been said before, the aims of the school differ entirely from those of any of our English schools of art. There is no preponderance of immature students acting as a drag on the class work; no dilettanteism, no attendance merely to pass time, the single endeavour being to teach and learn some art-trade or craft in the most complete manner possible. Complete and saleable work is insisted on in every department; nothing sketchy or unfinished is allowed to pass muster. Every trained student can command his price in the market, and on leaving the school can at once earn a fair salary. The course of study is conceived in a broad spirit, and it is recognised that no art-worker can give satisfaction unless he has had a good training in all the branches of art bearing on his craft. Specialists, who have devoted their lives to one craft or subject and are thorough masters of it, are employed as teachers; the idea being that one man can only teach one subject.
The school costs the City of Geneva upwards of 40,000 for building and equipment. It costs roughly about .£5,000 a year to maintain, of which one-half is provided by the State and one-half by the city. The school is free, not only to the inhabitants of Geneva but also to those coming from other parts of Switzerland, and even from foreign countries. This principle of providing free education throughout, in order that no gifted boy or girl may he prevented, through want of means, from fully developing his or her artistic abilities, has long obtained in Geneva, and has doubtless contributed hugely to the industrial prosperity of the noble little Republic. The school has 150 pupils between the ages of fifteen and twenty. The departments of work are decorative painting, figure drawing from life, figure modelling from life, modelling course (ornament), painting and enamelling, stone carving and wood carving, metal chasing and repousse, casting from life (figure and plant forms), and from ornamental and artistic ironwork.