Foundation of the School - System of Reform Inaugurated - High Standard of Work Required - Success of the Women Students - Surroundings of the School - Working Arrangements for the Classes - Fees - Lectureships - Scholarships and Prizes - The College Hall for Resident, Pupils.
In consequence of Mr. Felix Slade's munificent bequest for the founding of professorships for the study of the fine arts at University College, London, with a further sum for the special endowment of several annual scholarships, a committee of the college authorities decided to vote 5,000 for the building of the Slade School of Art. This now forms one side of the college quadrangle, and was opened on October 2, 1871. Sir Edward Poynder, as first Slade professor in London, was in the chair.
The opening of the school was an epoch-making event for ambitious art students. At the time the manufacture of elaborately stippled drawings from the antique were still in vogue at most schools of art, and a new generation of brilliant young artists, aglow with pre-raphaelite fervour, were clamouring for reform in the existing methods of instruction.
The substitution of a short for a long period of work in the Antique Room, before admission to the Life Class, formed the basis of the system of reform inaugurated by the Slade School. The work, moreover, with a single important modification - the abandonment of the Sculpture Class - remains to-day m all essentials the original scheme mapped out by Mr. Edwin Field, and organised by Sir Edward Poynder.
While the training given at the Slade School is essentially non-academic it is searching and thorough. Among the professors there is a constant effort to meet the changes of idea animating the students, both by varying the scope of subjects set for the monthly compositions, and for the prize pictures, and by modifying and alternating, from time to time, various other regulations.
Teaching at the Slade during the regime of Professor Brown, both in the Life Class, and in the Composition Classes, aims primarily at a highly trained direct view of nature. This is supported by a study of the methods employed by former painters. The attitude of its students towards the Old Masters is, in consequence, rather one of love for and familiarity with their work than the distant and awed admiration accorded by the average art student.
Women students have always done well at the Slade School, and some of the finest prize pictures on the walls are the products of a feminine brush. On several occasions women have carried off one or other of the awards offered for the best picture or pictures of the year - for sometimes the prize is divided - in open competition with the men students. In 1897 Mrs. Hall Clarke (then Miss Edna Waugh) took the second prize for her brilliantly executed water-colour depicting the "Rape of the Sabine Women," and she has since done full credit to the Slade School training with her output of spirited and delightful drawings.
In 1902 the first prize was taken by Miss M. A. Wilson for her picture "The Musicians," and in 1903 it fell to Miss B. B. Whateley, the subject being "The Good Samaritan." In 1906 Miss E. Proby-adams divided the first prize with a
The Arts masculine competitor for a fine rendering of " Mammon," and in 1908 the much-coveted prize was won by Miss Winifred Phillip.
The pictures for the most part are carried out on the large scale which befits the important nature of the subjects set, the present rule as to size for a prize competition being " not less than four feet by three feet."
The subject for the prize picture is given out at least six months in advance. Thus students have plenty of time to plan out their ideas before the summer holidays, when the pictures, as a rule, are painted.
This year the subject set was " Jephtha's Daughter," and several of the pictures sent in for competition, and hanging ready to be judged in one of the studios, showed much daring originality of treatment. The picture which subsequently won the prize showed an astonishing knowledge of anatomy.
The prize offered amounts to about 40 in money, and in addition the winner has the glory of being numbered amongst those whose prize pictures, painted in former years, adorn the walls of the staircase and corridors.
While it is impossible in such a school of art as the Slade to give any official attention to landscape painting, students are encouraged both by Professor Brown and his staff to bring any landscape work done in the holidays for criticism, and they also ar ange that the Composition Classes shall include one landscape subject each month, when holiday work is eligible for competition.
The set subjects for January, 1911, consist of Special Figure. Figure. Animal. Landscape. Lear Cursing his Daughters. Hooligans. Captivity. Open.
The sketches, which must be marked only with the member's number, are hung up round one of the studios, and criticised by Professor Brown or Assistant-professor Tonks, and prizes are awarded. A special Melville-nettleship prize of the value of £3 I0s. is bestowed annually upon the student who submits the best set of three sketches which have been executed, and have received marks during the year.
The surroundings of the Slade School are delightful. In the centre of the quadrangle lie wide-spreading green turfed lawns bordered with trees and flower-beds, and surrounded by a broad, stone-flagged walk, where a large number of girl art-students, clad in workmanlike painting overalls of various soft artistic hues, may be seen strolling together on sunny days during the breaks which occur in the class-rooms while the models rest.
Inside, the building is a very fine one; the studios are magnificently lighted, and very airy. The Woman's Life Room and the Antique Room - the only one in which men and women students work together - are both very large, and capable of accommodating immense classes. Smaller studios are provided for painting from the head or costume model.