I keep having a look at the old pictures of the Slade School of Fine Art staff and students, digitised as part of the Slade Archive Project. If you ever went to the Slade, please have a look and contribute any information you can. The article in The Guardian explains a bit more about what they are trying to find out through the project, including the Slade’s influence on, or relationship with, art in other parts of the world.
I did not got to the Slade but dimly recall that some of the people who taught me did, or the people who taught them did. I keep thinking that it would be fascinating to try to map my own artistic influences, relationships and ancestry.
One of my art teachers at school studied at King’s College, Durham University (in Newcastle upon Tyne) at around the time it was changing into the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Victor Pasmore taught there, and influenced art and design teaching in higher education, taking inspiration from the Bauhaus School. Richard Hamilton, who produced one of the earliest pop art works, also taught at Newcastle at the time.
I think that one of my tutors on the pre-degree foundation course possibly studied at Chelsea School of Art in the early 1950s. I remember her mentioning that Elizabeth Frink was a fellow student (we had been saying that we were not keen on Frink’s work).
I swapped degree courses so studied both on a fine art degree course and a history of modern art, design and film course. One of the fine art lecturers had been taught by Sir Jacob Epstein. At least two or three of my first degree art history lecturers studied at the Courtauld Institute for their higher degrees.
As an art historian, I want to understand the influences on artists. Amongst the things I look for are the overall cultural influences of the place or places where they grew up, studied and worked. I also try to look for the people who taught them, where they had studied; the artists with whom they mixed and also where they had studied; and the exhibitions that they visited or could have seen. Influence is the vessel that carries the life blood of artistic inspiration and knowledge.
As an artist who is still struggling to find her style, I wonder if understanding my many influences would help me to express myself visually with greater clarity – or whether I should just get on with doing the work and let some future art historian work it out, if they are interested.
I think that it would be very interesting if other art schools tried to identify and trace their former students and staff. There could be some fascinating visualisations of the influence of specific art schools on art and design in different geographical locations. Then perhaps we could start looking at other factors so that we might understand better why we need art schools, and how to keep fostering creativity in the UK.