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Slade School of Fine Art


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London. A training school for artists founded in 1871 as part of University College London. It is named after the art collector Felix Slade (1788–1868), who in his will endowed chairs of fine art at the universities of London, Oxford, and Cambridge. At Oxford and Cambridge the Slade professorships involve only the giving of lectures for a general audience (many distinguished art historians have held the posts), but in London (where Slade also endowed six scholarships) the college authorities added to his gift by voting money to fund a teaching institution giving practical instruction in painting and graphic art (and from 1893 sculpture). The first Slade professor was Sir Edward Poynter, 1871–5. His successors have been: Alphonse Legros, 1876–92; Frederick Brown, 1892–1917; Henry Tonks, 1918–30; Randolph Schwabe, 1930–48; Sir William Coldstream, 1949–75; Sir Lawrence Gowing, 1975–85; Patrick George, 1985–7; Bernard Cohen, 1988–2000; and John Aiken, from 2000. Poynter introduced the French system of working direct from the living model at an early stage and so founded the tradition of outstanding draughtsmanship that came to characterize the Slade. It rapidly took over from the Royal Academy (where the teaching was considered arid and academic) as the country's leading art school and had its finest period during the long professorship of Brown, the heyday lasting from about 1895 until the outbreak of the First World War. The most influential figure was probably Tonks, the ex-surgeon, originally employed to teach anatomy. His students included some of the most illustrious names in 20th-century British art—among them David Bomberg, Mark Gertler, Spencer Gore, Duncan Grant, Augustus and Gwen John, Wyndham Lewis, Matthew Smith, Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson, William Orpen, Stanley Spencer, and Edward Wadsworth. After the war the Royal College of Art began to rival the Slade in importance and it went through a fairly quiet period in the 1930s and 1940s under Schwabe, followed by a resurgence under Coldstream. He brought with him the influence of the Euston Road School and a kind of painting and drawing dependent on measurement and close observation. This became identified as a particular feature of Slade painting, the measurement marks left visible on the canvas in the work of artists such as Euan Uglow being seen by detractors as something of a mannerism. Apart from the professors themselves, many other distinguished artists have taught at the Slade, including Philip Steer, who was on the staff from 1893 to 1930, and Reg Butler, who taught sculpture from 1951 to 1980. Lectures in art history were first given in 1890, and Roger Fry was among the leading critics and scholars who have delivered them. In 1960 a course in the study of film was introduced and a professorship in the subject was established in 1967. A centre for electronic media was established in 1994. The school is still in its original location, part of the main building of the college, built in 1827–9, but an extension was completed in 1995.


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