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William Richard Lethaby (1857—1931) educationist and architect

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Art-Workers' Guild


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Central School of Arts and Crafts

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(established 1896)

This important art school was established by London County Council in 1896 ‘to encourage the industrial application of decorative art’, an aim that was developed strongly by its first principal, architect, educator, and conservationist William R. Lethaby (appointed jointly with the sculptor George Frampton) in the years leading up to the First World War. Lethaby was in sole charge from 1900 to 1912, during which period the school moved to new, purpose‐built buildings in Southampton Row and saw the organization of a curriculum that emphasized an understanding of materials and workshop‐based experience at the hands of professional designers. Many of the first generation of staff were drawn from the membership of the Art Workers' Guild and their practice‐centred approach marked a distinct break from the generally prevalent drawing‐based education offered elsewhere. In 1912 Fred Burridge succeeded Lethaby as principal, with the expanded school centred upon five major departments that included furniture, printing, and silver and goldsmithing. Printing and book design in particular had a distinguished profile, with Edward Johnston (from 1899 to 1912), J. H. Mason (from 1905 to 1940), and Douglas Cockerell amongst its earlier appointments to the staff, with students of the stature of Eric Gill and Neil Rooke. In the 1930s the Central took on a greater commitment to industrial design education with the establishment of a course on Design for Light Industry in 1938. This direction was developed further after 1945 by a graduate of the Department of Metal Studies (1926–29), Douglas Scott, who established a systematic industrial design curriculum. This emphasis on design contributed to the shift in title of the institution away from its initial attachment to ‘arts and crafts’ to a designation as Central School of Art and Design in 1966. The school's principal William Johnston had initiated a number of changes in the post‐war years with shifts in the design curriculum, including textiles, theatre, and ceramics. Other developments took place alongside educational changes resulting from the National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design as well as expansion. In January 1986 the school became a constitutent college of the newly formed London Institute, a bringing together as a single federated body by the Inner London Education Authority of all the major art, fashion, printing, and other design‐related disciplines under its control. In 1989 it merged with the St Martin's School of Art, becoming Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design. It is now a constituent college of the London University of the Arts.

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