Special Collections: Arts Pedagogy

William Benson (1868) Principles of the Science of Colour (GSA Library, Special Collections)

The Glasgow Government School of Design first opened its doors on 6 January 1845 at 12 Ingram Street. It was one of a nationwide network of schools of design, established by Government to arrest a perceived decline in the design and aesthetic standards of the nation’s manufactured output. The provincial schools generally offered a curriculum set down centrally by the Department of Science and Art in South Kensington, London. Lessons included elementary drawing, shading from the flat, shading from casts, chiaroscuro painting, colouring, figure drawing from the flat, figure drawing from the round, painting the figure, geometrical drawing, perspective, and modelling. From 1853 this pattern of courses had been standardised at 23 stages, which, as the National Course of Instruction, became the established curriculum that all Government Schools of Design were expected to follow.

Many of the books purchased by Glasgow School of Art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were designed to support this highly didactic curriculum. Today they shed an important light on positivist modes of art teaching and how these differ from today’s more constructivist pedagogies.

Our Pattern & Ornament Collection also contains volumes of decorative motifs that designers were expected to study and copy as part of their training.

GSA Pedagogies

The collection includes a number of volumes published by influential GSA tutors and students of the past, in which they outline their pedagogical approaches and techniques for others. It was once common for GSA lecturers to publish teaching manifestos in this way, and today these volumes provide an invaluable insight into the pedagogical approaches that were conceived and nourished within the context of early Glasgow School of Art. Tutors represented in the Library’s Arts Pedagogy collection include:

  • Anne Knox Arthur (textiles and needlecraft)
  • John Leslie Auld (jewellery and silversmithing)
  • Georges-Marie Baltus (painting)
  • Robert Anning Bell (stained glass)
  • Ailsa Craig (lettering)
  • Peter Wylie Davidson (leather and metalwork)
  • Jean Delville (painting)
  • David Bennet Dobson (building construction)
  • James Morton Dunlop (anatomy)
  • John Arnold Fleming (ceramics)
  • Charles Gourlay (building construction)
  • Ann Macbeth (textiles and needlecraft)
  • Thomas Callender Campbell Mackie (pattern)
  • Iain Macnab (life drawing)
  • Kathleen Mann (textiles)
  • John O’Connor (printmaking)
  • George William Lennox Paterson (printmaking)
  • Hannah Frew Paterson (textiles)
  • Margaret Swanson (textiles and needlecraft)
  • Charles Heath Wilson (aesthetics)
  • Kathleen Whyte (textiles)
  • Henry Taylor Wyse (crafts)

Archive material relating to many of these individuals is also available for consultation in GSA Archives.

Textiles and Needlecraft

The collection is particularly strong in books on textile and cloth design. Since its opening in 1845, The Glasgow School of Art has had a rich tradition of textile teaching, design and production. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the School aimed to train local designers to produce patterns for the textile industry in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. Needlework was one of the first technical subjects taught at the School from 1892. In 1894 Jessie Newbery (1864-1948) became the first head of the department and encouraged her students to study historical designs and textiles in order to understand different embroidery techniques and to use these items as a source of inspiration for the development of new original work. In 1908, Ann Macbeth became the head of the Needlework and Embroidery Section, and subsequently wrote many books on textile teaching and techniques. This tradition continued throughout the twentieth century, during which time the School also developed courses in textile printing, weave and knit. The Arts Pedagogy collection includes books on the history, manufacture and design of textiles in all their forms.

Publications relating to the Needlework Development Scheme, as well as material relating to the School’s teaching of textiles, is available for consultation in GSA Archives.

Colour Studies

The collection is also strong in nineteenth and early twentieth century treatises on the newly developing science of colour and light analysis, with volumes by Chevreul, Munsell, Ishihara, Carpenter, Church, Littlejohns, Rood, Benson, Merimee, Ostwald, Ward and others. Such volumes shed an important light on the interrelations of art and science, so often considered separate today but heavily entwined in nineteenth century approaches to art education.

Anatomy & Life-Drawing

Bernardino Genga (1691) Anatomia per Uso et Intelligenza del Disegno (GSA Mackintosh Library, Arts Pedagogy Collection)

Drawing of models and the study of anatomy were key requirements in the painting and drawing courses. Some students, such as Jessie M. King, studied anatomy at medical college before arriving at GSA. Once here, students were encouraged to draw from life, but also to copy the antique plaster casts held by the School. James Morton Dunlop taught Antique and Anatomy classes at GSA, and wrote a guide for students which proved highly popular and was published in many editions. Several folios were purchased for the Library’s collections, each illustrating human or animal anatomy in large-format engravings. Chief among these is a volume from 1691 by Bernardino Genga, and a 1528 volume by Albrecht Durer. The latter is the oldest book across all Library collections.

Information on the GSA plaster casts is also available for consultation in GSA Archives.

Further Strengths

The collection is also strong in:

  • Aesthetics
  • Architecture
  • Building construction
  • Ceramics
  • Drawing
  • Geometry
  • Lettering
  • Metalwork
  • Pattern
  • Perspective

Digital Volumes

We have digitised a selection of volumes from this collection, which you can view online or download.