Explore Your Archive: Women in the Arts

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Our archives tell the story of the role the Art Schools played in women education.

David Haste, Artist, and ex staff member of the Kent Institute of the Art and Design, and soon to be author of the ‘Art Schools of Kent’ provides general contextual information related to women in Art Schools:

‘Art Schools were first established as Design Schools in the 1840s…they were an immediate attraction to middle class women, particularly so when it was still commonly believed that art was a luxury in education permissible for girls, but quite unnecessary for boys’ – David Haste

‘The Art Schools were important in teaching training. Elementary school teachers were predominantly female and they attended art schools to obtain a proliferation of certificates by which their salary was judged. Towards the end of the 19th century art school were teaching a range of crafts and these like much else carried gender identities. “Masculine craft skills” [were] technical drawing, print furniture etc…”feminine craft skills” [were] needle crafts…embroidery, tapestry, dress/costume design ’-David Haste

Here we focus on Epsom and Ewell Technical Institute and School of Art

19th century
Courses included in the 1896 and 1897 prospectuses were: Shorthand, Drawing, Carpentry, Home Nursing, Cookery and French. Late 19th century, Cookery

1920s
Due to lack of Secondary School provision, the Surrey County Council proposed that the Technical Institute should be used temporarily as a secondary school for girls providing accommodation for 160 pupils from September 1921.
Images of women at work in the art school on both the 1921, and 1925 prospectuses suggest the popularity of Art Schools for women.
The timetables were Art Classes, Millinery, English, Cookery, Shorthand (theory and speed), French, Typewriting and Office Routine

Women's Art Class, 1919-1920

1925-1926 prospectus

1930s
In classes in the 1932 prospectuses ‘the Cookery and Dressmaking classes are recommended to those interested in Domestic Subjects’, while ‘for boys and young men there are carefully arranged classes that should prove of great value. Their attention is also drawn to the instruction given in Interior Decoration, Architectural Design, Geometry and Perspective in the Art School’.
While Cookery and Domestic classes are not specifically designated for women here, Industrial Classes are specifically highlighted for males
The 1937 prospectus offers courses in Life Wood, General Engraving and Art , Illustration, Elementary Drawing and General Life Subjects, Shop Window Display, Dress Design, Crafts and General Art Subjects. There are no specific classes for males and females

1932-33 prospectus

1950s
Domestic and Cookery classes have no mention here. The 1953 prospectus offers National Diploma in Design, Dress Subjects, Graphic and Advertising Design, Painting, Sculpture and Pottery, and Industrial Crafts
There are no specific classes for males and females, although teachers within Dress and Design are all female. There are, however, also women teaching on the Industrial Crafts course

1960s
There are no specific classes for males and females. Classes are Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, Design and Crafts, Dress Design, and Graphic Design

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