As part of the First World War Centenary (1914-1918) we are looking at the impact World War had on art, including art education, through our archives.
While we hold records of all our founder art schools of the University for the Creative Arts, there are gaps within our records that cover the first world war period – Epsom School of Art holds records of 1889, and then there are no more records until 1919- one year after the end world war – a mystery! Paper and and art materials would have indeed be in very short supply within the war period.
However, we can look at the aftermaths of the first world war, and the impact it had on art school education, and particularly women in art school education. Art schools gave women the opportunity to learn.
David Haste, Artist, and ex staff member of the Kent Institute of the Art and Design, and 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 original government approved art schools were ostensibly established to train artisans and create designers for manufacturing industries. Few middle class women were attracted to industry…but respectable young women’ going to art school to learn how to draw …was openly encouraged’ – David Haste
However the number of women in art school education was even more marked after the First World War, which is hardly surprising given the males conscription and lives lost within the war
‘The gender balance in art schools were usually even 50/50, but given the impact of the war by the 1920s/30s female students were in the majority’-David Haste, Author of Art Schools of Kent
This is highlighted by the image of a female of the front page of the 1919-1920 prospectus