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19th Century Art Education, Industrial Art or Fine Art?

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19th Century Art Education, Industrial Art or Fine Art?

Varick Taylor

East Carolina University MAED
Art 6800 History and Philosophy of Art Education
As an art educator in the today’s public school system, I feel that it is my responsibility to introduce and allow my students to explore the arts from the past and the present. I want them to learn a variety of art making techniques and art history. I also want to prepare them for future by giving them exposure to possible career choices that utilizes the arts. Therefore I feel it is important that my art classes allow students to be exposed to both the fine arts and design fields of the 21st century. 21st century technology like 19th century industrialization has influenced art education methods. The use of technology in classes is increasing each year. We are using design software to create both designs and fine art assignments on computers. In the 19th century, industrialization was one of the most important reasons why art became a part of public school education. Government leaders and the industry wanted America to able to compete with the superior European imports. As a result they felt that requiring drawing as a subject in public schools would help the U.S. in competing with Europe and balance trade. Knowing how much they wanted America to produce better products, I was puzzled when the Massacusetts did not model its art education after the France, whom was considered the best in producing superior product designs. Instead the American art education system was modeled after the British and German education systems. So why did America choose the German influenced British art education system over the perceivably better French art education system? What changes in the art education system occur as results of industrial and society changes by the turn of the 19th century.

The industrialization of the 19th century societies had a great influence on art education. It caused split in art education. Education of the fine artist was separate from the education of artisans in most nations. France was one nation that did not separate its schooling of fine artists and artisans. Life drawing was actually considered the heart of its schools of decorative art. The schools’ industrial design studies were built upon an existing base of academic drawing. It objective was to give elementary instruction in art with a view to the improvement of French Goods. Because its artisans were trained like fine artist, the French Industry maintain a level of superiority (Macdonald, 1970, 2004). German states on the other hand, found that it was to their advantage to prepare artisans in craft schools separately from the fine art academies. Their Kunstgewerbeschule were considered trade schools that also focused on industrial application of the arts. These were the two nations that the British were looking at to model their art education after. They eventually choose the German model even though the French model produce better designers and design products. British kept using their German based model even after the Schools of Design were taken over years later by Henry Cole. In 1890s, even the German recognized the success of the French art education model that place attention on the fine art. (Smith,1996)
Now lets look at how art education became a part of the American school system. First of all how did some of our leaders view the purpose, values and goals of art education in the 18th century. Horace Mann believed that drawing could be use to train the mind for other things such as writing. Others felt art education can use to support American democratic principles. Art education can also conceive as a way to prepare students with technical skills need for the industrial society in America. Finally art education could be use to prepare immigrants for social acceptability and to adjust easily in the American industrial work environment. These viewpoints give reference to ways of showing the nature of art education in the United States in the 1800s and 1900s. They also made it plausible to seek an art education supervisor that is concerned with industrial art and who knowledge will give the program viability (Freedman & Popkewitz, n.d.).
Adapting to needs of society and labor selection were given as reasons to introduce art education in the late 1800s. So as the Industrial Revolution took place in the United States, art education became a practical subject in schools. Industrial hands needed basic artistic training. Industrialists with the help the newly formed laboring class promoted the cause of art education. Corporate leaders felts that Americans were competing under a disadvantage with European manufacturers. They felt they had to hire artisans trained in Europe. Therefore a drawing act was created so the United States could develop artisans to make American industrial products more productive (Freedman & Popkewitz, n.d.).
Since the United States art education beginnings is tied closely with British 19th century art education, I will like to take a look at British art education and how it played a role in the American art education. British’s Royal Academy of Arts was established in 1768. It was intended to have a School of Design, but only taught academic painting and sculpture. Shortcoming of British arts and craft as seen at international trade fairs lead to the opening of the Normal School of Design in 1837. This school was to train teachers of artisans and it was noted for avoiding the fine arts. Other schools of designs were later opened with the help of the British government. Things really changed in 1851 at the World Exposition at Hyde Park, London. It was there that the British realized their artisans lacked the skills and artistic training of other European nations (Wygant, 1983). It was evident that the drawing method taught at the Beaux Arts and the French ateliers were superior to the British Royal Academy's methods. It was then that Henry Cole established elementary drawing schools and more design schools with the purpose of improving the manufacture of arts and crafts. Its design schools consisted of a 4 year program that was usually organized into 23 stages, with ten in drawing, seven in painting, four in modeling and two in design. Programs similar to Cole’s system were general throughout Britain by 1854. Also in 1854, students and students were encouraged to take drawing examination, which teachers were compensated upon completing it. These efforts were taken with the intent of improving the quality of English arts and industrial designs. By 1867 British schooling and industrial drawing had improved and it was evident at Paris Exposition in that year. By 1872, there were 122 design schools in operation.
Economics factors after the Civil War lead to industrial drawing being pushed in the United States. Art education was first introduced in the United States when Horace Mann, William Bentley Fowle, Amos Alcott, Rembrant Peale and Henry Barnard introduced the practical educational drawing methods of German, Swiss and British. All these men visited Europe and became intrigued with educational methods used in Britain and the German States. They especially Mann prepared the groundwork for Walter Smith, a British instructor who very instrumental in the beginning of our art education (Macdonald,1970, 2004).
By 1867, England's products have improved dramatically and America came to the realization that they were still lagging behind. As a result, Charles Callahan Perkins and John Dudley Philbrick begin to formulate a plan for the introduction of industrial drawing into Boston schools (History of art education 1851-1870: important figures, n.d.). Thus art education in public school began three years later when Massachusetts passed an act requiring drawing to be one of the subjects taught in public school. This act also established drawing classes for adult in all towns with over 10,000 people. The purpose of requiring the teaching of drawing was to train artisans and designers for American industries so can compete with international industries. There was an urgent need for the training artisans because American industrial products were considered inferior by design when compared European products(Kern, n.d.).
When Charles Perkins asked Henry Cole for a recommendation for a candidate for director of drawing for Boston public schools, he chose Walter Smith. Therefore Walter Smith was given the title Massachusetts Art Education Supervisor and Director of Drawing for Boston Public Schools. He was also the first principal of the Massachusetts State Normal Art School, which was claimed to be the first public school of art in the United States. Smith whom was a student of Henry Cole’s system and educator from South Keningston school, brought an strong industrial drawing background and. He strongly believed that anyone who can learn to write can learn to draw, and that drawing is easily to learn than writing. He did not want to children to make artistic pictures. He believed they should learn to draw by copying outlines from manuals and learn mechanical drawing theories. The passion for drawing from real objects rather Smith’s copying exercise later rose with Kindergarten Movement and Oswego Normal School‘s object teaching methods (Macdonald,1970, 2004).
As the State art supervisor, Smith planned to supervise the development of evening drawing classes, develop skills of teachers to teach drawing and improve the instruction in drawing at the Normal Schools. As Director of Drawing for Boston Public Schools, Smith create a plan of study for all grades that will be taught uniformly to all students. He also wanted to have plan of study to be coordinated with programs in both evening classes and teacher prep classes. He also had to convince the industrial leaders and the public that his system and its educational content was what they needed.
Smith’s plan of study was probably the most complete and documented art education program that was dedicated to preparing students for industrial society of 19th century. Art studies in the primary and grammar schools consists having four kinds of drawing activities that usually involve the same forms, concepts and technical problems. He wanted the activities to be complementary techniques for teaching the designated weekly lesson. Freehand drawing, dictation/memory drawing, design, model/object drawing, geometric drawing and perspective drawing were kinds of drawing activities taught at the primary and grammar grades. Theses activities last about 30 minutes each and was given once a week. Primary and grammar students were in class for two hours per week, which was the same weekly class period as high school students. The high school program lasted three years and students were required to have two hour weekly lessons. The subjects in the first two years consist of perspective, model/object drawing, freehand analysis of botanical forms/decorative styles and applied design where students use freehand analysis to plan their decorations. The final year subjects were historic ornaments, light and shade, color and applied design rendered in color. Students were also taught coloring with watercolor washes in the final year. High School unlike primary and grammar school uses specialist teachers, who were also used to supervised the regular education teachers who were teaching art in all grade levels (Wygant, 1983).
Under Smith’ s leadership, the State Normal Art School was known for having a greater industrial bias than the British schools. The school was claimed to a training school with the purpose of qualifying teachers and technical drawing masters. Smith also known for following the French system of mechanical drawing because he orthographic projections of furniture, machines and buildings instead of the cones, cubs and cylinders used in British schools. That was another reason why he was chosen, because he was familiar with France, Belgium and German teaching methods. He was noted for including the best elements of those nations along with South Keningston system (Macdonald,1970, 2004). His program consisted of 4 year long courses. The first course was elementary drawing and the second course was form, color and industrial design. The third course was constructive arts and the final course was sculpture and design in the round (Wygant, 1983). Some argued that Smith’s industrial based educational system was driving art education away from contemporary movements in American Art. Some also argued that industrial drawing did nothing to prepare students for an understanding of the world of nor the heritage of art (The history of art education time line 1870-1879, n.d.). As society and the industries were changing throughtout the last quarter of 1800s, so was art education. There were number of movements and changes. The Oswego Movement started by Edward Austin Sheldon also gain national and international acclaim with use of his methodology called “object teaching. Behind the theory of object teaching is the notion that education should develop all the powers of the child. This method employs the use of tangible and visual objects such as charts and blocks, to help the development of the child's senses. This method was praised by many of the prominent educators and some felt it could be most widely approved new method of teaching. Object teaching still had it doubters. Even the Oswego Board of Education was critical of it. Hermann Krusi, one of Oswego teachers, coined it “objective teaching” and stated the lessons do not connect with each other. Others felt the method will do away with textbooks (Wygant, 1983).
When Sheldon founded the Oswego Normal and Training School in 1861, his integration of subject matter and art was the focus of the Oswego movement and led “Totally Integrated Curriculum” being implemented in their elementary teacher training. He incorporated the Prussian Normal School, Pestalozzi’s object teaching, Herbart lesson planning, Frobel’s Kindergarten, Sloyd’s manual training, Rousseau and Della Vos’s manual training philsophies the Oswego school curriculum. Industrial art became a major focus of the school as the manual training developed in the school. This movement relegated the fine arts to virtual nonexistence in the school. This shift in focus at schools also lead to growth and development of the “applied arts” in schools (Stark, n.d.).
Industrial drawing as the initial step toward practical education but it being included did not mark a change in the general purpose of common schools. A change did not really occur until Manual Training came about in the 1880s. The Manual training Movement became the method to answer the educational problems caused by the Industrial Revolution. Manual training in elementary schools was an educational experiment conducted in 1882 to determine the feasibility of teaching manual training in elementary schools. This training was a manual method of teaching a subject with emphasis on drawing, modeling and form study. After 1887, manual training had developed quickly in elementary schools throughout the nation. The 19th century manual training programs have developed into some of industrial art programs of the 20th century. The development of manual training programs was influenced by the Russian manual training system, Sloyd system, arts & craft movement, vocational and industrial movements (Ambury, (n.d.).
The Russian system was a formalized manual training system based on the principle of logical method of procedures where exercises were assigned in order of increasing difficulty. The teaching method had three stages: study of tools & materials, acquisition of skills in assembling materials under study and construction of the project. Freehand and mechanical drawings were emphasis in Russian manual training. This method of education provided little chance of self expression or chances of individual differences.
Sloyd was an individual method of instruction that uses a series of models. It was noted for growing in difficulty and complexity that the students were supposed to accurately reproduce without interference from the teacher. This method encourages student initiatives and self-direction. The sloyd system was more suitable for needs and interest of elementary students. American educators eventually make two changes to Sloyd system: a course in drawing and improvement in the design of the model. Sloyd also placed more emphasis on the study of form with use of the models. This cause the students be involved in judging shape and proportion rather than the testing of tools. It also stimulated greater student interest with it offering of a variety of models, exercises and tools.
The arts and crafts movement which originated in England also had an influence over manual training program. This movement started out as a protest against poor craftsmanship and to correct the wrongs of the Industrial Revolution. This movement placed an emphasis of aesthetic/creative side of the work instead of the skill side as stressed in Russian and Sloyd system. The movement intent was to have design to be an important part of the training process like was in the Renaissance. It also stressed the importance of industrial drawing and a variety of decorative work. The ultimate goal of this movement was producing work of a more artistic nature that was better adapted to the interest of the student ( Roberts, 1965).
The arts and craft movement produced five societies that were intended to promote artistic craftsmanship in England’s industrial arts. It was also during this movement that design studies became foundation course in the designer curriculum at some of the design schools in England. This movement eventually occurred in America, and the focus shifts from industry to furniture making, ceramics, china painting and needlework. This eventually lead to wood making, ceramics and other arts & crafts being taught in American schools. Women are highly employed at this time and find great success working in furniture and ceramic production. Even though this movement fail to change productive processes, it did help the taste. 1882 was the year that manual training educational experiment took place. It was also the year that a movement to beautify the school through reproduced art images took place. This movement was called Picture Study. It was known for promoting art appreciation and aiming to develop the ability to discern what is tasteful. Technology made this movement possible with reproductions of the Renaissance and later European artwork that usually had a moral message. This movement was really helpful for immigrant students who were more visually literate than they were in English. This movement also helped aesthetics to become a subject with its being used as a way to provide moral educations for the large number of immigrant students. Henry Turner Bailey, whom initiated this movement, wrote many books dedicated to picture study with poetic responses to works of art, often extolling the nature beauty represented in the work. The picture study movement also provided assistance to unskilled teacher by providing info such as the picture’s representational content, artist info. This provided material enable all teachers to able present the information to their class and develop their students ability to appreciate art (The picture study movement, before 1930, n.d.).
Smith concept of industrial drawing for children dominated the American art education until the end of the 1800s. With influences from Friedrich Froebel kindergarten movement and later the efforts of Arthur Wesley Dow, art education was drifting from industrial design towards more creative and aesthetic values (Macdonald,1970, 2004). Women who were the primary supporters of Froebel, expressed that ideas and gifts of the kindergarten movement provided a foundation for industrial education. This is one of the reasons why it was place in the Boston schools in 1870. The kindergarten movement was noted for stimulating imagination and self expression. As I stated earlier, this movement along with practices at Oswego Normal School led a trend of drawing from real objects. It started out as drawing from geometrical solid to drawing from all types of solid models. Object drawing was noted for improving a student perception of form, space and structure of objects. Kindergarten along with the help of progressive educators like Arthur Dow and Denman Ross, art education had changed to a more aesthetic and expressive for students by the turn of the century.
Art Education around the turn of the century had reached a characteristic equipoise between the society, the individual and subject matter of study. The emergence of individualism was a general throughout the century but individualism in the culture was not fully evident in art until the appearance of new art styles following Impressionism. The public’s attitude about art and art in schools changed throughout the nineteenth century. By the turn of the century the public had accepted art and was ready for it to bring culture to America and its school (Wygant, 1983). There was also another change in art education. Educators wanted to separate the fine arts from industrial arts in school curriculum. It had expanded its scope. It was not just drawings of geometric solid and household utensils. There was also self-expression, composition, 3d modeling, construction, home decorations, art history and aesthetic education. The fine media changed from just slate and pencils to chalk, inks, paints, colored paper, clay and lastly wax crayons. Media for the manual arts moved from paper cards to photo-lithography, four color printing, stereopticon projections and picture study.
Industry and society also played a part in getting industrial drawing into schools. The United States population moved from forty million to seventy-six million between 1870 to 1900. One third of the new population were immigrants. Manufacturing jobs and production had increased dramatically. New products and technology changed the way people lived. This led to a push for vocational education. All these changes were not good. During this time the work of artisans was not the same as it was earlier in the century. The new technology and assembly lines did replaced watchmakers with some who made the wheel of a watch. Workers only needed to know how to follow instructions and perform simple, repetitive tasks. These skills had little to do with practical education in industrial drawing. This meant manual workers were artisans to some degree, which it what Arts & Crafts movement protested against. Progressive educators were arguing for instilling “industrial intelligence” in students instead of manual skills. Many were pushing to move art education from manual skills to self expression. These changes in art education at the turn of the century were a reaction to vocationalism and the fragmented, alienating conditions of industrial society (Wygant, 1983).
In conclusion, I believed American art education came about as way to train artisans with the most important purpose of producing better commercial products. In other words, art education was a way to compete with Europe and to balance trade. Now the adoption of Smith’s German influenced British methods were the results of friends doing another friend a favor. The high regards and attitudes of the French could also play a part in America not adopting their method. Amercian leaders did not want to risk American artisans to develop the same arrogant attitudes that the French were known for during this time. Smith’s methods were praised and successful in the beginning. But as time past and need of true artisans diminished, art education experience changes as the result of several movement. At the turn of the century, art education was more than just drawing technically. There were more fine arts and aesthetics in art curriculums.


F. Wygant, (1983) . Art in American schools in the nineteenth century. Cincinnati:Interwood Press
Freedman, K., & Popkewitz, T.S. (n.d.). Art education and the development of academy: the ideological origins of curriculum theory. In B. Wilson, and H. Hoffa(Eds.), The History of art education: proceedings from penn state conference (pp. 19-27)

Stark, G. K. (n.d.). The oswego movement 1861-1903 (education in art). In B. Wilson, and H. Hoffa(Eds.), The History of art education: proceedings from penn state conference (pp. 138-148)

Kern E.J., (n.d.) The purpose of art education in the united states from 1870 to 1980. In B. Wilson, and H. Hoffa(Eds.), The History of art education: proceedings from penn state conference (pp.40-49 )

Ambury P.M., (n.d.). Culture for the masses: art education and progressive reforms, 880-1917. In D. Soucy, M. A. Stankiewcz (Eds.), Framing the past:essays on art education (pp. 103- 114 ) Reston:The National Art Education Association
Macdonald, S. (1970, 2004). America Import of cole’s system. In Macdonald S., The history and philosophy of art education. (pp 253-262) Cambridge:The Lutterworth Press

Smith, P. (1996), The history of american art education:learning about art in american schools. Connecticut, London: Greenwood Press

Roberts, R.W. (1965). Vocational and practical arts education: history, development, and principles 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row

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