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Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Slade School of Fine Arts

Slade graduate Jenny Saville in her London studio.
Second only to London's Royal Academy of Art, and quite possibly its equal academically, the Slade School of Fine Arts I find keeps popping up in many biographical discourses on English artists. The institution is world-renowned and year after year is ranked as the UK's top art and design schools. Founded in 1868-71, for nearly 150 years it has served the British lower and middle classes as a frugal counterpart to the more elite (and much more expensive) Royal Academy. Its faculty over the years has often read like a "Who's Who" of outstanding British artists. I started researching the Slade by checking out the number of artists I've written about over the years who were Slade alumni. As the list grew to more than a dozen names it became too ungainly to handle in a text format. So, below, I've created a list with internal links to the more notable ones.

Slade School of Fine Arts, University College London.
A sampling of Slade alumni:

1. Dora Carrington
2.  Robert Fawcett (Famous Artists School)
3.  Duncan Grant
4.  Richard Hamilton (early Pop Artist)
5.  Augustus John
6.  John Luke (muralist)
7.  Paul Nash (combat artist)
8.  Paula Rego
9.  Sir Stanley Spencer (painter)
10. Euan Uglow (portrait artist)
11.  Edward Wadsworth (Dazzle Ships)
12.  Henry Scott Tuke (male figures)
13. John Collier (portraits)
14. William Orpen (war artist)
15. Jenny Saville (figural artist)

Self-portraits of Slade Alumni down through the years.
A wealthy lawyer and philanthropist, Felix Slade, is credited with having founded the school, though for the most part he merely provided the pounds sterling leaving it to the academic sorts to actually get the project off the ground. Slade endowed the school that today bears his name with funds to support three faculty "chairs" (and presumably paid the salaries of instructors to sit in them) at Oxford University in Cambridge and University College in London. To make sure there were students to teach, he also bequeathed funds for six student scholarship when he died.

A women's painting class at Slade ca. 1881
Slade alumni Robert Fawcett
wrote a whole series of books
 On the Art of Drawing.
Over the years, past instructors have included Henry Tonks, Wilson Steer, Randolph Schwabe, William Coldstream, Andrew Forge, Lucian Freud, Phyllida Barlow, John Hilliard, Bruce McLean, and Alfred Gerrard, some of them having been Slade alumni themselves. Two of its most important periods at Slade were immed-iately before, and immediately after, the turn of the 20th-century, described by Henry Tonks as its two "crises of brilliance." The first included the students Augustus John, William Orpen, and Percy Wyndham Lewis. The second such group of brilliant artists included students Dora Carrington, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, C.R.W. Nevinson, and Sir Stanley Spencer.

Men in a Cove, by Slade alumni, Henry John Tuke
Dazzle Ship in Dry-dock,
1919, Edward Wadsworth
During the early 1900s, the noted surgeon, Henry Tonks, became a draw-ing instructor at Slade, and something of a legend as well, having a weathering instructional demeanor that sometimes sent weaker students fleeing his class-room in tears. A former student recalled years later: "Once I witnessed an odd scene. A new student had come into the Antique Room, a very tall, heavy man, in private life an amateur boxer. He sat as others did on a low seat near the floor, doing his untutored best to render the cast in front of him. Tonks, from his great height, bent over him and said cuttingly, 'I suppose you think you can draw.' The student collected himself, rose slowly to an even greater height than Tonks and, looking down, replied with suppressed fury (but perfect justice), 'If I thought I could draw, I shouldn't come here, should I?" Tonks had nothing to say, and left the room'."

Below I've posted a collection of exceptional work by some of Slade's most outstanding alumni:

Dora Carrington--surrealist painting

Lady Godiva, 1898, John Collier

Tanks, 1917, watercolor, William Orpen


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