Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Histories of Art and Design Education: Collected Essays

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Histories of Art and Design Education: Collected Essays

Article excerpt

Histories of Art and Design Education: Collected Essays M. Romans, (Ed.). (2005). Bristol, UK; Portland, OR: Intellect Books. 243 pages. ISBN: 1-84150-131-X.

Reviewed by Mary Ann Stankiewicz

The Pennsylvania State University

At first glance, the term "new history" (Burke, 1992) may seem like an oxymoron, a self-contradicting phrase. Interest in historical research in art education is cyclical; thus, each generation of art educators rediscovers, re-evaluates, and rewrites the field. Books published in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s (Efland, 1990; Logan, 1955; Macdonald, 1970/2004) reflected the ideology of art education for particular generations of English-speaking art educators. Romans (2004) describes his essay collection as continuing the re-evaluation of art education's history, positioning his book within the new history movement which, during the late 20th century, moved beyond politics, war, and great people to analyze structures of everyday life and the social constructions we take for reality from the perspectives of ordinary people. Most chapters in Histories of Art and Design Education were originally published in the British Journal of Art and Design Education between 1986 and 1999. The chapters in Section Two, both written by the editor, are, with the introduction, original contributions. The question to be asked is what, today, is new about these histories.

The 14 essays are divided, according to the table of contents, into six sections. Essays in section One examine 19th-century drawing manuals from contrasting perspectives of technology and human experience. Cardoso surveys 19th-century British drawing manuals as technologies for broadening visual literacy, while Korzenik describes American drawing books as means to refine visual judgment from agricultural applications to picture making. Differences in the authors' points of view are most apparent when one compares the images illustrating each article. Cardoso's illustrations lead us from models of heads and figures, derived from the academic education of the artist; through shaded drawings of machine parts and common objects, similar in their reliance on geometric form; to line drawings of conventionalized plant forms and tree branches. He compares a line drawing of household objects, including a bonnet, with a fully shaded orthographic projection (working drawing) of a steam engine to point out gender and class fragmentation in later drawing manuals. Korzenik, on the other hand, displays covers of three drawing books from her collection, now at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. These manuals picture children as users of drawing, capable of expressing patriotism, of combining drawing with school studies and play, and of seeing theoretical perspective in their environment.

In section Two, chapters 3 and 4 examine motives and rationales for public art and design education in Britain. Drawing on his 1998 dissertation, Romans argues that standard interpretations of British drawing instruction as an economic necessity for manufacturing interests directed by the state at working class youth ignore both extensive early 19th-century discussions of taste and the complexities of social class. Romans points out that taste served two masters: first, to guide "consumerism in the interests of an expanding capitalist economy" (p. 46), and second, to control public behavior. His focus on taste, against the traditional interpretation of drawing instruction for economic productivity, seems to miss the larger possibility that increasing industrial production and renewing consumer desire are two sides of one capitalist coin. Workers with improved taste were expected to be easier to control, more orderly in their work, and eager to emulate genteel models of consumption in dieir leisure.

Both chapters in section Three come from John Swift's extensive research on the Birmingham Art School. Chapter 5 examines how Birmingham's art school functioned more effectively when a growing, local, philanthropic power-base granted it some degree of independence from the central management characteristic of British art education in the South Kensington era. …

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