International Journal of Art & Design Education

Living in the Past: Some Revisionist Thoughts on the Historiography of Art and Design Education

Volume 23.3   2004



There is a ‘dominant’ history of art and design education in Britain. This has been established by five books published in the 1960s and 1970s. They are Quentin Bell’s The Schools of Design (1963), Gordon Sutton’s Artisan or Artist? (1967), Richard Carline’s Draw They Must (1968), Stuart Macdonald’s The History and Philosophy of Art Education (1970), and Clive Ashwin’s Art Education: documents and policies 1768-1975 (1975). They all offer a substantially corroborative account of the history of art and design education based on their predecessor. This is particularly evident in their explanation of the origin of public art and design education in Britain in the early nineteenth century. After a gap of thirty years Stuart Macdonald’s book is to be republished. The news is a cause for celebration but also for concern, in that its reappearance may well further entrench the dominance of the collective voice of these five books. In an attempt to keep historical research alive and kicking in the field of art and design education, this paper challenges the explanation offered by these authors for the introduction of public art and design education in the 1830s.