The Victorian Art School documents the history of the art school in the nineteenth century, from its origins in South Kensington to its proliferation through the major industrial centres of Britain. Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art, together with earlier examples in Manchester and Birmingham demonstrate an unprecedented concern for the provision of plentiful light and air amidst the pollution of the Victorian city. As theories of design education and local governance converged, they also reveal the struggle of the provincial city for cultural independence from the capital.
Examining innovations in the use of new technologies and approaches in the design of these buildings, The Victorian Art School offers a unique and explicitly environmental reading of the Victorian city. It examines how art schools complemented civic ‘Improvement’ programmes, their contribution to the evolution of art pedagogy, the tensions that arose between the provincial schools and the capital, and the role they would play in reimagining the relationship between art and public life in a rapidly transforming society.
The architects of these buildings synthesised the potential of art with the perfection of the internal environment, indelibly shaping the future cultural life of Britain.