Thursday, 3 February 2011

Art in Scottish Schools



In the 1920s and 1930s there was considerable debate about the use of art in schools in Scotland. The artists Jessie King, E. A. Taylor, Tom Whalen, John Maxwell, Robert Heriot Westwater and Alexander Inglis, for example, all produced work for new schools. Those of Tom Whalen and John Maxwell are the best known, the former producing 'Mother and Child/The Bath', a bronze fountain group, for Bernard Widdows' Prestonfield Primary School (1935), and the latter 'Neighbourhood Scenes' for Ebenezer MacRae's Craigmillar Primary School (1935). These two important pieces are extant. The fate of the other early Scottish school artworks is shrouded in mystery - it would be excellent if someone could let us know of their survival or otherwise, and their appearance. I have a couple of grainy newspaper pictures of Westwater's extremely interesting 'Alice in Wonderland' mural at Wardie School (1936) and Alexander Inglis' 'Scenes from Children's Tales' (1939), and some contemporary reviews of these, but very little else.
What I do know is that there were murals at 'Knowetop Special School', Motherwell (1928) and Edinburgh Royal High School Junior School Lunch Hall (1935); that E.A. Taylor and Jessie King produced murals for Larkhall School, Drumpark Special School, Mossend Primary School (Bellshill) and Machanhill School, all in Lanarkshire (1920s) - seemingly on floral, the cycles of the day, seasons and Arthurian subjects (I seem to recall at least one or two of King's murals being located in a Lanarkshire authority art repository - possibly at Coatbridge or Cumbernauld); and Tom Pow produced another King Arthur mural for Musselburgh Grammar School (1939). Patrick Geddes was influential in getting the movement going at the start of the twentieth century, and, apparently, Milton House Board School in Edinburgh was decorated with murals, as was St Peter's RC School, Falcon Drive, Edinburgh (interestingly, by John Duncan, 1912, and on nursery rhymes). Any clues as to the existence, history or look of these or any other major artworks in Scottish schools post-1872 would be much appreciated.

2 comments:

Catherine said...

I assume you might know about the ceramic murals by Robert Stewart who was the Head of the Design School at the Glasgow School of Art. He produced a number of public ceramic murals but the school ones were at the Douglas Academy, Milngavie; Glendaruel and Kilmodan Primary School, Argyle; Adelphi Street School, Gorbals; and Eastwood High School, Newton Mearns. There are picture and more information in Robert Stewart: Design 1946-95 by Liz Stewart published by the Glasgow School of Art Press.
Regards
Catherine Davis

Jeremy said...

Many thanks Catherine. Your comment is really valuable. I wasn't aware of the Stewart murals. And I've now got hold of Liz Arthur's book. The four works are treasures! They say so much... I'm/we're in your debt - and I'm now on their trail.
Best wishes
Jeremy