‘Lessons from Objects’: a Museum of Art and Design

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download


D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects: a Museum of Art and Design By the beginning of the 20th century Manchester School of Art had a purpose-built museum and a collection of historical and modern art and design which, amongst the provincial schools of art, gave it a unique status; only South Kensington could surpass its provision. It is no longer possible to savour the excitement of this influential collection; but the history of its formation and demise, its character and purpose, provides an interesting and perhaps timely reminder of the merits of an art and design training which chose to emphasise the importance of studying the history of the fine and decorative arts through subject analysis, with the past and present set side by side, unified in principle and purpose. A study of the course of events provides an insight into issues of far more than local importance. It illuminates some of the central concerns of schools of art over the past century, such as the arts and crafts concept, the influ- Journal of Art &Design Education Vol 3, No 2, 1984 Watercolour by William Hunt (1859): donated to Manchester School of Art Museum by John Ruskin. 215 D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects FACING PAGE Above Textile Court, Manchester School of Art: served as an all purpose gallery, with ceramics, metalwork and stained-glass cartoons sharing the space with both ancient and contemporary textiles. Below Gothic Court: looking across the central Textile Court towards the Renaissance Court. The latter is now a lecture theatre, while the Gothic Court, after a period as the College Library is now returned to an exhibition space for the original collection. ence of the Bauhaus and approaches to design for industry; and, above all, the relationship between the theory and practice of art and design. While the roots of the collection lie in the original foundation of the Manchester School of Design in 1837, the then limited accommodation in the Royal Institution, and the ever present financial struggle for survival, provided little opportunity to consider any schemes other than those of immediate pertinence. As far as the collection was concerned, this meant that attention was almost entirely devoted to the acquisition of classroom examples to illustrate the concept of art for industry and the applied arts. Thoughts of a permanent museum could only remain a dream, that is, until the last two decades of the nineteenth century. From the outset the School had been supported by some dedicated and generous benefactors. While it was still necessary on occasions to appeal for increased funds from local industry, the good relationship with particular manufacturers, many of them engaged in calico printing, proved crucial to the Schools survival. With the day to day requirements taking priority, the earliest acquisitions concentrated on drawing examples, particu- larly of textiles, although occasional treasures were added. For example, in 1847, James Thomson, outstanding among the early patrons, had a set of chalk drawings of antique Roman ornament executed in Italy specially for the School; in February 1859, John Ruskin gave a water-colour drawing by William Hunt, and, in 1867, Thomas Agnew gave five original drawings by Mul- ready. It is possible to see how the collection reflected the underlying principles of contemporary art education theory, but even so it was an erratic development. However, when the 1878 plan for the new building for the School of Art was published, it included a designated exhibition space, as well as provision for further exhibition extensions, to be built when additional funds became available. Anticipating this move, W. J. Muckley used his head- masters report in 1880 to promote a new and extended role for the School. It was to be established on the existing traditions, indeed it would do much to re-emphasise their importance, but it would also grasp the opportunity to make a new and radical contribution to the community. The New School may, to a great extent, be made an Art Gallery for the education of all who join its classes, whether engaged in Art proper, or Industrial Art.. . . Inexpensive cabinets might be fitted up in various parts of the School, to contain objects which may be presented, or perhaps purchased as opportunity offered. The large Exhibition Room of the building might always be used for this purpose, and objects, judiciously collected and placed in it, might form the nucleus of a more complete and appropriate Museum for Manchester in time to come. A selection of the Decorative Textile Works from Persia 216 21 7 D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects and India ought to be acquired at once to hang in frames on the walls of the New School.. . . These designs may not always suit the taste of the present, but as time goes on, and when the population becomes more cultivated in Art mat- ters, they will certainly become duly recognised and appre- ciated, and they would form the basis of education for the future designers of this country. The opening exhibition in April 1881, reflected something of this policy, including objects of art from India, lent by the Authorities of South Kensington, and numerous objects of Modern Ceramic and Metal Work, as well as a small but very valuable Collection of Paintings. In certain respects it antici- pated the future exhibition policy, with its mixture of local and national loans, oriental, historical and modern exhibits of fine and decorative art. Muckley was particularly concerned about modern design practice, suggesting that local textile firms should supply the School with contemporary examples of industrial and decorative art. Unfortunately no record or examples have sur- vived to indicate the success of his appeal. As there was still no purchase fund, the collection continued to develop in a fortuitous, although not an inappropriate manner. Of those items acquired in the 188Os, the most signifi- cant contributions were a collection of patterns of Carpets, Hangings, Calico Prints and Wall Papers, designed by Mr William Morris, and executed by Messrs Morris & Co given by Mr C. P. Scott in 1884, and supplemented the following year with further examples of textiles and paper-hangings. In 1886 there was an array of gifts, Dried Alpine Flowers and four Japanese Books, a collection of engravings, Pun Pipes (illustrated and given by Walter Crane) and Keats poem Endymion illus- trated by E. J. Poynter. Such acquisitions ensured that, with the loan collections from the City Art Gallery and South Kensing- ton, the School was able to maintain a varied range of temporary exhibitions. The decision to include space for further building extensions was a demonstration of optimism that few could have expected to be justified for some considerable time. However, as events turned out, within the space of a decade the foresight was to be rewarded. The opportunity came as a direct result of the Man- Chester Jubilee Exhibition of 1887. Along with the rest of the country, Manchester celebrated the Queens Jubilee, and it did so with such skill and on such a scale that extraordinarily large profits were accumulated. In pursuance of its intention of put- ting it to use for the community, the Executive Committee was able to offer a gift of S10,OOO for the erection and equipment of a wing upon land adjoining the School of Art. The donation was readily accepted in December 1889, but it was the Summer of 1896 before the Technical Instruction Committee was able to announce that the money would be used to erect a building suitable for the purpose of a Museum of the Arts and Crafts, to be devoted mainly to the display of 218 (a) casts of Architecture and of monumental Art; (b) a collection illustrating, either by original examples or by good copies, some of the best obtainable designs in the chief branches of Art workmanship; (c) a selection from the valuable Bock collection of textiles belonging to the City. In this way the students of the School of Art, for whom the Museum is primarily intended, will have the advantage of imme- diate access to accredited examples of form, colour, design and workmanship. When the museum was opened by the Lord Mayor on the 28 October 1898, it possessed a Textile Court, Italian Court and a Gothic Court, as well as an increasingly impressive range of contemporary art and craft work, and examples of oriental art workmanship. The linkway, with its Axminster carpet, J. Sparrow stained glass and terracotta decoration, led directly from the original school building into the textile court which, measur- ing some 68 x 40, formed the centre stem of a T shaped plan. On either side there was open access to the side galleries and two side courts. The ample top lights were supplemented by electric lights to allow for evening work, and the basement rooms provided both teaching and storage space. Museum Extension 1896-98 k l t o l i o n Cour t 0 . I T e x t i l e Cour t I Goth i c 0 . Court School of A r t , 1880-81 -t- S t r e e t E n t r a n c e Plan of the museum at its opening in 1898. D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects Some four years before the official opening of the museum, the initial steps had been taken to develop the School collection into a teaching museum. Earthenware by William de Morgan, 219 D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects assorted metal work from William A. S. Benson & Co, were purchased in 1894; two Walter Crane designs for earthenware by Maw & Co, and further items from de Morgan in 1895; and in October 1896, for a total of over 5112, a range of metalwork and ceramics from the Arts and Crafts Society, Essex House. These supplemented the Morris work already in the collection, and in particular his masterpiece of late 19th century art workmanship, the Adoration of the Magi tapestry, which Councillor William Simpson, calico printer, had commissioned for the School. Without doubt it was the presence of Walter Crane which helped to reinforce the Schools commitment to the ideals of the arts and crafts movement. Appointed as the Director of Design, a post which he held from 1893 to 1897, he was the Schools celebrity, and for a salary of 5600 per annum, he paid teaching visits to the School for one week of each month. At the same time, working on the general principle that copies of good quality work were better than third-rate originals, the School determinedly set about meeting its academic obligations by assembling an extensive collection of reproductions of historical examples. The importance attached to this section of the Museum is well illustrated by the size of its budget. In 1895, 576 was spent on electrotypes from Elkingtons; two years later, in an extraordinary spending spree, the School laid out 5555 on casts of Mediaeval sculpture and architectural decorations, 542 on reproductions from the Louvre and Sevres Museum, 5280 on copies of Italian Renaissance sculpture, and 562 on ceramics from Cantigalli. The encyclopaedic character of the Museum was completed when, for some 5250, the committee purchased copies and original examples of Japanese, Persian, Moorish and Chinese art objects, of which the Japanese lacquer work and wall carvings, acquired 1896-7, are perhaps the outstanding examples. The quality of these existing collections acted as a stimulus to any interested local patron. William Simpson gave a marble Byzantine water vessel from Venice in August 1900; Charles P. Scott added to his earlier generosity in July 1900 with the donation of ancient Egyptian textiles and a Kurdestan carpet, and Sir Edward Donner gave three cartoons for stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones; Noah, Adoration of the Kings and Reception into Paradise. This particular gift inspired the School to expand this area of study examples. In the same year, 1901, the School paid 570 for three cartoons, St Paul, The Great Shepherd and Moses, by one of its famous ex-students, Frederic James Shields. Photographic reproductions of Shields work for the Chapel of the Ascension, Bayswater, were pur- chased in 1905 and 1906, while in 1912, three cartoons by Shields were acquired along with two by Ford Madox Brown and one by Burne-Jones from Charles Rowley. The remaining examples of cartoons and stained glass came from the local craftsman W. J. Pearce, the Northern Art Workers Guild, and the Fine Arts Society, London. The arrangement of the Textile 220 Byzantine Water Vessel, Venice. Clock, with oxydised silver case and cut steel frame, W. A. S. Benson & Co. The water vessel (1) was donated in 1900 by William Simpson. As the Deputy-Chairman of the school, Simpson had already demonstrated his generosity to the school with his gift of the Burne-Jones/Morris Tapestry Adoration of the Magi which can be seen hanging in its specially designed niche in the Textile Court. The clock (2) was purchased in 1903. In the same year, the school purchased a Lethaby Mantlepiece, Tiffany Glass, and American Indian artefacts from John Wanamaker, New York. Such items balanced a specialist collection of art and craft metalwork, ceramics and textiles which had been assembled over the previous decade. Court, apart from the special niche for the Morris tapestry, was subject to periodic change, for not only did it house the large- scale temporary exhibitions, it also displayed at other times, selections from the collection. In other words, textiles were complemented by ceramics, metal and stained glass, providing a centre for the comprehensive teaching of design, in contrast to the two cast courts, which perpetuated those traditions of aca- demy drawing that had been sustained by the National drawing competitions. The opportunity to maintain the purchase of contemporary art and craft work was ensured by a 5200 gift from the calico printer, John Royle, which, along with the donations of Neville Clegg, another calico printer, was to be spent at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition at the New Gallery, London in October 1899. John Royle gave a further donation in 1907, for the purchase of 22 1 D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects art and craft jewellery and silverware, while Neville Clegg presented examples of modern textiles. Between 1898 and 1908 the School purchased some 150 textile pieces, largely made up of designs by William Morris and Charles F. A. Voysey. These works, apart from their intrinsic quality as fabric designs were prime examples of the value of the association of the artist and manufacturer. Equally well repre- sented in the collection were examples of contemporary design and craftwork in glass, ceramics and metal. These included glass by George Walton, Powells of Whitefriars, Salviatis and the Tiffany Studios in New York; metalwork by W. A. S. Benson was complemented by other pieces from the Guild of Handicraft and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society; work from Wedgwoods and Doultons was purchased, but, largely due to its close association with William Burton (Manager of the Pilkington Tile and Pottery Co), the Schools collection of contemporary ceramics was dominated by an extensive range of Lancastrian Pottery. As a whole the Museum balanced specialism with eclecticism, artefact with art. Above all, it demonstrated the extent to which art and craft ideals had been set out for students, and indicated the way in which the programme of art for manufacture was capable of being reduced to a domestic and personal scale as a home industry. In total the Museum stood as a monument to the Schools commitment to the common ground of art and design, and the promotion of personal discovery and expression. From 1900 onwards, local craftsmen were provided with a series of lectures on training in the industrial arts. Following the lead of the Royal College of Art, art craftsmanship classes in stained glass, enamels, tiles, repousse, marble and wood carving, and embroidery were introduced in September 1903. As atten- dance at these classes was only open to students who also attended a drawing, painting or modelling class, the interests of art and craft were simultaneously protected. It would be easy, but in part unfair, to criticise the collection for its limited representation of design for industrial practice, or for its preoccupation with the needs of the middle class students, for the necessity to balance Government grants with income from fees was an ever-present problem. However, on balance, it was a major success for the region. It firmly established and enhanced the status of the School at both national and interna- tional level. The collection and the museum facilities became a focal point of the School, its activities being truly comprehensive and accessible to all sections of the community. In providing a study source for day and evening students, the policy was to bring together the permanent collection with loans and travelling exhibitions, and to introduce the work of major artist-designers through some quite exceptional retrospective exhibitions. These included, for example, exhibitions of the work of Morris, Crane, Burne-Jones and Shields. Without doubt, the School was in the vanguard of art educa- 222 tion, a reputation further enhanced by the exhibitions of student and teacher work at the major international exhibitions of the period, including St Louis, 1904, and Paris, 1914. Even so it is important to note that the school was sufficiently pragmatic to realise that its students should adapt their talents to meet the demands of the criteria set for the national art competitions, particularly those which carried scholarship awards. D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects Kettle, made in copper and brass: W. A. S. Benson & Co., purchased in the late eighteen- nineties. This characteristic pragmatism was, indeed, to bring about the first major change of directions in Museum policy. The School had always recognised its vocational responsibilities, and it was not surprising that it should respond to the changing commercial conditions of the 20th century by giving attention to the art of selling and new consumer requirements. So it was that the 1920s and 1930s saw the introduction of poster design into the collec- tion as a response to the advancing claims of commercial art. At the same time, while government-sponsored reports on design and industry considered the economic contributions of design, and re-emphasised the regional responsibilities of the art schools, Manchesters collections were augmented during the 1930s by many contemporary textiles from local firms. 223 In a period which proved to be the last major stage in the development of the collection, the Museum continued to attract local patronage. Outstanding amongst the gifts of the inter-war years were C. P. Scotts donation of oriental, coptic and ancient European textile samples in 1921, and in 1930, the L. F. Day collection, which included some 210 pieces of embroidery. In general, however, the economic and political circumstances were against the expansion of the collection, and there were no personalities capable of regenerating the enthusiasm of the late 19th century. While the development in Manchester, well illustrated by the Museum, had ensured the place of crafts in English art educa- tion, increasingly the intentions of the pioneers were seen as an artistic self-indulgence, superfluous to everyday life. The move in the 1920s and 1930s was to promote those concepts related to the everyday needs of trades and commercial usefulness. Inevit- ably the purpose of the Museum was called into question and while its continuance was not in doubt, it had to develop in such a way as to reflect the current objectives of art and design education. The social and humanitarian ideology which had so clearly prompted the patronage of the local industrialists at the turn of the century was no longer in evidence, or, perhaps more cor- rectly, it did not manifest itself in the funding of the College. As the craft interests were being overtaken by commercial and vocational concerns which stressed the values of utility and function, so the School became isolated from its traditional patrons. In view also of the developing support for an educa- tional campaign founded on an anti-decorative, anti-Victorian, anti-expressionist and indeed anti-historical dogma, it was clear that the Museum would pass through a period of extreme difficulty if it was to survive. Unfortunately, the School found it impossible to produce any revised coherent policy that would both preserve the collection and develop it in a manner reponsive to current theory. One can blame the individuals concerned, but the question remains; could the wholesale butchery of the collection during the later 1950s have been avoided in the atmosphere then prevailing? To what extent was this iconoclastic episode a reflection of the new views on art and design practise? The taxing of the Schools resources in the 1940s and early 1950s meant that the preservation and presentation of the collec- tion, placed in store during the war years, was given a very low priority. At the same time the then principal John M. Holmes, ex-teacher of the Architectural Association, active DIA member and enthusiast for the principles of Bauhaus teaching, intro- duced in September 1940, a six months preliminary Basic Design course for all students in the School. In this situation the collection never regained its central position in the life of the School. Yet if such teaching was, as widely claimed, in direct line of descent from the ideas propounded by William Morris and D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects FACING PAGE Above Sheet from wallpaper design pattern book: Morris & Co., donated 1929. Below One of a series of eight ivory figures by Okawa: Japanese c. 1892, purchased 1897. 225 D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects the Arts and Crafts Movement, it would be paradoxical to conclude that it was the principal factor in the destruction of an art and craft collection. If it was indeed the beginning of the downfall, then it has to be considered at what stage the funda- mental misunderstanding of this history and its ideology arose; events reveal that somewhere the line had been broken. The hypothesis that merits consideration is that it was the accidental association of two quite separate issues which led ultimately to the demise of the museum. One concerned the understanding of the role of the designer; the other promoted a study of the everyday object as an integral part of design appreciation and as a way of increasing awareness of the respon- sible application of design values. In March 1946, the newly-formed Association of Art Institu- tions published a pamphlet, Art and Livelihood. The thrust of the paper was its argument that Art is an integral part of all education, education for life and education for livelihood, which gave design appreciation a central importance. The current problems were identified as being a loss of those standards of design practised in the 18th century, and the failure of the art and crafts teaching to provide a feeling for design in the wider contemporary world. For schoolchildren this meant that they were to be encourage to bring articles from home that would have a bearing on the classes, and for the art students it was to direct them away from too much theoretical and experimental work to workshop practice. A similar programme and ideology was published by the Council of Industrial Design in their Design Folios, issued in the early 1950s. The emphasis was again on design appreciation, and while there was a clear attempt to understand contemporary design within an historical setting, the anti-Victorian feeling was noticeable, either through the commentary, the illustrations, or the omission of any 19th century achievements, while in contrast the 18th century was portrayed as a period controlled by cul- tural people with an informed outlook on design. Considering that, together, these two bodies covered the full spectrum of those involved in the formulation of art and design education, it is evident that there were then few supporters of those ideals which created a collection of art and craft. Even so, while the old Manchester collection was dismantled, with casts destroyed, artefacts mislaid or broken, and the textiles removed on permanent loan, there was no compensatory build-up of a collection of contemporary design, despite the 1950s obsession with its own achievements. This, of course, was not a situation unique to Manchester, for one must ask, where is the collection of modern design in Britain? What is significant is that a museum of art and design was no longer seen as central to the education of the artist and designer. Vocational specialism was making any such concept impractical, the substantial proof of this trend being provided by a series of articles which appeared in the March issues of The Listener in 1949. 226 D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects Lithograph by Tom Purvis c. 1930. The papers of Nicholaus Pevsner, (1 7 March), Bruno Adler, (24 March) and J. L. Martin, (31 March) discussed the Bau- haus in the context of its forerunners, its time, and its influence. It was Martin, addressing himself to the issue of the Bauhaus influence who indicates the direction in which thinking had moved since the art and craft movement had made its contribu- tion to English art education. As we shaded our drawings of plaster casts it was only too easy to be aware of the separation of art and industry; so said J. L. Martin. The Bauhaus, with its emphasis on materials and experimentation, was the welcome alternative. However, since it was the product of a particular set of circumstances, Martin accepted that there was nothing to be gained from taking the Bauhaus as a blueprint for any new institutional develop- 227 D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects ment. It was the Bauhauss fundamental ideals which interested him, and in this respect he felt that it provided a lesson in the value of the partnership of the artist and craftsman, and not the common citizenship of the art and craft ideal. While it was seen that the Bauhaus had broken the mould of the training of the artist, it would seem that the identities of the fine artist and the designer remained distinct. In the projected association of art and industry the artist was seen as the spiritual counterpart of the craft technician. In the hierarchy of esteem, design work was placed somewhere between first-rate and second-rate painting. It was an argument that confirmed an established separation of art and design, reinforcing the demands of the vocational lobby. Art education was inexorably mov- ing towards specialisation, away from the unity of the arts movement, the work of the artist-craftsman and the industrial designer. Contrary to what might be expected, it was the new breed of industrial designers who, in practice, were closer to the educa- tional idealism of Crane, Voysey and their contemporaries. Admittedly they did not require the professional traditions of the decorative arts, and therefore had little to gain from any museum of art and craft; but while they were closer to the commercial practice of the 19th century than to the arts and crafts move- ment, they nevertheless embraced the same spirit of flexibility and creative individuality as that found in the arts and crafts, and used it as the foundation of their work. It is a link that has been ignored or unappreciated, largely because of the overriding commercial objectives of so much American industrial design, and partly because such work was seen as vulgar ostentation, too close to the 19th century values of design to be appreciated by a generation beguiled by eighteenth century taste. One of the most illuminating introductions to this brash alternative came in a Time article, 31 October 1949, on the American industrial designer Raymond Loewy. Beginning with his portrait on the front cover, the American public were intro- duced to a day in his life, which commenced when a Loewy designed alarm clock tinkled at 7.00 a.m. turning him out into a world filled with the products of his night and day dreaming. In his black, beige and bronze bathroom, with its motif of Nubian slaves, he plugged in his Loewy-designed Schick electric razor, used a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste he had modelled for Pepsodent, tore off the wrapper he had designed for Lux Soap. Even the expensively tailored great suit he put on was his own snugly fitting creation. And so it went on throughout the day, Loewy designing liners, cars; success born of the 1920s and 1930s depression, and leading to Loewys recognition as one of the men who streamlines the sales curve-the prettiest curve of all. With 143 staff, and a $3,000,000 group income, he was deliberately ostentatious, and seen as a product of himself. Unmistakenly he put art in its place, it was an artifact. Instead of scattering his considerable collection of modern art ( Picasso, 228 Miro and Matisse) about the room, he hung them all frame-to- frame on one wall, and used a big Dufy as a hinged cover to conceal his television set which is built into the wall. As a gesture it was closer to the traditions which had been absorbed and generated by the arts and crafts and extended by De Stijl into the practice of the Bauhaus at Weimar. Unfortu- nately this side of industrial design practice which emanated from America, was generally misunderstood or ignored by British designers and critics, who, for their part, saw only its obsessive commercialism. Inevitably then, as the design ap- preciation lobby turned to everyday objects, and accepted the vocationalist argument, the artists and designers fell into their traditional divisions, and museums such as the one in Man- Chester which brought together art and design, both historical and contemporary, were effectively obsolete. At first it seemed possible that the dismantling of the Museum collection was just part of that modernist cult endorsed by the then Principal, John Holden, which pursued elegant design, and personified itself as the flush-door era. Unfortunately, the reality of what I have described is far more tragic, for it was not a stylistic or aesthetic reaction, but a sectarian movement which divided artist from designer. The original creation of the Museum was a focal point, a visual manifestation of a philosophy of art education which sought no division between the present and the past or between D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects Lithograph by Tom Eckersley and Eric Lambers 1936. 229 D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects theory and practice, which stressed the unity of the arts and equality of status amongst the participants, and sought to iden- tify and promote those principles of design which inform all great works of art and design. It was the rejection of these premises which brought about the squandering of the inheri- tance. The educational climate in Manchester College of Art in the early 1950s stimulated a demand for a higher academic quality in the student applicants, and an improved academic status for the courses. With these two objectives in mind, primary importance was attached to the development of vocational training for industry, particularly the new areas of commercial design, and the organisation of a general diet of academic studies which would supply a veneer of intellectual and cultural respectability. What is most noticeable is that between these two areas of activity the student was not directed towards a study of the past traditions of art and design, or the concepts of the artist- craftsman, and consequently there was no place for the Museum and its collection in the future plans for the College. Institutions of the size of Manchester had always included library and lecturing accommodation in their lists of facilities, but now, with the Colleges new found regional status, academic provision became a priority. In 1955 one major area of space previously occupied by the collection was converted into a lecture theatre, then in 1957, the Principal reported that the library has been moved to the old Museum Studio. At the same time the main Museum Gallery was brought into the contem- porary world with a peg-board face-lift. In general, the Principal was justified in considering that his plans had anticipated many of the changes recommended by the Coldstream and Summerson reports. Yet it can now be seen that the dismantling and neglect of a collection of the quality found in Manchester School of Art not only has a particular poignancy, but also highlights a national trend which sadly culminated in the well-intentioned, yet inappropriate and signifi- cantly harmful First Report of the National Council on Art Education, 1960, known as the Coldstream Report. This report produced a blue print for art education which reinforced the division between practitioners, separated theory from practice, and, above all, strengthened the barrier between art and design history. While there is little evidence of any national move to restore the values of a common citizenship of artists and designers, the fact that, some twenty years after this episode, the remnants of the Manchester collection are now being thoughtfully handled and adequately displayed, and some attention is being given to the Museums future role and policy, is an encouraging develop- ment. It was originally established as a museum of modern design, and despite past misunderstandings it may be possible to revive the intentions of the 1880s, and to create a growing repository of examples of current design, even if the historical 2 30 scope of the collection, as then envisaged, cannot now be realised. There are signs that the design student of today, is willing to explore the association of the past and the present, to learn from the examples provided by previous generations of designers. Unfortunately the full benefits of such an experience will only be realised if all institutions involved in design educa- tion show a willingness to return to those values which origi- nated the Manchester collection of design. As the art galleries and museums for the most part are little concerned with contem- porary design, the educational establishments should take it upon themselves to ensure its preservation and accessibility for study, to the advantage of the artist and designer, the public at large and the historians of the future. D A V I D J E R E M I A H Lessons from Objects 231


View more >