Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education

Perspective - The 1880's - 1900-1920, "Composition" - 1900-1920, 'School Arts' - 1900-1920, Art Education Associations - 1900-1920, Art Education in the Museum of Art - 1900-1920, The Modernists - 1914-1920, War and Post War - 1920's, Progressive Education - 1920's-1930's, Professional Stabilization - 1930's, Museum Education during the Depression - 1930's, National Government in Art - 1940's, A Psychology and Philosophy for Art Education

Notes from: Logan, Frederick M . Growth of Art in American Schools, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955.

Growth of Art
in American Schools

The Years 1900-1920, "School" Arts

"'The Applied Arts Book' . . . . . . . . The teacher subscribers, or Guild members, found there "An Approved Outline for September Work in All Grades." It was this specific outline of what to do and how to do it which secured and held a large professional following . . . . "

The world of the big cities, the factories, and the railway lines was ugly in all its forms, was wholly cut off from the arts, in the opinion of Henry Turner Bailey . . . . a graduate of the Massachusetts Normal Art school. He had been State Agent for the Promotion of Industrial Drawing in Massachusetts, and he became the first editor of the School Arts Magazine. In that capacity he was influential in art education, especially in the work of the elementary grades.

A pamphlet by him, City of Refuge,issued in 1901, is an eloquent statement of the point of view so vigorously fought by the modernists. For Bailey, art was above all a refuge, a haven for the spirit above the grime of daily existence. Teachers of art were, in Bailey's words, "blessed" because they could pass on to children the "keys to the celestial city, that dream city more real than all our New Yorks and Chicagos, to which in all ages the human spirit has looked for satisfaction," [Henry Turner Bailey, City of Refuge,Davis, 1901, p. 5]

Louis Sullivan was no more fond of Chicago or New York than was Bailey; for lyrical invective on the evils of urbanism, he was a master . . . . But Sullivan did look upon art as an instrument capable of creating great cities in the present. The apparent conviction that only medieval Florence was, or could ever be, a magnificent dwelling for the human spirit was utterly stupid in Sullivan's eyes. Art could serve democracy even better than it could the Medici's wool-growing and money-lending plutocracy. Bailey wrote: " . . . . and when the child becomes a man, though shut in a factory by day, and lodged in a city of bricks by night, he will know that Yon ridge of purple landscape, Yon sky between the walls, holds all the hidden wonders in scanty intervals. What a privilege is Ours! To free the spirit of a single child is to do a divine thing." [Henry Turner Bailey, City of Refuge,Davis, 1901, p. 18] [p. 133]

Sullivan could not believe in an art which was to exist only as a dream of beauty forbidden to waking reality. Neither could the painter John Sloan. In 1906 he painted the picture Dust Storm,a whirl of dust circling the base of the new Flatiron Building while people on the sidewalk bent their heads and clutched their hats and clothes. Down the street came one or two automobiles. Such paintings were condemned by the idealists as travesties on beauty. Now we see Sloan's painting nostalgically as a charming record of an earlier time in the history of the great city.

The artists could not see how the most characteristic aspects of their day could be ignored in the creation of contemporary arts. Huge cities, vast rail lines and yard, the factories, the laboratories, the complexities of science, the urban slums, and the huge office buildings were the dominant visual aspects of American life.

But for the first twenty years of the century, art in the schools was narrowly presented as an expression of the beautiful, beauty that was to be found only in artfully formed people, in pastoral landscapes, or in the "cities of refuge" of one's dreams of a golden past that is no more.

The Applied Arts Book first appeared in September, 1901. It was described in the foreword as the Voice of the Applied Arts Guild, and it was "Prepared under the eye of Fred H. Daniels, Guild Master, in Consultation with Henry Turner Bailey, State Agent for the Promotion of Industrial Drawing, Massachusetts, and James Hall, Supervisor of Drawing, Springfield, Massachusetts; Guild Craftsmen." [Applied Arts Guild,The Applied Arts Book,September, 1901, p. 5 ] . . . . "Membership in the Guild involves the promise of perpetual interest in the coming of Beauty into life and the annual subscription of one dollar for the Applied Arts Book." . . . . The teacher subscribers, or Guild members, found there "An Approved Outline for September Work in All Grades." It was this specific outline of what to do and how to do it which secured and held a large professional following.

Two years later, in September, 1903, Bailey was made editor and the title was changed to the School Arts Book. He continued as editor until 1919, when the post was taken over by Pedro J. Lemos. [p. 134 ]

Probably no other publication has been used as faithfully by as many teachers in the elementary schools as has School Arts. The essential quality of its attitude toward the arts has changed somewhat in the intervening years. In its first decade the emphasis was dictated by Bailey's opinions on what constituted the mission of the arts.

Drawing from nature was a constant ingredient for all grades. Subjects were plant fronds; branches from trees, preferably with nuts and seed pods visible among the leaves; clumps of long grasses; selected garden flowers ; and fruits and vegetables mounted singly on a display board or arranged in a basket. The composing of these natural forms in compact pictorial areas was freely borrowed from Dow--and properly acknowledged. Lettering was stressed for the middle and upper grades, as was design for craft objects in metal, leather, and wood.

Both in design and lettering, the dominating aesthetic influence was that of William Morris, with a discreet touch of art nouveau . . . . the continuous border across the ends of textiles, along the edges of woodwork, around the lips of ceramic pots, was a favored scheme for decoration. This was varied by the division of space into elongated vertical panels, which conventionalized ground and root forms at the base and flower and leaf forms at the top. The lines defining the sides were, of course, the stems, trunks, or vines of the plant form on which the design was based. Much was made of the need for adapting ornament to the shape available and to the material used in the object; flatness of decorative forms was also insisted upon. In all this the work and the writing of Morris and his disciples were clearly seen.

The School Arts Book for its first ten years created a world all its own. Perhaps the isolation from the cold logic of cubism and the hot color of Fauvism was not too great a loss at the time. Maybe the concentration upon one man's nature-centered concept of beauty and art was vigorous enough to be a stimulation in the schools, a source of satisfying activity for the children his magazine influenced. The time did come when the continuation of that influence became stultifying.

The most frequent contributor of pictorial matter to the magazine [p. 13 5] was the editor himself, Henry Turner Bailey . . . . In each issue Bailey reproduced a "blackboard" calendar, which was redesigned monthly for a different arrangement of pictorial panels to surround the numerals. Invariably the panels were filled with drawings in white chalk of plants, tree, and animals to symbolize the passing of the seasons . . . . Directions were given, too, for the precise use of the chalk, broadside, stippling, staccato lines, and many more methods for making possible the various effects. The love of nature's seasons was obvious and also the desire to communicate that emotion as an aesthetic experience; indeed, as theaesthetic experience. The hope expressed that the teachers and some of their gifted pupils would make a creative variation on the magazine drawing was probably seldom realized. More likely, in hundreds of schoolrooms, the drawing was reproduced as exactly like that of the editor's as could be managed.

And such emulation was at the time not too disturbing to the editor or to his subscribers . . . . . In the 1906 volume he contributed a Supplement [Henry Turner Bailey, "The First American Thanksgiving," School Arts Book,November, 1906, p. 108] It was reproduced in the author's own handwriting and with his drawings of the Pilgrims' common house, of Squanto, of one of the Pilgrims bringing home a turkey, and of a circular still-life vignette composed of a sword, a pewter plate, and an iron cooking pot. In later issues, student work is frequently reproduced in which the line drawings were lifted directly for use as booklet covers, as mural decorations for history, or as topical art work for the month of November. Editorial comment shows no concern over the undesirable effects of this borrowing of art forms.

"Pictorial" drawing, that is, the disciplined learning to represent objects in Occidental perspective, was all-important. The lessons in the category, from first grade through the ninth, were planned to teach all children a conventional, impersonal group of realistic forms [p. 136] as the "correct" ones for people, animals, trees, wagons, buildings, and still-life objects. Again there is little evidence that the editor and his art-teacher writers had encountered the idea of individual interpretation of visual forms. The insight of the child-study psychologists into the pattern of individual growth and expression had not reached the School Arts Book.

Other attitudes toward the arts and art education than those held by the editor were recognized and given generous space. [pp. 134-137]

During the summer of 1908, a great Third International Drawing Congress was held in London, from which reports appeared in School Arts of September to June 1909. These reports were of considerable significance. The first was a survey of the luncheons teas, banquets, lawn receptions, and exhibitions held at various castles and sponsored by the English nobility. [Henry Turner Bailey, "Editorial, The London Congress," School Arts Book,September, 1908, p. 455]. Bailey wrote this article. At one of the banquets he had spoken for the American delegation. It was to him a source of wonder, of pleasure, and of pride that important personages treated the Congress as an important event; his hope was that America might one day put art education on such a level of importance.

At another time a Prussian schoolmaster's comment was published. He lamented the laxness and freedom of expression in the Prussian lower schools as contrasted with the drive and discipline our best work showed for lower-school grades. The writer obviously disliked the emphasis on creative art work stemming from Froebelian practices, and he found the discipline and accuracy of representation in American schools exhibits more satisfactory.

The third . . . . enthusiastic review of the children's work done under Professor Franz Cizek of Vienna. One of the most interesting exhibits at the London meetings had come from him. Miss Lucy Silke reported on Cizek for School Artsreaders: "The free paper tearing and cutting from memory without drawing, the exercises in original construction and in colored poster work are not of course new with us, but they were here made the vehicle for creative expression to an extent seen nowhere else in the exhibition. The subjects had been sympathetically chosen, simple materials had been developed to [p. 137] their full possibility, and the tendency to small, cramped drawing which is the result of too early restriction to the pencil point, had been to a large degree overcome. Moreover, by means of appeals to an imaginative equipment in this case above the average, the interest had been sustained so that the work had not become formal but remained spontaneous and child like. The technique reminded one of that acquired in play, in which the child's desire to realize his mastery over his own small world is expressed in his tireless repetition of processes and his keen interest in the growth of his own skill . . . . it augurs well for the future of art education that a practice school of this character should be incorporated among the regular departments of a leading art school like that of Vienna [Lucy Silke, "The Work of Normal Schools," School Arts Book,May, 1909, p. 879] [pp. 137-138]

. . . . Miss Silke's eager interest in men like Coke [of England] and Cizek could not have been hers alone. Cizek's work with children later became one of the most valued focus in expanding child at experience. [p. 138]

One additional feature of the School Arts Bookof that time, which is significant today, was that of a Workshop section, conducted by William Hammel. His monthly projects were actually constructional and scientific experiments rather than what would then have been considered art work. No effort was made to relate this experimental work in materials and processes to art, though the ingenuity, the encouragement to design and build for particular purposes, was more like our present aesthetic approach in furniture and the crafts than most of the so-called design problems in the rest of the magazine. An example form the Workshop offerings was a suggested construction of an attic woodworking corner, to be built in the home and to make use of the open spaces between the two-by-four studs. The plan for the bench, for the shelving between the studs, for tool racks, and for drawer space was all most cunningly devised, and in such fashion [p. 138] that any older boy whose home included a space like the one mentioned would be able to begin his own scheme. There were many other projects, such as those with bottles, and candles to explain the need for oxygen in keeping a flame burning.

Such activity has gradually been absorbed into the manual-arts shops and the science curricula for the elementary grades. Now we face the problem of relating and integrating Hammel's workshop ideas with the rest of what is more readily recognized as art. It is desirable that much of the material Hammel taught as interesting tricks should now be used as a basis for understanding science concepts, and it is also valuable to have well-equipped woodworking shops in the schools. What is regrettable is that as these activities have been made more effective, it has too often been assumed that the educational qualities they possess are not valuable in the arts.

Yet more than ever before, art concepts of our time require good craftsmanship, Yankee ingenuity, an understanding of the properties of materials, as the basic resources of the creative designer. School art in 1908 was not ready to relate the workshop projects clearly to the heights of fine art . [pp. 138-139]

The London Congress brought forth as the most important American record of contemporary art education the volume previously referred to, Art Education in the Public Schools of the United States,edited by James Parton Haney. The editor's own article summarized historically "The Development of Art Education in the Public Schools." Earl Barnes prepared the equally valuable summary on child study and art education. Other contributors surveyed art education in the elementary grades, the high schools, evening classes, the normal schools, colleges, and art museums.

Illustrations throughout the book, which do not in any case attempt to illustrate the sections in which they are placed, undoubtedly reflect as accurate and favorable a view of student work as do the articles. The reproductions of young children's drawing were chosen to show, far more emphatically than would the School Arts Book,freely done work of strong individual nature. But there are not many examples of such drawings. The bulk of plates show upper grade and high-school craft and lettering. Ceramics, leather work, booklets and hand-bound books, jewelry, small furniture pieces, and [p. 139] textile weaving and printing are included. The ornament is in the usual twinging vines and chopped-up plant stencil forms of the art nouveau persuasion, with Morris-style structure. [pp. 139-140]

Secondary students were fewer in number than now, and those who did take art were expected to attain a greater technical proficiency than is generally found among present-day secondary students. In one particular the work pictured is uniformly of higher quality than much shopwork we see today, and that is in the use of materials. Metal and clay surfaces are handled distinctively, not similarly. Metals show the mark of the hammer if shaped by the hammer, not otherwise. Wood surfaces are finished to bring out the best of the appearance and texture of the wood. The shift over the years of some of these activities from the art class to the manual-arts shop has been technically understandable. The all-too-common disinterest of shop teachers in any aesthetic consideration for materials and structural design is not understandable or defensible. [p. 140]

The Morris style referred to above is only superficially well known as a mode in furniture and interior decoration. The whole work of William Morris did affect American arts and art education, though most imperfectly; and it is worthwhile to know what was welcome from his teaching and what was rejected by our countrymen. William Morris died in 1896. His crusade to establish the superiority of handcraftsmanship over what he felt was the evil system and product of the mechanized factory was a strong force in America until the postwar years of the twenties . . . . Morris was an artist-craftsman who took a deeply felt and active part in socialist societies. His philosophy was all of one piece; he believed the English society of which he was a part had degenerated aesthetically because of the Industrial Revolution. Consequently he admired the honesty, the clarity of design, and the use of materials in the handicrafts of the English workmen before the coming of the steam engine. The artist, as he saw the situation, could not produce objects of beauty based on an environment of ugliness and dirt. Working for what he believed was the only hope, he advocated socialism politically for the control of industry to the point where most of man's work would [p. 140] again be made by hand. In his own craft design and workmanship he returned to the heavy stability of the medieval period, finding but little charm in the graceful elaboration of Chippendale, Adam, and Sheraton. In the use of all material --cloth, wood, paper, the printed page, metal --he held that an artist guilty of imitating one material with another was literally a moral delinquent.

Morris was consistent and thorough in observing the consequences of his belief. Any workman should be expected to start and finish all of a certain object. In no other way could the craftsman feel the responsibility for the quality of his work; he could have the satisfaction of knowing that his work was well done in no other way; and only thus was he likely to have a decent regard for the materials he used and the tools of his trade. A day's work, in Morris' thinking, would be man's most rewarding experience.

Mass-production industry seemed to make that idea impossible. If mass industry was to persist, Morris took the humanitarian view that work hours must be reduced, since there was no likely way to bring pleasure and a sense of accomplishment into subdivided work processes.

How much of this well-knit if hopeless philosophy made real headway in American art education? Primarily a superficial and slightly precious version of Morris' discrimination between individual and mass production.

Any handmade object was assumed to be without question superior to all factory-made pieces. Art was a rare and beautiful activity. Works of art also were beautiful and few in number. Since handicraft and the products of the craftsman were becoming rare, it followed that all handicraft was closer to art and beauty than could be true of any machine-built object. It was this truncated interpretation of Morris' work which dominated our art education. Morris saw art unseparated from all of English life or from the economics of the nineteenth century. His broad conclusions were far from the sympathy or even from the comprehension of most Americans; but art education avoided the problems he raised, rather than disagreeing with them, by the neat process of admiring him as the apostle of handwork, and ignoring the total meaning of his work. The emphasis for art teachers was always on extending the province of the arts; [p. 141] how or where, and to what ends, were questions better left unasked. If there was public apathy for this high endeavor, it was with ease and practice attributed to lack of education in "sensibility."

Only the artists and architects, again, were touched by Morris and his vigorous followers, either to agree or disagree. For instance, Frank Lloyd Wright's best-known early public expression was on The Art and Craft of the Machine, [Frederick Gutheim, ed., Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture,Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1941, p. 23.] the Hull House lecture of 1901.

Here he stated his eagerness to come to terms with the machine, to use it as a tool of greater capacities but no less aesthetic potentialities than the hand tools of the individual craftsman. Wright was like most of his contemporaries when he spoke in opposition to Morris' ideals, but he was like him, as the educators were not, in being able to see and willing to take a stand on the relation of the arts to the people and community. [pp. 141-142]


[Notes from: Logan, Frederick M . Growth of Art in American Schools, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955.]



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