Art School: 150 years of Fine Art at Reading

This summer the Museum of Reading joins the University of Reading to celebrate 150 years of formal art education in Reading. The University’s prestigious Fine Art department has its origins in the Reading Government School of Art, which opened in the town centre in 1860. The celebrations will include an exhibition of work by tutors and students in the John Madejski Art Gallery with an associated programme of activities.              

This celebratory exhibition is intended to give an impression of what has interested artists and how the methods of teaching and the subjects taught have varied and diversified from its Victorian origins to the contemporary students of today. These changes reflect how much the idea of Art has changed during the last one hundred and fifty years including key works from all the departments Professors.

The Art School began with the Victorian desire to improve the design of Industrial Art by expanding the training of artists and art teachers. As happens today students were taught by practicing artists. With draughtsmanship at its core students progressed through prescribed courses in Art, Crafts, Architecture, Art History. By the mid 1960s aspects of the curriculum were loosened in response to student demands. Traditional Fine Art teaching separated into independent disciplines and gradually Typography and Art History became important departments in their own right.  The Department of Fine Art through the 1970s and 80s mirrored social and cultural changes through the shifting nature of studio art practice and the emergence of art theory. Fine Art at Reading today continues to foster young artists within a progressive educational environment.

Fine Art at Reading has produced famous alumni such as Turner Prize nominees Cornelia Parker, Richard Wilson and Mike Nelson who will also represent Britain at the prestigious Venice Biennial 2011. The department is steeped in history and has been associated with successful artists such as Walter Sickert and Terry Frost.

All the works have come from the collections of the Museum, Fine Art archives and the University Special Collections with a few generous loans from local people.

Commenting on the exhibition Anita Cacchioli, Director of Environment, Culture & Sport at Reading Borough Council said:

The exhibition is an excellent partnership between Reading Museum and the University of Reading, celebrating 150 years of high quality art education, received by generations of students and adults in the town. This is a deserved celebration of an important local institution and The John Madejski Art Gallery will offer a stunning backdrop to the works on show

Accompanying the exhibition there is related programme of activities including Victorian Art school drawing classes and exhibition tours with Professor Stephen Buckley, Dr Roger Cook and renowned artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz.

20 May – 26 September 2010Reading Museum & Town Hall
Reading Borough Council,The Town Hall
Blagrave Street, Reading, RG1 1QH
t: 0118 939 98001  

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