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Slade Archive Project


Archive Project


Archive for the 'Archival Research' Category

Preparing for the Chelsea Arts Ball, 1926

LizBruchet8 May 2013

It became known for its exuberance, excess and glamour, but the Chelsea Arts Ball had a modest beginning in 1908 as an annual fundraiser for the newly founded Arts Club. By the time it moved to the Royal Albert Hall in 1910, its place in the London social calendar was set – and London’s art school students led the way.

Held on New Year’s Eve, the Ball was given a new theme each year. Elaborately dressed art students represented their schools with extravagantly decorated floats that were driven directly into the Albert Hall, only to be destroyed by the revelers at the stroke of midnight. A short clip from Pathé’s archive, showing the 1954 ball in full swing, sets the scene.

Slade students preparing for the Chelsea Arts Ball, 1926

Slade students preparing for the Chelsea Arts Ball, 1926

It’s hard to spot Slade students in the Pathé archive, but a generation earlier someone was savvy enough to take this photograph outside the Slade, as a group of students test run their gallant personas in preparation for the 1926 Ball. The label on the back of the photo doesn’t explain what theme is being enacted here (though we might hazard a guess), but it does identify one notable figure in the group: William Coldstream, who can be spotted by his fashionable symmetrical fringe (centre of photograph, left of horseman).

Coldstream was a first-year student at the time of the 1926 ball. He would go on to marry (and later divorce) fellow student Nancy Sharp and, in 1937, co-found the influential Euston Road School with fellow Slade alumni Claude Rogers and Graham Bell. After service in the War, he worked briefly for the GPO Film Unit and taught at Camberwell College of Arts and Crafts before being appointed Slade Professor in 1949, a post he would hold until his retirement in 1975.

A horse in the studio

LizBruchet26 March 2013

One of the earliest photographs in the Slade archives, undated.

One of the earliest photographs in the Slade archives, undated.

What is a horse doing in the studio? The memoirs of Jessie Hall, a young student studying at the Slade in 1885, help explain. Now housed in UCL Special Collections (and charmingly titled My Year at the Slade School: The very happiest year of my life! Shall I let it pass unrecorded? No! The poorest moments of it were better than letting it sink into oblivion!), Hall’s memoirs describe one particular assignment in the life drawing room:

“A Horseman Bringing News of a Battle to the Inhabitants of a City”, that was the subject for this month and I made up my mind to do it. The model was posed in various positions … one position one day, another the next, sometimes the same model for the different poses, sometimes the model was changed. I wondered what we were to do about the horse for the horseman, and imagined that we would have some of the equine plaster casts up for the occasion.

I was agreeably surprised! We were told to go down to the Lower Life [room] one afternoon, where the men students studied, where one side of the room had a paved floor and a huge pair of double doors to enable animals to be brought in as models from the livery stables behind the College. There stood a live horse as a model! It is not easy to draw a horse in 20 minutes. Sketching as fast as my poor powers would let me, I never could get the legs in.

Hall Biography, 1924, p.4, UCL Special Collections, MS ADD 327

Hall’s accounts – rich with detail of the day-to-day life of the Slade student – recall the students’ nervousness as the tutors inspected their work, with particular awe for the ‘prophetic eye’ of the Slade Professor Alphonse Legros. She lists the subjects studied in the Antique Room, describes the smell of warm paint infused by the water pipe heating system in the life room; of being selected by the Professor to sit in the best seat in the Life Room; and of working through the weekend to prove she was much more than a dilettante.

Global mapping & uncharted territories

LizBruchet19 March 2013

The legacy of noted figures like Henry Tonks has been well documented, but what about students who came from afar and left the UK when their studies ended? Where did Slade students come from and where did they go on to base their practice? What impact have they had on art worlds internationally? What influences and inspiration did they take with them from their time at the Slade? What connections can be drawn between Slade archive materials and the living histories of artists from around the world? How do we draw these materials together and make them accessible to scholars, curators, family historians, and alumni?

Through the Slade Archive Project we hope to chart some of the lesser-known histories of the school, and trace the footpaths of those artists from cultures and countries beyond the UK, where language barriers, large distances and in some instances, contested artistic traditions, have historically limited an exchange of information. We are delighted to announce that Dr Amna Malik, Lecturer in History and Theory of Art at the Slade, has recently been awarded a UCL Grand Challenges Intercultural Interaction grant to work with Dr Melissa Terras (UCL Centre for Digital Humanities) to begin this research by tracing the influence of artists and Slade alumni, Ibrahim El Salahi (b. 1932 Sudan) and Khalid Iqbal (1929-2014 Pakistan). Iqbal studied at the Slade between 1952-1955 and El Salahi between 1956-1959 and both then went on to have pioneering roles in the development of art and art education in their respective countries, an aspect of the international impact of the Slade that has yet to be mapped. Stay tuned!

I have a few photos …

LizBruchet27 February 2013

We receive many requests for photographs of former staff and students of the Slade – from art historians and filmmakers, to members of the public tracing their family history – hoping to locate some images for their project. So it’s particularly exciting when an email or letter arrives from people wanting to contribute their photos and memories to the archive.

Slade alumna Susan Glasspool, who studied at the Slade from 1963-66, sent in these images. She recalls receiving a copy of this first photo through the Secretary’s office because it her 3-D lithographs appeared in the background. Professor William Coldstream (front left), Andrew Forge (top left) and William Townsend (right of Forge) represent the Slade at this gathering in 1966, which is thought to be the Slade Diploma Examinations Committee.

Professor William Coldstream (front left), Andrew Forge (top left) and William Townsend (right of Forge) represent the Slade at this gathering in 1966, which is thought to be the Dip Examination Committee.

Slade Examination 1966

Another photo, taken on the stairs just inside the entrance of the Slade, shows (L-R) Rosemary Johnson, Susan Glasspool, Antonia Frazer and two other unidentified students.

Slade staircase, c. 1966

Slade staircase, c. 1966

Most often, we don’t know much about the who, what, where, when and why behind these images. If you can assist us in contextualizing or identifying people in these photographs, please do get in touch: slade.enquiries@ucl.ac.uk.

UPDATED 18 March 2013: Paul Martin has identified the two other sitters on the Slade steps as Diane Shorrock and Jane Ford (far right).