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Slade Archive Project Phase II

By Slade Archive Project, on 20 April 2020

It may seem that things have been quiet with the Slade Archive Project – even more so now, given the current Covid-19 crisis – but we have been busy working on a number of exciting developments and will continue to do so working remotely in the coming weeks.

Last year we embarked on a new phase of the project which looks towards the school’s 150th anniversary in 2021. After reflecting on the various activities undertaken in Phase I, we have developed a number of aims for Phase II. We are approaching this milestone as a chance not only to celebrate the Slade and its alumni, but also to:

  • enhance and challenge known histories of the school and its legacies, through both internal and external research, and with a particular focus on transnational scholarship and international knowledge exchange
  • continue to develop, showcase and improve access to Slade archive collections, in part through digital technologies
  • promote cross-disciplinary engagement with the Slade’s archive collections, including, but not limited to, those emerging through fine art practice
  • use the Slade’s 150th anniversary as a springboard to explore different approaches to engaging with institutional histories
  • continue to pilot different ways to use, enhance, create and disseminate archival resources
  • foster collaboration across different disciplinary boundaries and through internal and external partnerships
  • integrate teaching and learning opportunities, public programming and outreach activities with research activities
  • and disseminate our findings through open access platforms.

Current areas of activity are:

  • Transnational Slade (Phase II), in collaboration with the ‘Slade, London, Asia’ Research Group, part of ‘London, Asia’ research project led by the Paul Mellon Centre, which includes a current pilot activity with ResearchSpace, British Museum
  • Slade Film Department (1960-1984), ‘Materiality, Archives and the Slade at the Nexus of Art School Filmmaking’ (working title) research project led by Brighid Lowe and Henry Miller
  • The curation and cataloguing of Slade archive collections, in collaboration with UCL Library Special Collections and UCL Department of Information Studies
  • William Townsend Journals digital project (with UCL Library Special Collections)
  • Slade Photo collection cataloguing project (with UCL Library Special Collections)
  • Tracing artistic heritages through the architectural fabric of the Slade

Vital cataloguing and conservation activities underpin these activities and research aims. The wonderful team at UCL Library Special Collections have been hard at work reappraising and upgrading the catalogue records for the Slade archive collection. This is an ongoing, collaborative effort to make what is an eclectic and disparate collection of records more accessible for researchers. We are grateful for the work of the UCL Library Special Collections team – Sarah Aitchison, Katy Makin, Kathryn Meldrum, Colin Penman, Rebecca Sims, Robert Winckworth, Angela Warren-Thomas and Steve Wright – who have together undertaken this mammoth task. UCL Library Digital Collections now has a dedicated area for digitised Slade Archive materials. We hope to add more records in the months to come.

From 2015-2018, the UCL Art Museum’s ‘Spotlight on the Slade’ Project also made great headways in cataloguing Slade collections. This research project was supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and sought to increase access to UCL Art Museum’s Slade Collections through research, cataloguing, digitisation, collaboration and public engagement. As part of this research, colleagues at the Museum discovered that approximately 45% of works in UCL Art Museum’s collection are by women artists. This is an astonishing statistic: typically, permanent collections in Europe and the US contain between 3-5% of works by women.

We have also updated guidelines for researching the Slade archive collections, and welcome additions to our growing bibliography on the topic of the Slade and its many histories.

In 2018, we marked the 150th anniversary of the death of the school’s namesake and founding father, Felix Slade (1788-1868). Slade, a lawyer and notable collector of glass, engravings, books and bindings, bequeathed endowments for the founding of three Slade Professorships of Fine Arts: at Oxford, Cambridge and University College London. Funds for a studentship were also bequeathed for UCL, and which formed the foundation to establish a new School of Fine Art for the teaching of professional artists, which opened three years later, in 1871. To coincide with this commemoration, UCL Library Special Collections digitised the Slade foundational papers which are now available online as part of UCL Library Digital Collections. As the papers reveal, a central idea behind the Slade school was its location within the university, and for much of its existence, the Slade shared its site with other UCL departments, including chemistry and physiology. Edwin Field (1804-1871), a lawyer, translated the terms of the bequest, and promoted the idea of establishing ‘a school of art in connection with a university, with a view to the collateral advantages that such an alliance could afford’.

A drinks reception was also held in Felix Slade’s honour, harking back to an earlier tradition of the annual Slade strawberry tea, with Slade staff, students, alumni and supporters congregating for berries and bubby in the UCL portico. We were lucky enough to have three descendants of Felix Slade join us, who generously shared their family stories and documentation with those wanting to know more. A small exhibition was also set up in the adjacent UCL Library Flaxman Gallery, showcasing some gems from the Slade archives.

The centre item featured here is by Elinor Bellingham-Smith (1906-1988), a preparatory sketch for an uncompleted painting depicting the Strawberry Tea on the lawn outside of the school on 26 June 1930.

This day marked the retirement of Professor Henry Tonks. An account of the event was recorded in the journal of the Bellingham-Smith’s friend and fellow Slade student, the painter William Townsend (1909-1973). His journals are in the care of UCL Special Collections.

The last official appearance of Tonks was an impressive and tragically simple piece of staging. At the end of his remarks he stood up and saying “I do not like saying goodbye, so there will be no official leave taking”, walked quietly with his jerky [?] walk to the door, leaving the long line of the staff, still in their places, whilst we clapped frenziedly, and for once, with real feeling and appreciation. Strawberry tea on the lawn. Tonks and Steer and Daniels from the National Gallery sit on chairs, at the edge of the crowd […] other visitors smiling and joking and drinking tea, and eating strawberries and cream. Tonks in his grey suit, looking a grey and tired, but not unhappy, old man.

Journal of William Townsend, 26 June, 1930. UCL Special Collections

William Townsend was also a Slade alumnus, who later joined the staff at the Slade, becoming Professor of Fine Art in 1968. This sketch was donated to the school by Townsend’s daughter, Charlotte Townsend-Gault, in 2017.

The London Film Society programme, 1937

By Slade Archive Project, on 10 May 2017

EVENT: Record of War: Film, History and the Art School
Saturday 10 June | 13:00-17:00 | Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image

This unique event offers a reconstruction of a seminal London Film Society programme of 1937. The original event was restaged in 1969 by Thorold Dickinson, Britain’s first professor of film (at UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art), and the director of ‘Gaslight’. It ‘dovetailed’ alternate reels from Italian and Soviet films of the recent Fascist conquest of Abyssinia. Titled ‘Record of War’, the original screening was a ground-breaking attempt to deconstruct official ‘alternative facts’ through the direct material confrontation of two radically opposed perspectives on the same events: one a glorification of militarism, one documenting atrocities which the other left out. ‘Our fashionable Sunday audience,’ Dickinson recalled, ‘with their broad brims and capes and a capacity for chatter, drifted out into Regent Street in dead, awed silence.’

The event’s (re)reconstruction in 2017, hosted at Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image and provides a timely opportunity to reflect on the long history of ‘fake news’. Two projectionists will make a live montage of the films on 35mm, followed by a panel discussion which explores the films’ new meanings in a postcolonial perspective. Discussions will be led by Sight and Sound critic Henry K. Miller, an Honorary Research Associate at UCL Slade School of Fine Art. This event has been organised by Henry K. Miller and Brighid Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the Slade.

The event is free but tickets need to be booked via Birkbeck/eventbrite.

Remembering Patrick George

By Slade Archive Project, on 3 April 2017

“He had the ability to capture a moment but made that moment stand for all time. Many, many artists have that ambition but very few achieve it. He did. His painted leaves represent themselves as well as the entire shape of the tree. He understood his landscapes as much as he must have loved them. And what I feel in front of his work is love entirely devoid of sentimentality.”

Tess Jaray, Patrick George memorial event, 8 March, 2017

Patrick George (1923-2016), painter, teacher and former Slade Professor, was remembered recently at a memorial event held at UCL on the 8th of March. Friends, Slade alumni and former colleagues came together for an evening of presentations and recollections. Speakers included Tess Jaray, Jo Volley, Professor Emeritus Bruce McLean, Professor Sharon Morris, Brian Knox, Professor Andrew Stahl, Catherine Lampert, Andy Pankhurst, Kenneth Cranham, and Slade Director and Professor Susan Collins.

Patrick George (centre), Slade class photo, spring 1978

Patrick George (centre), Slade class photo, spring 1978

Born in Manchester in 1923, Patrick George attended Edinburgh College of Art (1941-2) and Camberwell School of Art (1946-9), where he studied under William Coldstream. In 1974, he joined the teaching staff at the Slade and in 1985 became Slade Professor, a post he held until his retirement in 1988.

Filmmakers Hero Johnson and Andrew Warrington made a study of his work and life as he approached his ninetieth birthday. Excerpts from the resulting documentary, Patrick George: A Likeness (Shoehorn Films, 2013), were screened as part of the evening and the entire event was recorded for posterity.

Patrick George’s legacy will also be carried on in the form of a memorial scholarship established in his name. The scholarship fund will help enable a graduate student to study at the Slade regardless of financial circumstance by contributing towards their tuition fees. If you would like to donate to the fund and support our aim of continuing to enable the very best students, on merit, to be able to take up their places at the Slade, please visit this page.

Patrick George, The Way In, 2001, Courtesy Browse and Darby

Patrick George, The Way In, 2001, Courtesy Browse and Darby

Filmmaker Lorenza Mazzetti

By Slade Archive Project, on 27 February 2015

Two years ago the Slade hosted an event celebrating the work of filmmaker Lorenza Mazzetti as part of ongoing research into the history of the Slade Film Department. Organised by Brighid Lowe (Slade) and Margot Bannerman (University of the Arts, CSM) the event included rare screenings of her two London films ‘K’ (1954) and ‘Together’ (1956) and featured an extended discussion with Lorenza Mazzetti.

We’ve now published excerpts from A Conversation with Lorenza Mazzetti, a film made by Gilly Booth and Dr Chris Horrocks of hijack film production as part of the 2013 event. It is an opportune moment to revisit Mazzetti’s vision. Excerpts from her seminal film Together (1956) will be screened at the Borderlines Film Festival at Hay-on-Wye this Saturday, 28th of February. The screening forms part of a programme exploring the legacy of Britain’s forgotten female filmmakers of the ‘40s and ‘50s, presented by film historian and broadcaster Ian Christie.

Lorenza Mazzetti on Paolozzi – a filmed interview at UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art, March 2013 to accompany a screening of the Italian director’s 1956 film Together for the major retrospective Eduardo Paolozzi: Collaging Culture, at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester 2013, from hijack film production.

As a student at the Slade School of Fine Art Lorenza Mazzetti made her first film K based on Kafka’s Metamorphosis, featuring fellow student Michael Andrews as Gregor Samsa. With support from the Slade Professor William Coldstream and the director of the BFI, Denis Forman, Mazzetti was financed by the BFI Experimental Film Fund to make Together, with Eduardo Paolozzi and Michael Andrews as deaf-mute dockworkers in London’s bomb-damaged East End. Together was shown at the first Free Cinema event at the NFT in 1956. With its credo of subjectivity, poetic freedom and the elevation of the everyday, Free Cinema brought Mazzetti into contact with figures such as Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson,Walter Lassally and John Fletcher. In its pronounced rejection of theatrical cinematic conventions, Free Cinema’s relationship with Italian neorealism, radical British documentary and ‘Kitchen Sink’ drama, situates it at a contested but fascinating point within post–war British culture. As an Italian woman in a predominantly male domain, working at the cusp of the profound social and cultural shifts later associated with the 1960’s, Mazzetti offers unique insights into the creative and intellectual ambitions of the Free Cinema Movement in Britain. Mazzetti returned to Italy in 1956 where she made documentary films and wrote two novels. Her 1961 novel Il Cielo Cade (The Sky Falls), based on her traumatic childhood wartime experiences, was made into the 2000 film directed by Andrea and Antonio Frazzi, starring Isabella Rossellini. She worked collaboratively for many years in puppet theatre and continues to paint prolifically. London Diaries – Mazzetti’s account of her time in England was recently published by Sellario in Italy. She lives and works in Rome.

Printmaker Stanley Jones: Archived oral history

By Slade Archive Project, on 25 November 2014

To celebrate the 2014 Slade Print Fair, we’ve published excerpts from another archived oral history interview – this time with Slade alumnus and former tutor in printmaking, Stanley Jones. Jones is a much-admired master printmaker with a particular passion for lithography. He was a student at the Slade from 1954 to 1956, and later tutor in printmaking from 1958 to 1998. (This means he is likely to be found in some of the Slade’s annual class photos – can you help us spot him?)

In the late 1950s, not long after graduating from the Slade, he set up the Curwen Studio with Robert Erskine. He continues to generously share his enthusiasm for printmaking, as demonstrated with his vision for the Curwen Print Study Centre which he co-founded with Sue Jones in 2000.

The interview excerpts published on SoundCloud were taken from a recording conducted in 1992 by Stephen Chaplin (then archivist at the Slade), and digitized in 2013 as part of the Slade Oral History Project. In his interview Jones reflects on the changing practices and personalities of printmaking at the Slade and beyond.


Voices of War: UCL in World War I

By Slade Archive Project, on 4 August 2014

Anyone wishing to see Henry Tonks’s death mask on display now has a rare opportunity to do so. With the help of the conservation team from UCL Museums & Collections the delicate mask has been cleaned and prepared for exhibit and it is currently on display as part of a thought-provoking exhibition, Voices of War: UCL in World War I. The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between students of the UCL Institute of Archaeology and the MA in Museum Studies programmes and runs to 5 April 2015 at the A.G. Leventis Gallery, UCL Institute of Archaeology.

Slade print fair

By Slade Archive Project, on 21 November 2013

Next week the Slade will host the inaugural Slade Print Fair.

The event will not only celebrate the Slade’s rich & varied printmaking culture, it will also raise much needed scholarship funds through the sale of prints and multiples by Slade alumni, staff and current students – the list of names is impressive indeed!

To mark the occasion, we’ve added some excerpts from an interview with Bartolomeu dos Santos to our growing list of highlights from the Slade oral history collection. Dos Santos (1931-2008) was a student at the Slade from 1956-1958 where he became enthralled by the possibilities of printmaking. He joined the staff in 1961, becoming Head of Printmaking and eventually, in 1994, Professor of Fine Art. In these excerpts he talks candidly (and complete with Portuguese accent) about his early days as a student at the Slade in the mid-1950s.

There will also be a Slade Archive Project display on site for the run of the print fair so if you’re in London do come by. It’s a great opportunity to see some of the intriguing items from the archive and to contribute to the new class photos crowdsourcing project.

28-30 November 2013
Slade Research Centre
, Woburn Square, 

Crowdsourcing the Slade class photos

By Slade Archive Project, on 28 October 2013

Today we launch our new online resource which brings to life some of the most requested items from the archive – the Slade class photos.

The Slade has a fascinating, but currently incomplete, collection of annual class photographs dating from 1931. The black and white panoramic images reflect the school’s rich history, capturing the likeness of Slade students and faculty through the decades. We’re asking former staff and students, scholars and members of the public to help us complete the collection and identify the sitters through a new website designed by UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

We’ve already listed all of those who appear in this photograph from 1953, including William Coldstream, Lucien Freud, Henry Moore, Sam Ntiro, and Paula Rego. Can you help us identify other faces captured through the years?


The feedback provided by visitors to the site will result in a dynamic archive and research resource, giving us an opportunity to compare crowdsourcing platforms and begin to trace the impact of Slade alumni around the world.

Visit the new website here.

This project is a collaboration between UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and the Slade School of Fine Art, as part of the Slade Archive Project.

Ibrahim El-Salahi

By Slade Archive Project, on 2 August 2013

‘The provision of new tropes of self-expression and self-representation that traversed frontiers of environment and geography was one of this visionary artist’s major achievements.’

Salah M. Hassan, Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist p. 12.

Pioneering artist and Slade alumnus Ibrahim El-Salahi is the subject of a groundbreaking exhibition that marks the first time Tate Modern has given a retrospective to an African artist.

As a young Sudanese artist and teacher, El-Salahi was sponsored by the Sudanese Government to study at the Slade from 1954-57. Already an accomplished artist (having obtained a Diploma from Gordon Memorial College, and been appointed drawing master in the Department of Art), El-Salahi’s period at the Slade expanded his awareness of modernism and western art history. But when he returned to Sudan at the end of his studies, he encountered local indifference to the work he’d produced in London. It was a reaction that would prompt the burgeoning artist to venture into altogether new artistic territory. He began to fuse aspects of European art movements with elements of Islamic, Arabic and African art in a revolutionary re-imagining of the various artistic traditions around him. Through this cross-pollination El-Salahi become a pioneering figure in African Modernism; not only as an artist, but through his work as an activist, writer, diplomat and even as a presenter on a national television programme.

El-Salahi (centre) and fellow students at the Slade, 1956.

El-Salahi (centre) and fellow students at the Slade, 1956.

While a student at the Slade, El-Salahi won the Slade Prize ‘for the illumination of lettering’, a fitting award considering Arabic calligraphy would become a key source for much of his later work.

Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist is at Tate Modern until 22 September 2013.

Both El-Salahi and his co-exhibitor at Tate Modern, Meschac Gaba, are the subject of a recent episode of The Culture Show on BBC 2, and the exhibition’s curator, Salah M. Hassan, discusses El-Salahi’s work on BBC Radio 3’s Night Waves.

Support for Slade Oral Histories

By Slade Archive Project, on 21 June 2013

We’re delighted to announce that the Slade has recently received a grant from the Andor Charitable Trust to develop a Slade Oral History programme.

During our archive explorations, we (re)discovered an invaluable collection of oral history recordings undertaken with former students and staff. The interviews were conducted in the 1990s by the Slade’s former archivist Stephen Chaplin. These audio recordings provide fascinating insight into the impressions and experiences of former students and staff, many of who are no longer alive. However, they are now in danger of eroding and urgently require digitisation. So we appealed to the Andor Charitable Trust who has agreed that these treasures are worth saving.

Alongside our efforts to preserve the existing recordings, we hope to undertake a series of new oral history interviews. Much of what takes place in the life of an art school is conversational and informal and as a result, rarely formally documented. The use of oral history recordings will enrich our existing archive records, allowing us to capture some of these anecdotes and conversations – and help us map the networks of connections between individuals, their art practices and the wider influences that draw them together.