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School of Art Archive

School of Art Archive - historical photo

School of Art Archive The School of Art (then known as the Birmingham Government School of Design) was formed following an application for funding by the Birmingham Society of Artists to the Council of the Schools of Design in 1842.

Pictured right: Photograph of figure drawing class at Birmingham School of Art, c.1910-20

How it started

It first opened in a few rented rooms in New Street in 1843. By 1877 it had moved twice and in 1890 a branch school the School of Jewellery and Silversmithing was opened in Vittoria Street in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

In addition, there were also a large number of branch schools, which were held in elementary schools in the evenings. Among them were the Moseley Road School of Arts and Crafts, Bournville School of Arts and Crafts, the School of Printing, and Handsworth School of Dress Design.

This collection covers the Birmingham School of Art from before its formation as a Government School of Design in 1843 up until it joined Birmingham Polytechnic in 1971. It includes minute books, student records, programmes and photographs that document the history of the School. There are also a large number of works of art by past teachers and students. As well as fine art these include designs for fashion, ceramics, textiles, jewellery and metalwork, stained glass, furniture, interior design and work produced by the Birmingham School of Printing.

Leonard Jay

It includes work not only by students attending the School in Margaret Street but also by those from its branch schools. Among the archive is a significant collection of student work carried out under the direction of Leonard Jay, who taught at the School from 1925 until his retirement in 1953. Jay was a teacher who influenced and transformed the outlook of a whole generation of printers, making a significant contribution to British education in the first half of the twentieth century. He made the Birmingham School without equal in Britain and exercised a worldwide influence on printing education policy.

Famous artists at Birmingham School of Art 

Travel card New YorkAmong those who trained at the School during this period were Gerald Brockhurst, Kate and Myra Bunce, Florence Camm, Bernard Fleetwood-Walker (who later taught there from 1929 to 1956), Georgie Gaskin and Joseph Greenup. The teaching staff included well-known artists such as William Bloye, Benjamin Creswick, Arthur Gaskin, Charles March Gere, Sidney Meteyard, Mary Newill, Henry Payne and Bernard Sleigh.

Pictured right: Frank Newbould, White Star to New York, 1929

The collection is particularly strong for the period c.1880-1920. At this time, the Birmingham School of Art was one of the largest and most successful art and design schools in the UK.

London Underground posters 

There is also a collection of London Underground and travel posters (pictured above) from 1915 up to the 1950s that were collected as exemplars of good design. Among the designers are: Frederick Charles Herrick (1887-1970) Edward Kauffer McKnight (1890-1954) Charles Paine (1895-1967) Walter Spradbery (1189-1969) Harold Sandys Williamson (1892-1978)

Birmingham Art and Design Archive

Open Monday - Wednesday, 10am - 5pm