n De Arte - 'The attainment of a true eye and a correct hand' : drawing, art training institutions and theories of art education in Cape Town, 1860-1926 : research

Volume 2014 Number 89
  • ISSN : 0004-3389
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This is a study of the early history of Cape Town's institutional art education, from the establishment of the Roeland Street School of Art in the late nineteenth century to the opening of the Michaelis School of Fine Art in the early twentieth. With debate on the purpose of art education continuing into the twenty-first century, this is a history with contemporary relevance. The article contextualises South Africa's art education debates at the turn of the last century in relation to corresponding British developments in art education and the accompanying questions as to the aims, constituency and curriculum of art schools and art education. The article argues that an emphasis on drawing is a constant throughout the period, but that the idea of what constitutes drawing changes enormously, paralleling significant shifts in the understanding of who benefits from an art education, and how. From the early period, when the South Kensington system is prevalent, to the later period, when a fine art model inspired by the Slade is instituted, Cape Town sees a change from a model of drawing as part of the general curriculum and a technical aid to a wide public, to a model f it as specific to an artist's education, with narrowly focused themes and goals. The article ends with the new 'school of fine art' raising criticism for its anglophile traditionalism, signaling a future of further debate about art education in the colony. In a postcolonial South Africa, these questions can only become more pressing.

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