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Bloomsbury Institutions


Slade School of Art

Also known as Slade School of Fine Art/The Slade


It was founded in 1871 to teach fine art within a University setting

Under the will of the wealthy lawyer and art collector Felix Slade (1788–1868), three Professorships of Fine Art were established, one in Oxford, where the first Professor was John Ruskin, one in Cambridge, to which the architect Matthew Digby Wyatt (who lived at 37 Tavistock Place) was appointed, and one at University College London

In addition, Slade’s will stipulated that six scholarships of £50 per annum for three years should be awarded to students to attend the Slade School at University College London

The Chair was filled in 1871 by the appointment of Edward Poynter, an artist who had studied in Paris

Edwin Field, a reforming lawyer who had been one of the most active founders of University Hall in 1849 and had assisted Henry Crabb Robinson in establishing the Flaxman Gallery at University College, helped to make the arrangements for the opening of the Slade School at University College London

Field died on 30 July 1871, just two months before the School opened; he drowned after diving into the Thames to save a younger colleague who got into difficulties when the boat they were in capsized

Among the first scholarships two were awarded to women, Miss E. M. Wild and Miss B. A. R. Spencer (Michael Reynolds, ‘The Story of an Art School 1871–1971’, 1974, typescript in UCL Special Collections)

One of the early female students, Evelyn Pickering, won a scholarship in 1873; in 1887 she married the potter and ceramicist William Frend De Morgan, son of Augustus De Morgan

The School quickly gained a reputation for educating artists who went on to become celebrated, including in its early years Kate Greenaway and Gwen and Augustus John; Roger Fry taught at the Slade from 1909–1914

It is still part of University College London, still occupying the north wing of the main building on Gower Street

It retains its reputation as a great institution for the teaching of fine art

What was reforming about it?

Art was taught to male and female students from the beginning, seven years before both the University of London allowed women to take its examinations and University College London accepted them as students on the same footing as men

The classes were co-educational, except in the case of drawing nude life models

Female students drew clothed or half-draped models; see ‘The Life Class in the “Slade” Room’, The Graphic, 26 February 1881, which shows a mixed class of men and women drawing a semi-clothed male model

Where in Bloomsbury

The first section of the north wing of University College London, which had been planned but not completed by William Wilkins when the original building was erected in 1826–1828, was finally built specifically to accommodate the Slade School

Website of current institution

www.ucl.ac.uk/slade (opens in new window)

Books about it

Michael Reynolds, ‘The Story of an Art School 1871–1971’, 1974 (unpublished; typescript in UCL Special Collections)


Its archives, consisting of boxes containing the Michael Reynolds typescript with index, newspaper cuttings relating to the opening and early days of the Slade School, and papers relating to the twentieth-century history of the School, are held in UCL Special Collections, ref. UCLCA/SS; further information is available online via UCL Special Collections (opens in new window)

Information about staffing, student numbers, and prize-givings is contained in the UCL Annual Reports and minutes of UCL committee and Council meetings, held in UCL Special Collections and the UCL Records Office

See also Stephen Chaplin, A Slade School of Fine Art Archive Reader: A Compendium of Documents, 1868–1975, in University College London, Contextualised with an Historical and Critical Commentary, Augmented with Material from Diaries and Interviews, vol 1: Foreword, Acknowledgements, Finding Aids (1998)

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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