Watch: Looking Back at the Life Room

24 May 2010

British artist Naomi Salaman has documented a vanishing model of art education for UCL Art Collections in an exhibition running in the Strang Print Room until 11 June.

Life painting studio, Glasgow School of Art

‘Looking Back At the Life Room’ is an exhibition that documents life rooms and dissection theatres of the late Renaissance and reflects on the bygone era of the life room as a mainstay of art education.

The life room, in which the human figure is posed and drawn, was established in the first art academies, and institutionalised in art education in the mid-1600s. This exhibition positions the life room as a historical space that marked a distinction between fine art as an intellectual pursuit, and the workshop practices of the guild.

UK art education underwent a radical change in the 1960s with the implementation of the ‘Coldstream Report’. Named after Professor William Coldstream of the UCL Slade School of Fine Art, the report marked a shift from the life room to ‘complementary studies’ – a range of courses embracing the ‘new art history’ formed by Marxist, feminist, semiotic, structualist and psychoanalytical perspectives that still exists today. The tradition of the life classes at the UCL Slade School of Fine Art came to an end in December 2008.

The exhibition is co-curated by Nina Pearlman and Naomi Salaman and includes works on paper from the Royal Academy Collections and UCL Art Collection. It is supported by Arts Council England and the University of Brighton.

A range of talks and events accompany the exhibition. You can find out more at the links above and take an audio visual tour with Naomi discussing some of the works on display below.

Image above: Naomi Salaman / Salle de Dessin / Ecole Nationale Superiure des Beaux-Arts Paris, autumn 2004 © Naomi Salaman

UCL context

UCL Art Collections holds over 10,000 fine art objects, including prize-winning student work from the Slade School of Fine Art, prints and drawings by Old Master artists such as Durer, Rembrandt, Turner and Constable, and sculpture models by the Neo-Classical artist John Flaxman. Located in the Strang Print Room (South Cloisters), UCL Art Collections operates as a study centre with access by appointment to the permanent collections and a gallery with a regularly changing public exhibition programme.

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