Drawn to perfection
14 May 2004
An exhibition in Ohio, USA, has honoured former UCL students Jean and Paul Ulen (Slade School 1923 & 1928) and their impressive contribution to academic drawing.
The couple first arrived at the Slade School in 1922 under the instruction
of Professor Henry Tonks, one of the most distinguished drawing instructors
of his age. Their time at UCL greatly influenced their aesthetic prejudices
and belief that art instruction was a noble practice. The Ulens are reported to have transformed the West Technical High School
art department into a 'mini-Slade', with their students sweeping
virtually all the top prizes in the National Scholastic Art Awards for drawing
and winning 280 scholarships. The Ulens themselves took top honours at the Cleveland
May Show for their prints, life studies and elegant portraits throughout the
1930s and 1940s.
The couple were acknowledged as being art mavericks - establishing after-school nude life classes for the most talented students at a time when women were not permitted to render images of nude models. While both husband and wife were highly accomplished in the art of life drawing, it is Jean who is recognised as the more talented of the two. Despite this, Paul was head of the department and is described in the exhibition catalogue as: "a tyrant, proponent of tough love and a former professional football player". He was the "feared patriarch of the department, and his wife Jean the more mild mannered".
Images: Top - Study for Etching of Burlesque Dancers (1930), Paul Ulen. Bottom - Corfe, Dorset (1928), Jean Ulen.
To find out more about the Ulens or the Slade, use the links below.