ARMAS LINDGREN - THE GREY EMINENCE OF ART EDUCATION
In Finland it has only been possible to become teacher of drawing/art at the University of Art and Design and its predecessors until the 1990s. In many other countries art educators have been trained either in the academies of art or in the institutions for training teachers.
This situation has changed. The University of Lapland has got a training unit for art teachers since 1990, and education of teachers in different fields of arts has been arranged in many institutes of the middle level. The University of Art and Design also has a special unit for artists and designers to qualify as art pedagogs.
Since 1987 there is a history research project of art pedagogy to study the development of education of arts. Where did it all begin? Why was it that the School of Applied Arts became the place for training teachers of art/drawing? What was expected of the teaching of drawing at the turn of the century?
From the Renaissance
is inherited the idea of art as creation of something new, and also the idea of the artist as a creator. Until then artists had been artisans. The question of the relation between art and handicraft is one of the main phenomenons to be studied when the history of art pedagogy and the teaching of drawing are researched on.
At the end of last century the teaching of drawing served the rising industry which was predominantly handwork. Drawing was a skill needed in support of the design and production of items. Finland's ability to compete in the world market was in question. There existed very clear practical reasons for the teaching of drawing.
At the turn of the century teaching of drawing was preferably seen as art education. Art as the expression of the human ability to create, to sense the new, yet unknown, as the developer of thinking and perceiving was accentuated. The negative effects of industrialism, among them the worsening of the esthetic quality of the environment and the less humane work conditions, gave rise to movements that strove to improve life quality. Ruskin and Morris in England started an international art education movement.
The Finnish training of fine arts and applied arts took influences from England and the German speaking countries. Persons interested in the school education of art brought forth ideas of German origin. Many of the teachers of drawing had studied in German art schools and become acquainted with the German way of teaching art.
It seems as if many artists had been reserved to the German influence. Architects involved in the education of industrial art, for instance Armas Lindgren, were oriented towards England and Ruskin's ideas. The national romantic movement of the turn of the century was expressly a style of industrial art that influenced applied arts during the whole century. Its roots were in England. Industrial art combined art and industry, spirit and materia. It strove at binding art, design, and handicraft together. At the beginning of the present century it attracted more and had better prospects for the future than academic art. The Central School of Applied Arts endeavored to renew itself continuously, while the School of the Art Society (the predecessor of the Art Academy) seemed to have stagnated. The idea of the total piece of art set forth by the designers also gained support among the representatives of the visual arts.
The English movement of art education had social and socialistic ideas in the background. A need to educate the labour class and an aim at democracy in Finland maybe also caused some of the planners of education to open their eyes for England, whose high standards of art education and liberal pedagogic ideas impressed the Finns who had travelled there.
The Teaching of Drawing and Industrial Art
In the year 1871, during an economic high, while industrialism and liberalism were gaining foothold, the Veistokoulu, a handicraft school, was established on the initiative of C.G. Estlander, professor of esthetics and contemporary literature.
In 1885 the handicraft school became the Central School of Applied Arts. A statute defined the curriculum, and also that courses had to be established for persons who wished to become teachers of drawing in handicraft schools. When the training for the purely technical fields later was separated from the training for industrial arts, the courses for teachers in handicraft schools were also laid down in 1900-1901.
In a 1909 committee report 'Proposal for a Reform of the Teaching of Drawing in Elementary Schools and the Training of Teachers of drawing' (Ehdotus alkeisoppilaitosten piirustuksenopetuksen ja piirustuksenopettajain valmistamiseksi) it was put forward that the training of teachers should be located to Helsinki University. In January 1918 the Senate, however, granted an allowance to the Central School of Applied Arts for the completion of the Department of Art Teacher Training begun in 1915, and also promised to decree a statute to the effect that this department be the obligatory course for gaining the position as art teacher in the state secondary schools.
Chairman of the committee was Eero Järnefelt, artist and university teacher of drawing, and members were the architects Bernt Lagerstam and Armas Lindgren, and the art teachers Anna Sahlsten and Hanna Cederholm. Anna Sahlsten, chairman of the Association of Art Teachers constituted in 1906, and Eery Järnefelt made a study trip in the summer of 1908 to acquaint themselves with art education and the training of art teachers abroad.
The committee report on its 133 pages discusses the state of art education, courses, and methods in the Finnish secondary schools and presents a review of art education and the training of art teachers in other countries.
Lindgren's Enthusiasm for Art Pedagogy
Armas Lindgren was art director of the Central School of Applied Arts in 1902-1912. He had travelled in England, Holland, and Sweden to look at the education of industrial art there. After his trip he proposed a reform of the education given in the Central School, e.g. a course for teachers of drawing that had not been started yet because of lack of money.
Lindgren wrote a detailed report of his trip. He was particularly interested in England, of Ruskin's and Morris's work and their influence on the education of industrial art.
In England, according to Lindgren, there was not seen the type of ecclesiastical architecture and form language in items as elsewhere in Europe. He pointed to the period of degradation and weakness that had occurred in the taste history of England at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but 'to the rescue came John Ruskin, a man, who with his warm love of art and with his glowing inspiration renewed the whole world and brought new life to English art'.
Lindgren describes the interest of the Pre-Raphfaelites in Ruskin's thoughts, and the growing movement that originated in England as a result of a cooperation between the makers of fine art and applied art in order to better the homes and the everyday surroundings. 'Even the most trivial things, the most simple household utensils, must in their forms and decorations express the striving to the truth, to plainness and solidity, which were the fundamental ideas of the new movement - all false ostentation must be avoided'.
Lindgren deals with William Morris's work and the Art Workers Guild founded by him, and also the first Art and Craft Exhibition arranged by the guild in 1886. Lindgren considers it noteworthy that besides professional artists and artisans also dilettantes were taking part, most of them women.
Also the New Crusade Society renders Lindgren's interest. The society gathered person of the same opinion to oppose industrialism, luxury, and highbrow culture and promoted the idea of a simple and healthy country life as the highest form of human happiness. This ethical programme, inspired by Rousseau's thoughts, also has its positive artistic side, Lindgren thinks. Every member of the society was obliged to earn his living by his own work, had to build his own house and furnish it himself in an artistic and individual manner.
The Home and Industries Association that was in the hands of dilettantes, aimed at raising the standards of handicraft by establishing small schools all around England. In these schools the members of the association worked as teachers in the evenings without pay. An institute for training teachers to the schools had been opened in Albert Hall. The association provided the schools with educational material and arranged a yearly exhibition in Albert Hall presenting the produce of the schools.
To begin with the schools were privately owned, but by the time of Lindgren's study trip they were beginning to receive support from the local authorities. At the time there were about 600 schools and 8,000 students in them. The effect of these lower schools of industrial art on the higher schools in the field was apparent in Lindgren's opinion.
Lindgren considered the pedagogic methods of the higher industrial art schools good. He points at the importance of the teaching of drawing. 'Good drawing is the prime principle of all art activities. Without a good basis you cannot achieve any real, independent artistic quality'.
Getting acquainted with the education of the English schools was rewarding to Lindgren. He ends by describing a summer course in drawing at the South Kensington school, intended for future art teachers. 'The course started by the drawing of a large bird in chalk on the blackboard, already drawn by the teacher. The bird itself, a stuffed crow, stood by the teacher's drawing as reference. The whole work was performed in single, large, and stylized contour lines'.
So everything started with a natural study, which also Lindgren thought to be the most important feature in teaching drawing. Animal and plant forms were keenly studied. The exercises were very constructive. The student must comprehend and clearly present the construction of the animal or plant. To that end the teacher usually gave a short account of the anatomy of the object to be studied.
Lindgren considered the English schools well equipped with their workshops, ateliers, and many-sided educational materials. He mentions the museum of the South Kensington school having a broader activity as well, for instance to prepare ambulating exhibitions that schools could makes orders for. In general the schools also had small greenhouses, collections of animals and plants and libraries with collections of picture boards and photographs.
Lindgren also mentions his visit to a school of industrial art in Amsterdam and to the technical school of Stockholm, the present Konstfack, which he presents as slightly pedantic and too fixed to old model series in its education. 'The spontaneity and freshness, so characteristic of the English school, is lacking in the Stockholm school. It must be admitted that I visited Stockholm just when the school had started, so maybe my criticism is too hasty. Otherwise the practical arrangements of educational material, the library and so on seemed very apt and there is much to learn from them. But the artistic level of the English schools was, however, highest'.