For industry, taste and hand-eye coordination: Art education in Sydney from 1850 to 1915

Rebecca Kummerfeld

PhD thesis, conferred 2016

This thesis explores the history of art education in Sydney from 1850 to 1915. This was a foundational period for the establishment of both art and education in Sydney. It was a time during which structures of schooling first emerged, technical instruction became a priority and a government supported art gallery was established. I draw on a wide range of English and Australian sources to consider what comprised art education in Sydney during this foundational period. It is a topic that has received little scholarly attention, but is important for allowing those currently involved in art education an understanding of the foundations on which our current system was built.

This thesis focuses on four key research questions. The first, ‘why teach art?’ is examined through analysis of discourse surrounding art education in this period. Three major motivations that informed the provision of art education in Sydney are identified: the importance of art for industry, a desire to teach taste and the broader educational benefit of art instruction for improving hand-eye coordination. ‘Where was art taught?’ is a second major focus. The art instruction offered through schools, technical colleges, exhibitions and galleries is examined in order to map the landscape of art education in Sydney. This thesis offers a novel contribution through the creation of a chronology, tracing the development of art instruction across a range of educational institutions. Thirdly, ‘who taught art?’ is considered through a series of professional biographies, featuring a range of individuals involved in the provision of art education. These case studies show the way one person could influence instruction across a range of institutions. Analysis of periodicals, personal papers, educational magazines, government records and school archives is undertaken to gain a deeper understanding of the contribution of these individuals. Finally, the question of ‘how art was taught’ is considered through close analysis of the tools used in teaching. Plaster casts and copybooks are examined, both for their pedagogic value and as artistic objects in themselves and how they were used to disseminate visual culture in Sydney.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Helen Proctor