Art Education, Scholastic and Industrial
First edition, 1872. 8vo, 398pp + (4) ads, including for drawing books by Osgood and Prang’s drawing models. Copious illustrations, including 7 color plates by Prang. A Good copy with soil and foxing to the plates. One of the plates has a repaired tear and is reattached in place with Japanese paper. Fraying to the cloth with shallow loss at the spine ends, hinges starting. 1874 signature plate of William Shaw Bowen, doctor turned “yellow” journalist whose East Greenwich, RI mansion was featured on postcards, to the front pastedown. Contents unmarked. Collated complete.
Walter Smith was a successful English sculptor who promoted a rigid system of linear drawing that could be taught by a generalist teacher, avoiding the need for specially trained art teachers. His aim was to improve the quality of draftsmanship in the labor force which had become an increasingly important aspect of manufacturing and industry. He did not believe in a fundamental difference between “light-headed art students, who frothily despise industry, and pine in garrets over some impossible ideal” and “men who as sign-painters, wood-draughtsman, pattern designers for factories, or stone-carvers, passed through the useful vocation of industrial art to the highest attainments of fine art.” (Smith, p. 160)
The treatise was written by Smith upon his arrival in the United States to serve as Director of Drawing in the Boston public schools and Massachusetts State Director of Art Education, after legislation was passed to mandate drawing instruction as part of the school curriculum. In his position, Smith had an immense influence on the development of standards in American art education. Although The North American Review criticized the first six chapters as “semi-literary, pseudo-philosophical attempts” at insight on themes in art and design, the remaining six garnered high praise “constitute probably the most important treatise upon the special branch of education to which they relate that has yet appeared either in this country or in England.”
The book devotes a good deal of attention to the existing major art academies, their architectures and furnishings, which were accompanied by copious floor plans and drawings. Although those illustrations were criticized in the review for being “quite unintelligible,” the book also features 7 chromolithographs by Louis Prang. Prang’s interest in the publication came from his belief that contributing his chromolithographs to such publications was “a means to cultivate popular aesthetic taste and that the resulting higher standards would establish a market for more expensive reproductions and cards.” (Stankiewicz, 60). For the following decade, Prang would be involved in publishing Smith’s Textbooks of Art Education, though the relationship bittered over money and politics. A public feud between the two men, played out in the Boston Evening Transcript, resulted in Smith’s removal from Director of Drawing in 1881. In the following years, Prang’s power in educational publishing boomed and the revised editions of Textbooks of Art Education became far removed from Walter Smith’s original work that had been so highly praised.
[Review of Art Education, Scholastic and Industrial, by W. Smith]. (1873). The North American Review, 116(238), 189–194. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25109735
Stankiewicz, Mary Ann. “Drawing Book Wars.” Visual Arts Research 12, no. 2 (1986): 59–72. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20715628.