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School of Art

Art class at South-Western Polytechnic, c1900 (Ref: C/PH4/1)Art class at South-Western Polytechnic, c1900 (Ref: C/PH4/1)Founded in 1895, the School of Art was extremely popular, with classes including drawing, painting and life modelling, in addition to crafts such as weaving and embroidery.

In the 1930s successful classes were launched in modelling and carving, and new studios used for etching and lithography. A new course in commercial art, including poster and package design, and its application to crafts such as the hand printing of fabrics, resulted in Chelsea art graduates having a much wider range of career opportunities than was possible under the College’s former training and curriculum. From 1934, additional classes in sculpture were also arranged and a new course in fashion drawing established.

Sculpture at Chelsea Polytechnic, 1950s (Ref: C/PH4/1)Sculpture at Chelsea Polytechnic, 1950s (Ref: C/PH4/1)The Second World War saw the temporary closure of the Chelsea School of Art, with students transferred to St Martin’s School of Art and to the Evacuated School in Northampton. Chelsea reopened in 1945, whereupon around 30 students recommenced training for the Ministry of Education Examinations in Art, giving the College a firm foundation on which to build its post-war reputation.

In 1957 the School became the largest casualty of the designation of Chelsea as a College of Science and Technology. Although its separation from the College was agreed in 1957, it took until 1962 for the School to formally become a separate institution with its own Governing Body. Its continuation under the Chelsea name helped to preserve the link with its former parent body.

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