Art & Design

Art & Design

Art, design and architecture in 20th century London was influenced by the city itself. The international movements that shaped the course of the visual arts in the twentieth century were present in the work of London artists, but so too was the city's unique flavour of modernity, a peculiarly British blend of past and future.

The personal visions of many London artists drew inspiration from their surroundings, not just in a literal sense but also in the city's character, its inescapable politics and its sense of place. The painter Walter Sickert rooted his post-impressionism in proletarian Camden Town. C.R.W Nevinson adapted revolutionary futurist styles to paint the masses crowding into the jazz-age metropolis. The 1960s Pop Art of Peter Blake drew as much from London's low-brow popular culture as it did from American models.

London's art schools were central to creative practice in the capital. By the middle of the century London had 13 major art schools, most of which had developed from nineteenth-century institutions of technical education. London's most important school of this type was the Central School of Arts and Crafts, founded in 1896 and funded by the London County Council. Central provided classes in a range of practical arts, from life drawing and textile design to typography and book illustration. It embraced what was later to be called industrial design, and its alumni included Douglas Scott who trained as a silversmith at Central in the 1920s but who later found fame as the designer of the Routemaster bus.

'Fine art' training for painters was provided by the Royal Academy School, the Royal College of Art, the Slade School of the University of London and several smaller schools, such as St Martin's School of Art. Training in architecture was provided by the Architectural Association, the Bartlett School of the University of London and some of London's polytechnics. Many of these institutions admitted women and the 20th century saw a small but increasing number of women making their living as artists, illustrators, designers and craftsworkers.

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