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South Kensington School

    I discovered that Georgina Ball Hughes was an Instructor of Art at the South Kensington School in a reference for the Boston artist Nellie Louise Thompson (1861-1935). Nellie was a student of Georgina at the South Kensington School in London, probably in the 1880’s based on her 1861 birth date. The South Kensington School became the Royal College of Art  (RCA) in 1896.

    It was previously unknown that Georgina taught Art in London. We know that Georgina lived in Torrington Square in London in the 1870’s. She was a frequent visitor to London, living there for 23 years.

    The South Kensington School shared a site with the South Kensington Museum that became the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899. The South Kensington School, in the South Kensington district in Central London, was about 3 miles from where Georgina lived in Torrington Square.

From the American Art Annual, Vol. 14, New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1918, p. 623:

"THOMPSON, Nellie Louise, 8 Adams Hall, Trinity Court, Dartmouth St., Boston, Mass.
P.—Born Jamaica Plain, Boston. Pupil of Sir James Linton and South Kensington School under Alyn Williams and Miss Ball Hughes In London; Cowles Art School in Boston under De Camp; Henry B. Snell. Member: Copley S. 1893."

"The Royal College of Art started life in 1837 as the Government School of Design, located in Somerset House in the Strand. Following the Great Exhibition of 1851, this relatively small-scale operation was radically transformed to accommodate art as well as design, leading the institution to be rechristened the National Art Training School at its new home in South Kensington. In 1896 it became the Royal College of Art."

From Wikipedia:

"The RCA was founded in 1837 as the Government School of Design. In 1853, it became the National Art Training School with the Female School of Art in separate buildings; and, in 1896, it received the name Royal College of Art. During the 19th century, it was often referred to as the South Kensington Schools."

    The South Kensington Schools used the "South Kensington" method of teaching art that is described in the Oxford University Archive Holdings article: Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art:

"This was a system intended to encourage British artisanship and design by means of a painstaking attention to technical detail and the study of work by selected masters of the field.  The system was staged in levels of difficulty and ‘appropriateness’, life drawing not beginning until stage 11 and use of any artistic medium other than pencil until stage 13.  This school was founded in 1865 and membership was a mixture of artisans wishing to improve their technical skills, ladies (chiefly daughters of dons) and a few undergraduates.  The head of the School was Alexander Macdonald."

    See the Wikipedia entry for Richard Burchett for more information about the "South Kensington System" and a criticism of it in the Oxford University Archive Holdings article:  Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art.

    Prof. John Ruskin, of Oxford University, disliked the South Kensington system, believing that it crushed imagination. He started The Ruskin School of Drawing in 1871. Note that Georgina said that Prof. Ruskin "went out of his way to praise my work."

    Georgina's student, Nellie Louise Thompson, returned to Boston and continued to paint. She exhibited at the Boston AC, 1887, 1896-1905, the Copley Gal., Boston, 1911 (solo), and PAFA Ann., 1921. Her painting: Mt St Michelle is for sale by Palm Beach Fine Art.

last update 2/28/2012
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2012