A seasonal complement to the Dickens-fest around Christmas comes from a Reading Design reminder on design history that may be new to some, as it highlights Dickens’ feature on the Female School of Design as ‘an early intersection of design, gender, class and culture in the city’.
image: By Bradbury & Evans – University of Southern Carolina, Public Domain,
Reading Design writes:
Around this time of year we might be watching some kind of adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ but the author was also a keen and early advocate for the potential for design to improve living conditions, culture and society. In this essay taken from his magazine Household Words he explores the Female School of Design, a then relatively new institution which attempted to provide women with training in the industrial and applied arts, from painting ceramics to designing and decorating clothes but which also, controversially, included lessons in life drawing and the fine arts for both working and middle class women.
The institution, its squalid home described here in great detail, was later folded into the Central School of Arts and Crafts in a building designed by W.R. Lethaby in Holborn but its beginnings form a fascinating description of an early intersection of design, gender, class and culture in the city.
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