Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 17 October 2019
Tales from 1919: A Tour of the Cork School of Art
On the week of the 24 October 1919 under the auspices of the Cork Literary and Scientific Society, a successful conversazione or public conversation event was held at the Cork School of Art within the Crawford Art Gallery on Emmet Place. In their dispatches of their activities to the press that evening the Society refer to the work by the pupils of the craft and trade classes and give an insight into life within the school one hundred years ago.
The Society praised the efforts of Corkman and Head Master Mr Hugh Charde, who was in the job since February 1919. In the preface of the School of Art’s 1919 prospectus the objects of the institution were given – “to give a practical knowledge of drawing, design, modeling, painting, etc and to furnish useful training to those whose vocation depends in any way on the application of art to the trades, crafts, or professions; so that the workman can become more skilled in his trade or craft and the designer possesses more knowledge in the application to the various processes of manufacture and handicraft”. On the evening of the conversazione, the work being pursued by the pupils of the trade and craft classes were shown to the members of the Cork Literary and Scientific Society. Explanation was given by the teachers to the visitors of the history and ethos of the school. Established originally in 1850 in the old Custom House, the School of Art was re-established in 1877 and subsequently inspired the funding and building of the Crawford Art Gallery within a few short years.
In October 1919, passing through the sculpture galleries, the visitors of the Cork Literary and Scientific Society came first to the modelling class, under the direction of Mr Michael McNamara. Here the pupils were engaged in modelling in all its stages, from the work of the seniors, copying a head from the antique, to those who were engaged on copying “ornament of various kinds at every stage of elaboration”. The “sureness and skill” of even the most junior pupils were much commented upon by the visitors. Another department, the wood carving class, also under Mr McNamara, evoked the same positive comments, and the many finished specimens of the work of this class shown around the building were much admired.
Passing from the modelling room, the next class was that in artistic lithography. There throughout the evening there was always a crowd of visitors listening with interest to the full and painstaking explanation of the master, Mr R Baker, and admiring the work of his pupils, and the practical skill they showcased. In the room devoted to enamelling and art metal work, under the direction of a Mr Archer, every stage of the work was to be viewed. Here stories were relayed about Cork silver work and the ongoing efforts to keep the interest in silver-smithing alive in the City. The painting and decorating class, under Mr D Fitzgibbon, also highlighted evidence of sound practical teaching and an artistic sense of the possibilities of the craft.
The classes on the upper floors were of special interest where the beautiful art needlework and embroidering of Miss O’Shea’s class, the lace work of Mrs Allen’s pupils, and the artistic leather work of the class conducted by Miss Reynolds and Miss O’Neill were displayed to interested visitors.
In the library of the school the visitors had an opportunity to see some of the art school’s collection – supplemented by many curious books and papers from the Cork Carnegie Library selected by James Wilkinson, the librarian of that establishment.
A display of microscopes, showing many interesting slides, the circulation of the blood, also made a most interesting exhibit, arranged by the kindness of Prof D T Barry, and under the charge of Dr J M O’Donovan and some of the students of University College.
The principal of the School of Art Mr Hugh Charde was proud of the evening’s work. A native of Cobh, Hugh Charde (1858-1946) was Principal of the Crawford School of Art from 1919 to 1937. He was a teacher in the School since as far back as 1889 and received his early tuition in the Drawing School of the North Monastery. He later studied at the School of Art under Mr James Brennan, RHA. He then undertook an extended Continental studentship. He studied abroad at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts at Antwerp under M. Verlat, and at Paris under celebrated artists of their day. In 1889, Hugh was appointed as an assistant teacher in the School of Art in Cork. He was made second Art Master in 1907 and Principal in 1919 following the death of the principal William Mulligan.
Apart from instructing and encouraging young art students, during his forty-eight years connection with the School of Art, Hugh Charde was a painter of great ability himself. Of latter years he specialised in water colours. He was imbued with a deep love of the Irish countryside and the coastline, and his works bore testimony to this love, with many of them appearing at the Royal Hibernian Academy. Hugh Charde was also the founder of the Munster Fine Art Club, of which he was President for very many years.
Kieran’s book The Little Book of Cork Harbour (2019) is published by The History Press and is available in Waterstones, Vibes and Scribes and Easons.