Robert Havell, engraver, Britain, 1793-1878, A view of the country and the temporary erections near the site for the proposed town of Adelaide in South Australia, 1837/38, published by Smith, Elder & Co., London, aquatint, hand-coloured with watercolour on paper, 36.8 x 54.5 cm (image); South Australian Government Grant 1973. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

Robert Havell, engraver, Britain, 1793-1878, A view of the country and the temporary erections near the site for the proposed town of Adelaide in South Australia, 1837/38, published by Smith, Elder & Co., London, aquatint, hand-coloured with watercolour on paper, 36.8 x 54.5 cm (image); South Australian Government Grant 1973. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

CHAPTER ONE: SOUTH AUSTRALIA IN THE EARLY YEARS -

1830 to 1860s

This first chapter sets the scene for the 150-year history in the context of South Australia’s settlement as a free colony. It introduces South Australia as a ‘Land of Promise’; follows Adelaide’s progress from tent city to township and acknowledges the importance of the first newspapers as they become the ‘social media’ of the day. It tracks the city’s progress as a ‘City of Churches’ and ‘City of Hotels, through to early migration, the mining boom (which saves the state from bankruptcy) and South Australia’s arrival at self government.

Importantly, the chapter introduces readers to South Australia’s early art and artists to argue that the 1840s was a period wherein Adelaide is seen as being the ‘Liveliest art scene in Australia’. The serendipitous introduction of early photographic work follows. The chapter concludes by introducing readers to the established artists who arrived in the late 1840s and 1850s and takes a quick look at some of the first art exhibitions that were held in Adelaide in these decades. The first Master of the School of Design (later South Australian School of Art), Charles Hill, is briefly introduced as an exhibitor in one of the first art exhibitions (1857) to be organised by the first and oldest Society of Arts in Australia which still operates today as the Royal South Australian Society of Arts (RSASA). 


CHAPTER TWO: CHARLES HILL, SOCIETY OF ARTS & SCHOOL OF DESIGN

Chapter Two of this history explains the origins of cultural institutes in Australia; introduces readers to the South Australian Institute and outlines the important part that this organisation played in the cultural life of the early settlement. It then introduces artist and teacher Charles Hill and explains his work as a catalyst for change by examining in detail the formation and functions of the first and oldest Society of Arts in Australia in 1856 which even 160 years later is still in operation. The formation in 1856, of this organisation which had three main aims: the setting up of a School of Design, the construction of a permanent art gallery and the regular conduct of conversations about art and cultural matters, is explained in some detail as is the interim period wherein the Society began to work towards the realization of its school of design in 1861. This is followed by an outline of the work of Charles Hill as the School’s first Master, the program of subjects he offered, his style of teaching and the ‘aids’ he used in the delivery of such a program. The nature and calibre of student work produced and exhibited as outcomes of Hill’s teaching is also identified. This section is followed by an explanation of the social and cultural changes that occurred in the 1870s and introduces the various artists who came to work and exhibit in that time frame. The chapter concludes with a detailed explanation of the political and social forces that came into play in the late 1880s which resulted in the termination and eventual resignation of Charles Hill after twenty years of loyal service as the Master of the first and oldest school of art in Australia.

Public Library/South Australian Institute Building, North Terrace, Adelaide, circe 1865. State Library of South Australia. B 41736.

Public Library/South Australian Institute Building, North Terrace, Adelaide, circe 1865. State Library of South Australia. B 41736.


Exhibition Building on North Terrace. Piles of rubble and stone suggest the building is still under construction. [On back of photograph] Exhibition Building, North Terrace. Probably 1887. Photographer: Samuel White Sweet. State Library of South Australia. B-3110.

Exhibition Building on North Terrace. Piles of rubble and stone suggest the building is still under construction. [On back of photograph] Exhibition Building, North Terrace. Probably 1887. Photographer: Samuel White Sweet. State Library of South Australia. B-3110.

CHAPTER THREE: THE GILL YEARS ... 1880 to 1900s

Chapter Three of this history introduces readers to the social, political and cultural life of South Australia in the 1880s and 1890s. It then traces the early years in the development of the South Australian Institute Board’s School of Design and introduces readers to the first Master of the newly structured School of Painting and School of Design, German-trained artist Louis Tannert. One of the school’s most influential individuals, Harry Pelling Gill, is then introduced along with an explanation of the South Kensington system of drawing and design which he promoted throughout his 33 years of service at the school (1882-1915). This is followed by a list of the many initiatives that Gill took in relation to the promotion of art and art education within the wider context of the South Australian art scene. This is followed by a recount of the relocation in 1891 of the School from the Institute Building to the Jubilee Exhibition Building where the school would remain for the next 72 years. Also outlined is the nature and calibre of the work presented by students at their annual exhibitions. Notable students who trained at the school in this time period are also identified. The chapter concludes with a brief look at the annual Federal Australian Art Exhibitions which were held at the Society of Arts’ Institute Building Gallery to emphasise the important role Gill played as Honorary Curator in the purchase of works by Australian artists of the period for the collection of the National Gallery of South Australia.


CHAPTER FOUR: FEDERATION & WORLD WAR 1 ... 1900 to 1920

Chapter Four begins with a brief account of South Australia’s involvement in the moves towards political federation; the individuals involved and the events that led up to Australia becoming a Federation of states on January 1, 1901. This is followed by a summary of the changing face of Adelaide as a result of technological advances in transport, communication and architectural design and construction. The school’s growing focus on the Arts and Crafts is then explained through reference to specific subjects on offer within the ever expanding curriculum. Various members of staff are then identified along with the particular arts and crafts skills in which they excelled. Student exhibitions and other art events at the school in this time period are then outlined along with detailed descriptions of the variety of works produced. Gill’s important role as Honorary Curator to the National Gallery of South Australia is then highlighted, particularly in relation to his purchases for the gallery via the Elder Bequest. The 1908/09 Gill Enquiry is then examined together with its key outcomes, the most important of these being the change of administration of the school from the Public Library, Museum & Art Gallery Board to the Education Department. This is followed by an outline of Gill’s resignation and subsequent death and the appointment (albeit brief) of sculptor, John Christie Wright as the school’s Principal. The chapter concludes with a brief overview of the school in the post war period from 1917 to 1920.

North Terrace, Adelaide, 1922. North Terrace, Adelaide showing the cultural precinct, left to right: South Australian Institute, Public Library, Museum, Art Gallery, University of Adelaide (unseen), Exhibition Building and the School of Mines. State Library of South Australia, PRG 280/1/30/110. Part of Searcy Collection.

North Terrace, Adelaide, 1922. North Terrace, Adelaide showing the cultural precinct, left to right: South Australian Institute, Public Library, Museum, Art Gallery, University of Adelaide (unseen), Exhibition Building and the School of Mines. State Library of South Australia, PRG 280/1/30/110. Part of Searcy Collection.


View of Adelaide showing the sprawling mixture of industrial, commerce and residential life. Looking East: Flinders Street, Pilgrim Church and the old power station spews a stream of smoke from the coal fires across the skyline from where Tandanya is now located. Adelaide City Council Archives 6312 item 004 (Adelaide City Council Archives). This image was recently (2016) unearthed from the Adelaide City Council’s Archives. Judging from the skyline, archivist to the Council, Rob Thorton, believes the photos were taken in either 1921 or 1922.  Source

View of Adelaide showing the sprawling mixture of industrial, commerce and residential life. Looking East: Flinders Street, Pilgrim Church and the old power station spews a stream of smoke from the coal fires across the skyline from where Tandanya is now located. Adelaide City Council Archives 6312 item 004 (Adelaide City Council Archives). This image was recently (2016) unearthed from the Adelaide City Council’s Archives. Judging from the skyline, archivist to the Council, Rob Thorton, believes the photos were taken in either 1921 or 1922. Source

CHAPTER FIVE:  BETWEEN THE WAR YEARS & BEYOND

1920 TO 1950s 

Chapter Five of this history begins with a brief overview of the social, political and cultural environment in South Australia in the 1920s and 30s with particular reference to the impact of technological change on transport and communication. The newly appointed Principal, Lawrence Hotham Howie is then introduced along with the new staff members, specifically Marie Tuck & Ethel Barringer, who introduced a range of new skills and techniques to students, particularly those pertaining to modernism. The 1920s is then described as an ‘Age of Etching’ which is explained by particular reference to the individuals who worked in this medium during this period in time. The rise of commercial galleries and the artists who exhibited there is then outlined, followed by reference to the formation of the Girls Central Art School (GCAS) which was developed as a ‘school within a school’ in the 1930s. The significant contribution made to the school by Mary Packer Harris is then outlined along with various projects she initiated, particularly the school magazine The Forerunner which charted the school’s artistic progress from 1930 to 1938. The influence of the Second World War on the work of the school which resulted in its exodus from the exhibition building to other venues in Adelaide is then briefly outlined. This is followed by a brief overview of the impact of modernism on the Adelaide art scene and the contribution made by artist and teacher Dorrit Black to this changing scenario. Howie’s retirement (1941) and the appointment of Frederick Millward Grey; SASAC’s period of decline during the 1950s and the parade of principals (Kenneth Lamacraft, Douglas Roberts, Paul Beadle, Allan Sierp, Douglas Roberts) that followed his retirement in 1956, is then outlined. The chapter concludes with an introduction to the School's first Diplomas; the renaming of SASAC as the South Australian School of Art in 1958 and it’s move from the Exhibition Building to a new purpose-built campus at Stanley Street, North Adelaide.


CHAPTER 6 ... SASA @ Stanley Street … 1960 to 1980s

Chapter Six of this history introduces readers to the social, political and cultural changes that took place in Australia in the 1980s & 1990s as well as to those pertaining specifically to the art world. The transition years wherein the School relocated from its old premises at the Jubilee Exhibition Building on North Terrace, Adelaide to its new and purpose-built campus at Stanley Street, North Adelaide are then outlined. The design of the new campus is described in detail and Foundation staff named along with their teaching roles. Also outlined are the study requirements for the Diploma courses in Fine Art (Painting & Sculpture), Advertising Art (later Design) and Art Teaching. Claims that the years at Stanley Street were SASA’s ‘Golden Years’ are investigated as are various other events that impacted on the work of the school in the first of these two decades. Particular reference is made to the contested merger between the South Australian School of Art and Western Teachers College that took place in the early 1970s and which resulted in the School becoming part of the Torrens College of Education. The School’s first, and only, exhibition (Outlook ’71) of student work that was held at the Art Gallery of South Australia is outlined as are the influential Link exhibitions that were held at this same venue from 1974 to 1978.  the. Brief outlines are provided of the three key arts groups that formed in this same time frame, these being the Progressive Art Movement (PAM), Experimental Art Foundation (EAF) and Women’s Art Movement (WAM). The individuals involved and key events they initiated are also outlined. The chapter concludes by describing the experiences that characterised the School’s transition from its cloistered North Adelaide campus to separate sections of the much larger campus at Underdale as part of Torrens CAE.

Street view of the South Australian School of Art, Stanley Street, North Adelaide. 1963. School of Art Prospectus, 1963.

Street view of the South Australian School of Art, Stanley Street, North Adelaide. 1963. School of Art Prospectus, 1963.