Leeds nostalgia: Leeds college became ‘mother’ of US art schools

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Leeds College of Art building, Vernon Street, LS2, has a long and illustrious history, dating back to 1846, when it was created by the Leeds Mechanics’ and Literary Instituion.

It was part of a wider drive to increase education across the country.

The building in question was put up for the college in 1903, the plaque being unveiled by Sir Alan Bowness, former director of the Henry Moore Foundation, former director of the Tate Gallery and the son-in-law of one of its former pupils, Barbara Hepworth, in 1996.

The school was taken over by Leeds City Council in 1907. Perhaps its most famous pupil, Henry Moore, attended the school for two years from 1919.

He was at the time recovering from the effects of being gassed while serving with the British Army during the First World War. He moved to London in 1921.

Barbara Hepworth joined the school in 1920, which is when the two met, marking the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

According to Leeds Civic Trust: “In 1871, the headmaster of the school accepted an invitation to become director of art for all pubclically provided schools in Massachusetts, meaning the Leeds school was ‘the mother’ of art education in the USA.”

Calls for the school to have its own building were made in late 19th Century, when it was noted: ‘There are hundreds of working men, such as masons, builders, joiners, mechanics, carvers, house painters, upholsterers, cabinet makers etc, to whom a knowledge of drawing would be most useful.’