The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Drawing and Painting and Design

Drawing and painting and the theory of design first appeared in the curriculum of the Department of Architecture as service courses for architectural students, and this circumstance exerted a strong influence upon the character of the work offered, actually giving special color and direction to instruction in these subjects for many years.

The first course in elementary design was taught in 1906 by Professor Emil Lorch. It attempted to present a scientific approach to the various fields of design. In 1910, with the assistance of William Caldwell Titcomb, Instructor in Drawing, a second course was added, Allied Arts of Design. In both of these the instruction was greatly influenced by the scholarly researches of Denman W. Ross, of Harvard, whose findings constituted at that time the dominant body of theory in this field.

The first courses in drawing were given by Alice Hunt in 1906 and by Titcomb in 1907. In 1910 Raymond Everett began to share this work as Instructor, and in 1915 Leon Alexander Makielski came as Instructor. This young portrait and landscape painter, a product of the Art Institute of Chicago, was joined later in the same year by Instructor Ernest Harrison Barnes, a Detroit landscape painter who had been trained at the Art Institute and the Art Students League. The initial offerings in drawing consisted of four courses which totaled eight credit hours: Freehand Drawing, Pen and Ink, Water Color, and Clay Modeling. By 1921 eight courses were being given, totaling twelve credit hours, with the two courses in design previously noted, and a three-hour requirement in fine arts history.

All drawing and painting instruction during these years was offered in a large sky-lighted studio on the fourth floor north in the West Engineering Building. Here the temper of the time in art education was expressed by a regiment of plaster casts and a battalion of still-life tables, many of the latter carrying carefully set arrangements of pottery and colored draperies. The emphasis as in virtually all schools of art and architecture of the period was upon naturalism, and practically all types of subject matter were treated as if they were still life. The accurate rendering of appearances was insisted upon, and the development of skills in the student was the chief objective. The curriculum consisted of a series of carefully graded courses, first in line, then in tone, and finally in color. Using the medium typically appropriate to each of these, the student concentrated successively upon the representation of simple objects, fragments of architectural ornament, casts of parts of the figure, casts of the whole figure, and finally of the living figure itself. Some attention was likewise given to sketching and painting from landscape. This entire approach was undoubtedly useful to the architectural student for whom it was originally designed, but with the passage of the years and the appearance in the College of Page  1307greater numbers of students with other than architectural objectives, it eventually became a deadening routine and little by little had to be altered or abandoned.

The initial layout of the design courses was the work of two architects, Lorch and Titcomb, but the increasing interest in this field warranted the appointment, by 1921, of a part-time special instructor. Herbert A. Fowler, originally a Detroit designer, and thoroughly imbued with the Denman Ross point of view, carried the major burden of design teaching for the next decade and did much to develop an initial curriculum based principally on academic theory. His text, Modern Creative Design and Its Application, was in use for most of this period. In addition to the main body of Denman Ross theory, it incorporated as an approach to the subject J. Hambidge's principles of geometric relations and was illustrated by the classwork of students. From 1926 to 1932 Fowler was given valuable assistance by Titcomb, who during this time inaugurated two important courses, History of Applied Arts and Design of Interiors, both destined to become major items in a program which was somewhat slanted toward the needs of students in interior design.

The efforts of Fowler in organizing this work were rewarded when in 1924 the Board of Regents approved a curriculum in decorative design leading to the degree of bachelor of science in design. When first announced in 1926, this program called for the completion of 140 credit hours of study made up as follows: eighteen hours of architecture; thirty-five hours of allied arts; twenty-two hours of drawing, painting, and modeling; sixty-one hours of general electives; and four hours of office practice. Five years were normally required for obtaining the bachelor's degree. As an option, a new joint program for art teachers was developed in conjunction with the School of Education, in which certain studies in education were added to the technical sequences for the degree.

In 1920, as a move to train teachers, a special arts course for supervisors, art instructors, grade teachers, and school principals was introduced into the summer session program to supplement a course in drawing and water color already being given. With Miss Emma Grattan, supervisor of art in the public schools of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Birger Sandzen, a landscape painter and lithographer from Kansas, as instructors, this course proved attractive to numbers of vacationing art teachers and others and continued with great success for several years. In 1921 a guest instructor with special competence in landscape painting was given charge of the summer-session work in outdoor sketching, and this course soon established itself both with regular students of the department and with those whom Miss Grattan's work was attracting to Ann Arbor.

The instructor chosen for this was Jean Paul Slusser, a graduate of the University who had subsequently studied art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and in the Woodstock landscape classes of the Art Students League of New York. In 1924 another painter, Myron B. Chapin, joined the staff; he was a graduate of the University of Chicago who had received additional training at the Art Institute of Chicago. Two women teachers, Maria L. Crane and Mary O. Johnson, served on the staff in 1926-27, and at that time a young Detroit painter, Frederic H. Aldrich, Jr., also became Instructor. In 1927 Alexander Mastro Valerio, painter and etcher, with an art background obtained at the Royal Art Academy in Naples, Page  1308was appointed. In 1928 Leon A. Makielski retired from the drawing faculty. Slusser had been placed upon the regular staff as Instructor in 1925, with the informal responsibility of acting as chairman of the drawing and painting group.

Meanwhile the design area was expanding. In 1926 Ross Bittinger became Teaching Assistant, and subsequently, as Instructor, he introduced work in metal crafts, in color, and in rendering, and was made responsible for the courses in interior design. In 1929 Walter W. J. Gores was appointed Instructor in Architecture; a graphic arts graduate of Stanford University, he had gone on to three years of postgraduate training in Europe as an American Field Service Fellow to French universities. Two years later he was made Assistant Professor of Architecture and given responsibility for assisting in the development of the design group. He inaugurated courses in advertising design, organized two important lecture courses dealing with the Arts of Design and the History of Interiors, and developed a valuable seminar for seniors in design. In spite of early efforts on his part to initiate more progressive methods in design teaching, it was some time before any changes of importance took place.

When in 1927 the College of Architecture moved into its new building, the third floor was devoted to the classes in design and the fourth floor to those in drawing and painting. It is anomalous that these two groups maintained separate identities throughout the development of the College, and a certain amount of overlapping and duplication, as for instance in the field of color, was the result. That the line of demarcation was never clearly drawn may be noted from the fact that pictorial composition, a key course in the drawing and painting program, was originally set up as a design course, while clay modeling was at first listed as a course in drawing. For many years the normal development of sculpture within the College of Architecture was inhibited by the presence in the Literary College of a sculptor in residence. Clay modeling, however, was from the very beginning part of the architectural curriculum. Instruction in this subject was handled by a succession of young sculptors, of whom may be specifically mentioned Samuel Cashwan, Carleton Angell, Victor Slocum, and Beaver Edwards.

In 1935 a proposal was made by Gores for a major change in the curriculum in decorative design as it was then entitled; this called for a reduction of credit hours required for graduation from 140 to 128. This plan was approved and put into effect; the degree, which could now be earned in four years, was changed to bachelor of design. The greater attraction of the program was soon demonstrated by an increased enrollment, and this in turn made it possible to build up the faculty by additional appointments. Technical requirements accounted for sixty-eight hours and the general cultural subjects for sixty. Five major options leading to the degree were offered, namely: I, Interior Design; II, Advertising Design; III, Stage Design; IV, Applied Design; and V, Drawing, Painting, and Design. The last category was intended particularly for students preparing to teach art. By completing certain requirements in the School of Education, together with technical studies in the College of Architecture, a student might obtain a teacher's certificate in addition to his bachelor of design degree.

Partly because of the increase and gradual change in the make-up of the students in the drawing and painting classes, to a large extent the result of the growing popularity of the design program and its greater attractiveness to women students, a difference in the Page  1309character of the instruction became manifest. Increasing numbers of students from other departments of the University were taking courses in the College of Architecture for cultural reasons or as an avenue toward creative self-development. The work in drawing and painting had become better suited to the needs of the general art student. Pictorial composition had been expanded to occupy two semesters; etching, portrait, and life painting had been added; and beginning in 1937 a class in fresco painting was inaugurated by Slusser and taught by him for several years; later this became a class in mural painting in which various techniques were employed.

Parallel with these developments, a more objective point of view was being advanced in design. A kiln, first set up in the East Engineering Building but subsequently moved to the Architecture Building, made possible the introduction of ceramics courses as a logical extension of the elementary course in clay modeling. Work in this area was for some years under the supervision of Mary Chase Stratton, owner and co-founder of the Pewabic Potteries of Detroit. A series of grants from the Earhart Foundation during the years 1938-42 provided adequate hand and power tools, together with equipment for carrying out projects in wood, metals, and other materials in a newly organized workshop set up in the Architecture Building. Looms were also acquired for the teaching of weaving; the whole policy was to provide opportunity for the student to learn through practice as well as through theory.

In the year 1937 several changes occurred: Professor Wells I. Bennett, a member of the architectural faculty, became Director, and the following year, Dean, of the College; and Gores was informally placed in charge of the work in design. Professor Fowler resigned in 1939. Progress in formulating a comprehensive educational policy was made when in 1939, partly as a result of a survey by Gores of art teaching in other institutions, a major reorientation of the work here was undertaken. The former emphasis on academic theory gave way to a more direct and creative approach in the content, method, and objectives of courses and their sequences; this was reflected in the appointment of new staff members with a more modern and realistic point of view.

Certain changes which had already made their appearance in the work of the school were further accelerated by the happenings of the war and postwar years. During the early part of World War II male students virtually vanished from the scene, and the fact that the College was able to keep most of its staff together and continue its operations was due in large part to the steady enrollment of women in the drawing and painting and design classes. The special demands of this group had an influence upon the character of work offered. At the close of the war, with the sharp increase in staff made necessary by the sudden influx of veterans, there inevitably came, with new personnel, new ideas and new viewpoints. Throughout the University there was a readjustment in teaching methods and objectives to meet the changing times.

Among the newer members of the drawing and painting staff whose influence has proved stimulating both to their students and their colleagues is James Donald Prendergast. A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, with varied experience both as painter and teacher, he came here from the University of Arizona in 1944 as Assistant Professor. Several of his attitudes proved especially valuable: his preoccupation with color, his interest in surrealism, and his belief that the student should be encouraged to find the answers to his own artistic Page  1310problems. Another leavening influence has been provided by Karl Kasten, a graduate of the University of California Department of Art, who came in 1946 as Instructor, and who has sponsored several progressive approaches in drawing and painting. In 1945 Carlos Lopez joined the faculty and soon established himself, as he previously had in Detroit as one of the best loved of teachers. An active exhibitor nationally as well as locally, he came with a sound reputation both as an easel and a mural painter and as a draughtsman experienced in handling military and industrial subject matter. He died in January, 1953.

In 1946, Gerome Kamrowski joined the staff and very soon became a quickening influence in the life of the College. An abstract surrealist, associated during his New York years with the Matta group, he brought to his teaching the methods and viewpoints of the extreme avant-garde, while at the same time obtaining from his students work of the greatest soundness as strict representation. Another abstract surrealist, Chet LaMore, came from the Albright School in Buffalo in 1947 with the rank of Assistant Professor. With a master's degree in art history from the University of Wisconsin, and self-taught as a painter, his influence was in the direction of more imaginative color and design. Richard Wilt, a graduate of Carnegie Institute, appointed Instructor in 1947, proved to be an active painter and vigorous teacher, and Frank Cassara, a young Detroit mural painter, demonstrated his worth as a teacher of drawing.

In 1948 the Extension Service promoted a successful expansion of some of the regular work in drawing, painting, sculpture, and ceramics. Three men were selected by the College to serve as a resident staff, giving instruction for college credit and otherwise, at both the Grand Rapids Art Gallery and the Kalamazoo Art Institute. Gerald Mast was appointed Assistant Professor of Drawing and Painting in 1948 and was joined the following year by Paul H. Jones, who had completed two years of University service in Ann Arbor, and by Kirk Newman, a sculptor, who was added to the group as Instructor in Ceramics.

Among members of the design group who have made continuing contributions are some who received part of their training in the College: Donald B. Gooch, many-sided as a teacher, developed himself here as a painter and subsequently acquired valuable experience in advertising design. Catherine B. Heller brought to her teaching of design theory and interior design the advantages of an architectural degree plus some years of practical experience in New York City. Emil Weddige, indefatigable in the service of the College, was graduated from Michigan State Normal College; later he studied painting here and pursued advanced studies in printmaking both in this country and abroad. Bertha Van Z. Frayer, who for twelve years ably administered the work in weaving, is a product of Cranbrook training. Aarre K. Lahti, who did much to develop the work in product design, was originally trained as a painter at the Art Institute of Chicago and came with unusually wide experience in various practical forms of design. Ernest Mundt, now director of an important art school, and Richard Lippold, well-known sculptor, were for a time on the staff; the former introduced some of the principles of Bauhaus teaching here, and the latter was especially concerned with pointing out to students the historic interrelation of the arts. Grover D. Cole successfully handled most of the early work in ceramics, expanding and developing the courses in this area, as well as the facilities for teaching them. While Cole was in service during World War II, Thomas Page  1311S. Haile, a distinguished English potter, ably carried on this work. Roger Hollenbeck, not long on the staff, brought a fresh point of view to the teaching of basic design. David H. Reider, formerly on the staff of the Albright School, was in 1947 made Assistant Professor of Design and given responsibility for much of the basic instruction in this subject, and the next year Philip C. Davis was appointed Instructor; he assisted in developing the courses in photography.

Sculpture was finally given its place in the curriculum of the College in 1949, when, after William Talbot, New York sculptor, briefly served as visiting lecturer, Thomas F. McClure, formerly of the University of Oklahoma, was appointed with the rank of Assistant Professor to have charge of this work. With competence both in ceramics and in sculpture, he was in a position to give unity of direction to the work of both disciplines. In 1950 and 1951, respectively, two instructors with Cranbrook backgrounds were appointed to the design staff: J. T. Abernathy was placed in charge of ceramics, and Ron Fidler was assigned the teaching of general design.

As a result of the continuing study being made of the various programs of the College, a sweeping simplification of the nonarchitectural educational pattern was arrived at, and in 1951 a description of the new visual arts program was published. This was a single curriculum suited to the various interests and professional needs of degree candidates, while at the same time providing courses for the general university student seeking some art training in the College. Within this framework all students were expected to elect during the first three semesters a common group of foundation courses in drawing and design; in the intermediate period they were allowed to choose from several groups of specific prerequisite courses those which would prepare them for the specialized fields in which they planned to concentrate during the last three semesters of the four-year program. These specialized upperclass courses, each for four credit hours and of which the student was required to elect three, were in the areas of interior design, product design, information design, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, and oil painting. The student was to take three in a single field or might schedule a combination of them.

Indicating a direction in which the work of the College might conceivably expand were two comparatively new courses of an interdepartmental nature. Art for Beginners, taught by members of the drawing and painting staff for nonarchitectural students, was the required laboratory work for a basic survey lecture course in the fine arts given in the Literary College; and Home in the Community was a studio course in interior design taught by a member of the visual arts staff but entirely for students outside the College. Such an expansion of the work in drawing, painting, and design in response to the needs of the general university student seemed to fall in with recommendations made in a 1949 Senate Advisory Committee report on the status of women at Michigan.

With the constitution in 1946 of a Museum of Art with a director chosen from the staff of the College of Architecture and Design, a step was taken toward vitalizing and at the same time unifying the work of the various agencies of the University devoted to art teaching. The scheduling of an almost continuous series of changing exhibitions throughout the academic year and the building up of the permanent collections in the Museum of Art proved important ways of providing illustrative material for courses in the theory, history, and practice of art in the University.

It may be pointed out that the trend Page  1312of the architectural disciplines of the College has been toward an ever greater degree of professionalism. In drawing, painting, and design, on the other hand, and to some extent the same thing is true for all the areas of the visual arts program, the direction has been not so much toward greater professionalism as toward greater usefulness to the general student. Specialization in the upper brackets of the various options offered in the visual arts curriculum is still, as it has always been, a possibility for those who qualify themselves appropriately for it, but it becomes increasingly clear that part of what may be called the manifest destiny of this work is bound up with the large cultural objectives of the University as a whole.

Perhaps it is a symbol of this growing interrelatedness that staff members of the College have increasingly been drawn into the activities of the entire University community; they have given professional help and advice in the decoration of halls and banquet rooms for ceremonial occasions; they have designed printed publicity material for special campus purposes, and they have made radio and TV appearances in their various professional capacities. But more important than all this is the realization which in recent years has come to all of them that the disciplines which they represent must be made increasingly accessible to the cultural uses not merely of the specialist, but of the student in search of a liberal education.