Heatherley’s School of Fine Art remains the oldest independent art school in London and the second oldest in the country after the Royal Academy. It is among the very few art colleges in Britain that focus on portraiture, figurative painting, sculpture and the traditional skills of representational art.
The School offers a variety of both vocational and part-time courses for a mixture of abilities and ages, for example the youngest student at the moment is 17 and the eldest 94! Subjects available include: oil painting, watercolour, life drawing, ceramics, sculpture and printmaking.
Heatherley’s was the first art school to admit women on an equal footing as men and their original ‘open studio’, based on the French atelier system of the 19th century, is still run to this day. The School is controlled by an educational charity: The Thomas Heatherley Education Trust and encourages art in underprivileged children as well as various other charitable endeavours.
A substantial number of successful and famed artists have studied at the art school, among these Henry Moore, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rosetti and Sir John Everett Millais to name but a few. Other students have gone on to become Principals of various schools like Sir Edward Poynter, who was the first Principal of the Slade School of Art, and Walter Crane, the first Principal of the Royal College of Art.
Facilities include spacious painting studios with large windows to provide natural light, a good teacher to student ratio to ensure every student is looked after and their needs met accordingly, a teaching staff made up of practicing artists, a superb location in the heart of Chelsea close to many museums and art galleries and is within walking distance of the Thames. Well-lit sculpture studios where one can mould inanimate objects and bring them to life, a large printmaking studio and expert technical staff as well as experienced models on all courses are also part of the facilities on site. The art school, which moved to brand new purpose-built premises in 2008, deceives the eye and is much larger than it appears from the outside. It also features a comprehensive library where all the greats continue to live and tell their stories as well as a school shop which stocks artists’ materials and a seminar room with video and IT facilities as well as many studios where various classes take place.
Heatherley’s Diploma in Portraiture was introduced in 1994 and is unique to Heatherley’s. Britain stands pre-eminent in portraiture and nowhere else in the world is this specialist art form a more important feature of cultural life. Portraiture is a record of individuals seen through the relationship between sitter and artist - a symbol and vehicle for the transmission of ideas and comment on the human condition. Heatherley’s School of Fine Art is introducing a brand new series of exciting workshops, in collaboration with London Drawing, which present the human figure as inspiration to help those who attend to unlock creativity and learn to think like an artist. The workshops are for both professionals and amateurs and run every Saturday at the School.
The School was founded in 1845 when a group of students and Masters from the Government School of Design in Somerset House rebelled against the academic restrictions that had been imposed on them and as a result of expulsion began to work as a separate class in Dickenson’s Drawing Gallery, 18 Maddox Street. One master deemed this as being ‘complimented out of the school’. In 1848 Dickenson’s became Leigh’s and moved to Newman Street with James Matthews Leigh as Principal. When Leigh retired, his pupil and assistant Thomas Heatherley took over the school and ran it for nearly thirty years without a break. The school was named after him.
The current Principal at Heatherley’s, John Walton, studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford followed by the Slade School of Fine Art in London where he obtained the University of London diploma for fine art and won the Melville Nettleship Prize for Figure Composition. John Walton has been the Principal of the Heatherly Scool of Fine Art in Chelsea since 1974 and has his London studio in the school. One of John Walton›s current ambitions is to market and transport the school›s ethos on an international basis, offering exchange courses between countries thereby enabling visitors to learn more about London›s culture, artistic pursuits and attractions.
In the summer students might even enjoy a class on the balcony overlooking the Thames or just a chat and a break or alternatively they can take advantage of the off-site drawing and painting days in nearby parks, by the river or, if the weather is conservatively British to the point of clichéd rain, then students can continue their work in art galleries.
The Heatherley’s School of Fine Art is at 75 Lots Road, SW10 0RN Tel: 020 7351 6945 e-mail: email@example.com