Prof C Dakers (external supervisor)
The motivation behind this thesis was a wish to explore the origins of the radical fashion practised by designers such as Galliano, Chalayan and McQueen. All designers were graduates of the fashion department at St Martin’s School of Art, a department founded by Muriel Pemberton who taught there for 44 years. Thus this thesis debates, for the first time, Pemberton’s key role in two aspects; her personal artistic approaches and her role in government education policy.
Pemberton began teaching at St Martin’s in 1931, immediately after graduating from the Royal College of Art where she was awarded their first ever diploma in fashion. The curriculum she wrote there for her own study, which mixed drawing, museum study, pattern cutting and couture experience, was the one which she adapted for her work at St Martin’s. Pemberton was a practising artist and successful illustrator who had almost certainly been taught by Bawden and Ravilious whilst at the RCA. This research will offer clear evidence that their British response to Modernism profoundly affected Pemberton’s work and teaching practice.
Strong links between Pemberton and another of her teachers, Reco Capey RDI, RCA design tutor and Art Director of Yardley, will also be demonstrated. Both had been pupils at Burslem School of Art. Pemberton, at 13, was their youngest ever pupil. Research in this thesis shows, for the first time, the strong links between Burslem and the government agenda for design education. Burslem School of Art, as part of the Wedgwood Institute, was built with advice from Sir Henry Cole and Captain Fowke concurrently with South Kensington, later better known as the Victoria and Albert museum and the Royal College of Art. In addition to housing the art school, the Wedgwood Institute contained a museum and a library, and later a Science School, and was demonstrably a provincial version of the South Kensington model.
In 1938, at Capey’s recommendation, Pemberton joined the government’s design education establishment when she became a government examiner. Later, in the 1960s, she was a member of the Summerson Council’s fashion panel. The Summerson Council, set up on the recommendation of the Coldstream Council, recognised those colleges which were thought capable of providing a liberal art education of degree level. In 1964 only seven colleges were thought to reach this standard in fashion. St Martin’s fashion course was by far the largest.
This thesis identifies and analyses the network that is English design education from its roots via Cole to Galliano and more specifically to locate Pemberton within that network as a guiding force, assesses her influence on degree level fashion education, and examines its lasting legacy.
Catalogue notes for the exhibition Following the Line’ Exhibition of drawings by Howard Tangye and film ‘Following a Line’ by Anna-Nicole Ziesche Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins, 2006.
Obituary for the artist Jo Brocklehurst in the Guardian newspaper. March 2006.
Marie McLoughlin: 'Drawing Dreams: Fashion Illustration' in Backemeyer, Sylvia, ed. Picture This. The Artist as Illustrator. London A & C Black, 2005
The book Picture This. The Artist as Illustrator was accompanied by an exhibition of the same name in the Lethaby Gallery, London.
Marie McLoughlin interviewed three fashion illustrators, Elizabeth Suter, Gladys Perint Palmer and Jo Brocklehurst, in an associated event at Central St Martin’s School of Art, University of the Arts, London.
The exhibition Following the Line and Following a Line was supported by an event at which Marie McLoughlin interviewed the two artists, Howard Tangye and Anna-Nicole Ziesche. Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre, London.