Felix Slade Tondo

Kieren Reed celebrates an enigmatic icon of the Slade School of Fine Art, as it marks its 150th birthday

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This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

Beyond its Grade I-listed building, the Slade’s most iconic object is a tondo dedicated to Felix Slade, the man who funded the foundation of the school. Its maker and history are certainly fascinating, but its significance comes from its location at the top of the Slade’s staircase, where it has watched over students and artists for perhaps 130 years. Its presence transcends the work itself, making it more like a motif of the school. No wonder so many of our students pose for a photo beside it when they graduate.

The low-relief sculpture is a hollow plaster cast that we believe was created by Elinor Hallé around 1885. The Slade was the first art school in England to accept women students on equal terms with men, and Hallé studied here under Alphonse Legros, from whom she developed a skill for medal making. Beyond its subject matter, we don’t know why this particular work was given such a prominent place in the building. In style, it reflects the Slade’s roots in the careful study of antique sculpture, of which the school had many plaster copies, and it’s fascinating to think of the way that the tondo, too, has become a kind of artefact.

The tondo’s inscription recognises Felix Slade as a ‘patron of the liberal arts’. A lawyer by profession, he was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a noted collector who donated his important collection of glass to the British Museum. In his will, Slade bequeathed £35,000 for the endowment of art professorships at Oxford, Cambridge and UCL, along with six student scholarships at our institution. Since UCL’s foundation as London University in 1826, there had been discussion around providing art teaching, including some early forays into drawing classes, but it took the vision and generosity of Felix Slade to turn the idea of this school of art into reality.

Kieren Reed is Slade Professor and Director of the Slade School of Fine Art 

Photography Alamy, Thomas Jenkins

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

 

Beyond its Grade I-listed building, the Slade’s most iconic object is a tondo dedicated to Felix Slade, the man who funded the foundation of the school. Its maker and history are certainly fascinating, but its significance comes from its location at the top of the Slade’s staircase, where it has watched over students and artists for perhaps 130 years. Its presence transcends the work itself, making it more like a motif of the school. No wonder so many of our students pose for a photo beside it when they graduate.

The low-relief sculpture is a hollow plaster cast that we believe was created by Elinor Hallé around 1885. The Slade was the first art school in England to accept women students on equal terms with men, and Hallé studied here under Alphonse Legros, from whom she developed a skill for medal making. Beyond its subject matter, we don’t know why this particular work was given such a prominent place in the building. In style, it reflects the Slade’s roots in the careful study of antique sculpture, of which the school had many plaster copies, and it’s fascinating to think of the way that the tondo, too, has become a kind of artefact.

The tondo’s inscription recognises Felix Slade as a ‘patron of the liberal arts’. A lawyer by profession, he was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a noted collector who donated his important collection of glass to the British Museum. In his will, Slade bequeathed £35,000 for the endowment of art professorships at Oxford, Cambridge and UCL, along with six student scholarships at our institution. Since UCL’s foundation as London University in 1826, there had been discussion around providing art teaching, including some early forays into drawing classes, but it took the vision and generosity of Felix Slade to turn the idea of this school of art into reality.

Kieren Reed is Slade Professor and Director of the Slade School of Fine Art 

Photography Alamy, Thomas Jenkins

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

 

Beyond its Grade I-listed building, the Slade’s most iconic object is a tondo dedicated to Felix Slade, the man who funded the foundation of the school. Its maker and history are certainly fascinating, but its significance comes from its location at the top of the Slade’s staircase, where it has watched over students and artists for perhaps 130 years. Its presence transcends the work itself, making it more like a motif of the school. No wonder so many of our students pose for a photo beside it when they graduate.

The low-relief sculpture is a hollow plaster cast that we believe was created by Elinor Hallé around 1885. The Slade was the first art school in England to accept women students on equal terms with men, and Hallé studied here under Alphonse Legros, from whom she developed a skill for medal making. Beyond its subject matter, we don’t know why this particular work was given such a prominent place in the building. In style, it reflects the Slade’s roots in the careful study of antique sculpture, of which the school had many plaster copies, and it’s fascinating to think of the way that the tondo, too, has become a kind of artefact.

The tondo’s inscription recognises Felix Slade as a ‘patron of the liberal arts’. A lawyer by profession, he was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a noted collector who donated his important collection of glass to the British Museum. In his will, Slade bequeathed £35,000 for the endowment of art professorships at Oxford, Cambridge and UCL, along with six student scholarships at our institution. Since UCL’s foundation as London University in 1826, there had been discussion around providing art teaching, including some early forays into drawing classes, but it took the vision and generosity of Felix Slade to turn the idea of this school of art into reality.

Kieren Reed is Slade Professor and Director of the Slade School of Fine Art 

Photography Alamy, Thomas Jenkins

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.