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UBC Theses and Dissertations

W.P. Weston, educator and artist : the development of British ideas in the art curriculum of B.C. public schools Rogers, Anthony William


Using the biographical approach, this thesis examines the transfer of British art education methodology to B.C. schools. Early chapters make a close study of the school art curriculum in Britain and its comprehensive restructuring between 1890 and 1910. Later chapters analyse the transfer of these British ideas to B.C., showing how they eventually formed the basis of the British Columbia art curriculum. As a British immigrant in 1909, William Percy Weston belonged to the dominant ethnic and cultural group then settling in B.C.. With British training and teaching experience, he brought with him the belief, fundamental to British art education, that natural form was the basis of design and beauty. Never abandoning this notion, he spread his ideas well beyond the Provincial Normal School, where he was Art Master from 1914 to 1946. Apart from playing a major role in the art training of teachers he was largely responsible for writing the official provincial art text in 1924 and completely responsible for its 1933 revision. He dominated the 1936 rewriting of elementary and secondary art programmes which became a part of the province's complete overhaul of curricula. Weston also became a prominent artist. Among the first to develop a new vision of the western Canadian landscape, he was an important member of the local artistic community. He finally received national recognition, becoming a charter member of the Canadian Group of Painters in 1933 and the first B.C. Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1936. Throughout the nineteen-thirties he exhibited extensively in national exhibitions and his work was chosen to represent Canada abroad. This thesis shows how British educational ideas were sustained in B.C. by the predominantly British educational establishment long after they were rejected in Britain. Investigating reasons, often unforeseen, for curricular change, the thesis raises important questions about the inadequacy of much curriculum history with its emphasis on official policy and disregard for classroom practice. In elucidating Weston's thought and practice contextually, the thesis points out the conditions which allowed Weston to have such wide influence, contrasting his educational conservatism with his artistic experimentation. Furthermore, it offers an explanation for the way in which school art education policy developed in B.C. and underscores the complex of reasons which encourages, or impedes, change in educational practice. Although ultimately Weston's predominance may have held up educational change in art within the province, he nevertheless brought a coherent and plausible philosophy of art education to B.C. schools, one that served the province well for three or more decades. His enthusiastic and able championing of that philosophy did much to encourage teaching of the subject.

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