There never came together a more enthusiastic, loyal, and earnest set of students than those I had around me. Even if some of the rules or directions went against the grain, the students courageously struggled to carry out the wishes of their master. The devotion of these men and women belongs to the happiest memories of my life. We were making a school under conditions never perhaps before attempted -- a school of art in a village. It was all an experiment, and no master in the world could have made it a success without the full-hearted and enthusiastic co-operation of the students. It was my good fortune to have the right material at the beginning, which was all-important for such a novel undertaking. An art atmosphere had to be created, and nobody, who has not tried to make a special atmosphere of this kind, can know what the task entails. It cost me many a sleepless night; it taxed my resources to the utmost; it took the very vitality out of me. But it was worth all it cost me, and I would willingly do it all again, -- given youth and strength.
The curriculum was simple: painting from the nude living model from nine until three, five days in the week; drawing in charcoal or pencil from the nude model at night from seven till nine; on the Saturday morning, a village model was requisitioned for head painting only.
There were no prizes to be given, therefore competition -- that most uncertain and unfair of methods for gauging talent -- was eliminated. The students were taught neither tricks nor hard-and-fast methods of work. I did not intend to give them "crutches" with which to hobble about as lame Herkomers when they left the school.
Put briefly, the system was principally "a search for the personality of each student." The result of this method of teaching has been that t he world cannot recognise my pupils in their works, and it will probably be said that I have left no "school" behind me. But I never could understand the advantage of squeezing the supple mind of a student into a master's manner, from which he may never wholly extricate himself. [13-15]
von Herkomer, Sir Hubert. My School and My Gospel. New York: Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1906.
Last modified 30 May 2007