Some time after emailing the schools referred to as making use of original works of art of the type purchased through Pictures for Schools in the 1970 book In Our Experience: the changing schools of Leicestershire, I finally heard back from one of the schools, Ivanhoe College, built in 1954.
My enquiry had been batted about before reaching the relevant staff member, the Assistant Business Manager, who had a slightly more pessimistic take on the value of post-war artworks in schools than other people I had spoken to.
She confirmed that the school had 40 or 50 artworks, ten of which belonged to the county art collection and the rest of which were gifted. Most were paintings on board, although there were a few tapestries and one piece of pottery.
Although she was fairly new to the job, she suggested that the number of items on display had dwindled as the College was refurbished, and that the last items were taken down five to ten years ago. She explained that some items were broken and that the school preferred to display more topical work and that the corridors were covered in work the students had done. Another problem was that one of the paintings was ‘enormous’ and the school had nowhere to put it.
In contrast to everything else I have read about Pictures for Schools, which suggested that artworks were chosen to be appealing and stimulating for children, I was told that the paintings are “very traditional, dark, oily and old-fashioned – not very modern these days”. Today the school prefers to display instead “more modern art” and currently has ten pieces on loan as a award, including aboriginal art and 3D work.
I was hoping that the school’s links with the Leicestershire county collection, once one of the country’s largest due to the enthusiastic patronage of Director of Education Stewart Mason and his enlisting of allies and advisors such as Whitechapel Gallery Director Bryan Robertson, would enable me to contact people who knew of its status and whereabouts, but my enquiries have still met a blank.