Politics, Economics and Art
1919-1950

In Glasgow, the period from the end of the First World War to the 1940s was one of political unrest, economic uncertainly, and yet technological innovation. Strikes and depression in the 1920s and early 1930s were followed by the promise of an industrial revival before the onset of World War II in 1939. These factors are reflected in the activities of GSA, its staff, students, and alumni during this period.

On the one hand, new courses in Communication Design and Industrial Design were established to train students to work in the growing fields of promotion and product development. A new Assembly Building providing increased student facilities was opened in 1929. The period also saw the establishment of the Students Representative Council, an athletics club, and the Kinecraft film society. On the other hand, during the Second World War, there was a sharp reduction in the amount of facilities and materials available to students and work had to be produced with whatever could be found. During peace time, many students took the opportunity to travel and experience the art of other countries. While in 1938, the world came to Glasgow as the city hosted its Empire Exhibition at Bellahouston Park.

Browse images from 1919-1950 ›


Some key facts for this period include:
  • 1919 – Student Numbers: 742
  • 1919 – Diploma of Architecture course extended from four years to five
  • 1919 – The Newbery Medal prize is first awarded
  • 1920 – Student Numbers: 1079
  • 1921 – Student Numbers: 1117
  • 1922 – Student Numbers: 1086
  • 1923 – Student Numbers: 1296
  • 1923 – John Keppie awards school £3000 to found the Keppie Scholarship
  • 1924 – Student Numbers: 1104
  • 1924 – University of Glasgow sets up BSc in Architecture to be taught at Glasgow School of Architecture
  • 1925 – Glasgow School of Art Club Dramatic Society is established
  • 1925 – Separate male and female studio classes are abolished
  • 1925 – Metal and Enamel Club formed
  • 1925 – John D. Revel becomes Director (holds post until 1932)
  • 1925 – Student Numbers: 1109
  • 1926 – Student Numbers: 1274
  • 1926 – Plans proposed to extend the School utilising the site across from Mackintosh Building
  • 1926 – Athletics Club is formed encompassing football, rugby and hockey
  • 1927 – Student Numbers: 1332
  • 1927 – The Students Representative Council is formed
  • 1928 – The Glasgow School of Art Association for former students is established
  • 1928 – Student Numbers: 138
  • 1929 – Course in Furniture Design begins
  • 1929 – Swimming is introduced into the Athletics Club
  • 1929 – Student Numbers: 1337
  • 1930 – The Assembly Building (now The Vic) completed, designed by Keppie Henderson
  • 1930 – Student Numbers: 1307
  • 1931 – Student Numbers: 1330
  • 1931 – A Badminton section is initiated by the Students Representative Council
  • 1932 – James Gray becomes Interim Director (until 1933)
  • 1932 – Student Numbers: 1258
  • 1932 – The School acquires premises at no. 158 Renfrew Street and the building is altered for school purposes
  • 1933 – Student Numbers: 1249
  • 1933 – Dorothy Carleton Smyth appointed Director but dies before she takes up the post
  • 1933 – William O. Hutchison becomes Director (holds post until 1943)
  • 1933 – The Glasgow School of Art Kinecraft Society is formed practicing cinema photography
  • 1934 – Student Numbers: 1107
  • 1935 – Student Numbers: 1167
  • 1935 – Design classes for bakers and confectioners begin
  • 1935 – Interior Decoration course introduced
  • 1936 – Student Numbers: 1143

    1936 – Diploma course in Commercial Art (later Graphic Design) begins

  • 1937 – Student Numbers: 1175
  • 1938 – Student Numbers: 1149
  • 1939 – A War Comforts Fund is set up by students to send Christmas parcels to GSA students at war
  • 1939 – During the Second World War (1939-1945) The Red Cross occupies the basement and ground floor of the Mackintosh Building as a hospital supply depot and store
  • 1939 – Basement of Assembly Hall is sandbagged and used as an air-raid shelter
  • 1939 – Student Numbers: 1255
  • 1940 – Due to outbreak of Second World War staff and students put on nightly ‘fire watching’ rotas
  • 1940 – Decision is made for School to remain partially opened during war
  • 1940 – The Royal Air Force occupy part of no. 158 Renfrew Street (until 1943)
  • 1940 – Student Numbers: 600
  • 1940 – The Mackintosh Building narrowly escapes damage during air raids
  • 1941 – Student Numbers: 467
  • 1942 – Student Numbers: 582
  • 1943 – Student Numbers: 629
  • 1943 – Allan Walton becomes Director (holds post until 1945)
  • 1944 – Student Numbers: 647
  • 1944 – Children’s Saturday classes are begun by Miss J. Alix Dick
  • 1945 – Student Numbers: 961
  • 1945 – Henry Y. Alison becomes Interim Director (until 1946)
  • 1946 – Student Numbers: 1259
  • 1946 – Henry Y. Alison designs and constructs (with the help of the School Janitor) the staircase in Mackintosh Library
  • 1946 – Douglas P. Bliss is appointed Director (holds post until 1964)
  • 1946 – The Mackintosh Room is set aside as a permanent collection to the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh
  • 1947 – Student Numbers: 1804
  • 1948 – Student Numbers: 1791
  • 1948 – Teaching of typography is introduced for Commercial Art students
  • 1948 – Product Design course introduced
  • 1949 – Student Numbers: 1872
  • 1949 – Student refectory increases opening hours to 10.30, proving popular with students
  • 1949 – Postgraduate diploma in Town Planning set up to meet demands of Town and Country Planning Act
  • 1950 – Student Numbers: 1831
Poster for a War Comforts Fund Dance, by Dorothy Smith, 1944

Poster for a War Comforts Fund Dance
by Dorothy Smith, 1944