Wilson, Charles Heath

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Wilson, Charles Heath

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1809-1882

History

Charles Heath Wilson, art teacher and author, eldest son of Andrew Wilson, the landscape-painter, was born in London in September 1809. He studied art under his father, and in 1826 accompanied him to Italy. After seven years, he returned to Edinburgh, where he practised as an architect, and was for some time teacher of ornament and design in the School of Art.While in Edinburgh he wrote and published, in collaboration with William Dyce, a pamphlet (addressed to Lord Meadowbank) upon "The Best Means of ameliorating the Arts and Manufactures of Scotland," which attracted much attention. Shortly afterwards Dyce was made director and secretary of the recently established schools of art at Somerset House, but resigned in 1843, and Wilson, who had meanwhile been director of the Edinburgh school, was appointed his successor. His position there was not much more comfortable than Dyce's had been, and in 1848 he also resigned.In 1840 he had visited the continent to make a report to government on fresco-painting, and while in Glasgow he was occupied for nearly ten years under the Board of Trade in superintending the filling of the windows of Glasgow Cathedral with Munich pictures in coloured glass. He selected the subjects and wrote a description of the work (prefaced by some account of the process), which went through many editions. In January 1849 he became the second Headmaster of the new Glasgow School of Design. The School underwent many changes during Wilson's period of tenure, with the introduction of life classes, aand a mechanical and architectural drawing class. Wilson taught a class on practical geometry, and superintended the advanced class. The courses of study were modified to retain established designers and pattern drawers in the School. In 1853, with the creation of the Science and Art Department, the Glasgow School of Design became the Glasgow School of Art. In 1864 the Board of Trade masterships were suppressed and Wilson was pensioned, but continued his involvement with the School of Art for some years longer. He stayed in Glasgow, doing architectural work, and is listed as an Honorary Director of the School, and one of the Haldane Academy Trustees. He also gave evidence to several Commons Select Commitees, and prepared a report for the Commission on the Design of the National Gallery. In 1869 he and his family finally left Scotland and settled at Florence, where he became the life and centre of a large literary and artistic circle. He was much interested in Italian art, on which he wrote occasionally, particularly Michael Angelo. He had, for these and other services, the cross of the "Corona d'Italia" conferred upon him by Victor Emmanuel.He died at Florence on 3 July 1882.

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