Key Dates

Learn more about GSA’s History and browse a selection of images of material from our holdings by date range

1845 - 1889
The Early Years

During the 19th century, Glasgow was a busy and prosperous industrial city. There was a large demand for designers and architects to support its businesses and growing population.

The Glasgow School of Art opened in 1845 in Ingram Street just east of Glasgow City Centre. It moved to Corporation Galleries on Sauchiehall Street in 1869.

The School focussed on teaching its students how to draw well and how to create marketable designs. A large number of plaster casts and library books were purchased to help teach and inspire them.

During this period, GSA was part of a network of design schools set up around the UK. Each year, students from across the country would submit examples of their work to local and national competitions. The best students would receive medals for their work.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh studied here from 1883-1894 and won many awards and prizes.

By the 1890s, GSA students were winning more medals than any other art school in the country.

1890 - 1918
The Glasgow style

By the end of the nineteenth century, Glasgow’s reputation as a wealthy, industrial powerhouse was well established and the city’s designers and artists, such as the so-called Glasgow Boys, were beginning to gain recognition.

The Glasgow School of Art was growing in success, spurred on by the energy of its charismatic Headmaster, Francis Newbery (1855-1946). The School employed staff from across the UK and Europe to offer the best tuition to its students. Classes were developed to provide hands-on training in textiles, metalwork, and sculpture and, in the early 1900s, a four year diploma course was introduced. In addition to new developments in the curriculum, The Glasgow School of Art Club was active in encouraging students to socialise, sketch, and to put on musical and theatrical events.

This period also saw the development of The Glasgow Style, a distinctive approach to design which used stylised, linear and flowing motifs based on nature. It helped to boost GSA’s international reputation and to support the growing recognition of work by female artists and designers.

The opening of GSA’s new building in 1909, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), is perhaps the most lasting legacy from this period.

Unfortunately, the outbreak of the First World War severely slowed down developments at the School as many students and staff left to undertake war work. The experience of these individuals can often be seen in the art work they produced during and after the conflict. In 1916, one of GSA’s alumni, Muirhead Bone (1876-1953), was appointed the UK’s first official war artist.

Some key facts for this period include:
  • 1900 · Student Numbers: 661
  • 1901 · Student Numbers: 776
    Four year diplomas introduced including the Diploma in Art · School becomes academically independent given power to develop its own curriculum and award its own diplomas · School is divided into four Departments: Drawing and Painting · Modelling and Sculpture · Design and Decorative Art · and Architecture
  • 1902 · Student Numbers: 832
    Francis Newbery organises Scottish Section for Turin International Exhibition
  • 1903 · Student Numbers: 1436
    Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) endows a prize for ‘Most imaginative piece of work’ · Glasgow School of Architecture is established within the Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College (now University of Strathclyde)
  • 1904 · Student Numbers: 1484
    Diploma of Architecture course begins
  • 1905 · Student Numbers: 1188
  • 1906 · Student Numbers: 1293
  • 1907 · Student Numbers: 1213
    Art Needlework classes are instituted · Glasgow School of Architecture Classes held at 193 Renfrew Street while the Mackintosh Building is being constructed · Glasgow School of Architecture Club established
  • 1908 · Student Numbers: 1279
    Students of the Glasgow School of Architecture Club start a quarterly magazine called “The Vista” · Weaving College is partially absorbed into West of Scotland Technical College
  • 1909 · Student Numbers: 1273
    Second phase of Mackintosh Building completed
  • 1910 · Student Numbers: 1303
    First diplomas from the Glasgow School of Architecture awarded
  • 1911 · Student Numbers: 1377
    Corporation Buildings refurbished into McLellan Galleries
  • 1912 · Student Numbers: 1445
    A small lending library is established for use by students
  • 1913 · Student Numbers: 1357
  • 1914 · Student Numbers: 1239
    Women’s common room opened · Military sketching classes begin for officers of the Territorial Forces and Officers Training Corps (suspended in 1916 due to the war)
  • 1915 · Student Numbers: 873
  • 1916 · Student Numbers: 686
    No.s 166-172 Renfrew Street purchased to house the School’s common rooms, refectories and some classrooms · Professor Bourdon (Head of Architecture) is killed in action at the Battle of the Somme
  • 1917 · Student Numbers: 585
    The Admiralty occupies part of the School’s premises · The School grants the use of 170-172 Renfrew Street to The Red Cross Society
  • 1918 · Student Numbers: 615
    John Henderson becomes Director (holds post until 1924)

1919 - 1950
Politics, Economics and Art

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.

Some key facts for this period include:
  • 1919 · Student Numbers: 742
    Diploma of Architecture course extended from four years to five · The Newbery Medal prize is first awarded
  • 1920 · Student Numbers: 1079
  • 1921 · Student Numbers: 1117
  • 1922 · Student Numbers: 1086
  • 1923 · Student Numbers: 1296
    John Keppie awards school £3000 to found the Keppie Scholarship
  • 1924 · Student Numbers: 1104
    University of Glasgow sets up BSc in Architecture to be taught at Glasgow School of Architecture
  • 1925 · Student Numbers: 1109
    Glasgow School of Art Club Dramatic Society is established · Separate male and female studio classes are abolished · Metal and Enamel Club formed · John D. Revel becomes Director (holds post until 1932)
  • 1926 · Student Numbers: 1274
    Plans proposed to extend the School utilising the site across from Mackintosh Building · Athletics Club is formed encompassing football, rugby and hockey
  • 1927 · Student Numbers: 1332
    The Students Representative Council is formed
  • 1928 · Student Numbers: 1389
    The Glasgow School of Art Association for former students is established
  • 1929 · Student Numbers: 1337
    Course in Furniture Design begins · Swimming is introduced into the Athletics Club
  • 1930 · Student Numbers: 1307
    The Assembly Building (now The Vic) completed, designed by Keppie Henderson
  • 1931 · Student Numbers: 1330
    A Badminton section is initiated by the Students Representative Council
  • 1932 · Student Numbers: 1258
    James Gray becomes Interim Director (until 1933) · The School acquires premises at no. 158 Renfrew Street and the building is altered for school purposes
  • 1933 · Student Numbers: 1249
    Dorothy Carleton Smyth appointed Director but dies before she takes up the post · William O. Hutchison becomes Director (holds post until 1943) · The Glasgow School of Art Kinecraft Society is formed practicing cinema photography
  • 1934 · Student Numbers: 1107
  • 1935 · Student Numbers: 1167
    Design classes for bakers and confectioners begin · Interior Decoration course introduced
  • 1936 · Student Numbers: 1143
    Diploma course in Commercial Art (later Graphic Design) begins
  • 1937 · Student Numbers: 1175
  • 1938 · Student Numbers: 1149
  • 1939 · Student Numbers: 1255
    A War Comforts Fund is set up by students to send Christmas parcels to GSA students at war · 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 · Basement of Assembly Hall is sandbagged and used as an air-raid shelter
  • 1940 · Student Numbers: 600
    Due to outbreak of Second World War staff and students put on nightly ‘fire watching’ rotas · Decision is made for School to remain partially opened during war · The Royal Air Force occupy part of no. 158 Renfrew Street (until 1943) · The Mackintosh Building narrowly escapes damage during air raids
  • 1941 · Student Numbers: 467
  • 1942 · Student Numbers: 582
  • 1943 · Student Numbers: 629
    Allan Walton becomes Director (holds post until 1945)
  • 1944 · Student Numbers: 647
    Children’s Saturday classes are begun by Miss J. Alix Dick
  • 1945 · Student Numbers: 961
    Henry Y. Alison becomes Interim Director (until 1946)
  • 1946 · Student Numbers: 1259
    Henry Y. Alison designs and constructs (with the help of the School Janitor) the staircase in Mackintosh Library · Douglas P. Bliss is appointed Director (holds post until 1964) · 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
    Teaching of typography is introduced for Commercial Art students · Product Design course introduced
  • 1949 · Student Numbers: 1872
    Student refectory increases opening hours to 10.30, proving popular with students · Postgraduate diploma in Town Planning set up to meet demands of Town and Country Planning Act
  • 1950 · Student Numbers: 1831

1951 - 1970
New Beginnings

After the end of the Second World War Glasgow and its Arts School began a long process of recovery and renewal. While the Victorian centre of the city remained fairly unchanged, an extensive programme of building work in the suburbs and outskirts created housing, business premises, and schools in a new modernist architectural style. GSA itself opened two new buildings, The Foulis in 1964 and The Newbery Tower in 1971, to house its design courses.

Design disciplines such as textiles and graphics flourished in this period as materials became more widely available and the consumer market recovered.

Approaches to painting continued to focus on the figure and on landscape. However, work from this period shows a move towards abstraction and experimentation with colour and texture.

Travel scholarships were re-established after the War, and this allowed students to experience first-hand the art and design of Europe from Italy in the South to Scandinavia in the North.

The annual GSA fashion show was introduced in the late 1940s and the drama society was particularly active in the 1960s.

Some key facts for this period include:
  • 1951 · Student Numbers: 1591
    Premises at no. 160 Renfrew Street is purchased completing the School’s ownership of the entire block of buildings
  • 1952 · Student Numbers: 1633
  • 1953 · Student Numbers: 1528
  • 1954 · Student Numbers: 1606
  • 1955 · Student Numbers: 1581
  • 1956 · Student Numbers: 1615
  • 1957 · Student Numbers: 1696
  • 1958 · Student Numbers: 1599
    Decision made to erect new buildings on site of the old dental hospital and at 160-162 Renfrew Street
  • 1959 · Student Numbers: 1715
  • 1960 · Student Numbers: 1834
  • 1961 · Student Numbers: 1945
    Work begins on Foulis Building · Decision made for Newbery Tower to be built for intended use by the Architecture Department · Mosaic in entrance hall of Mackintosh Building created
  • 1962 · Student Numbers: 2026
    Glasgow School of Art acquires a part-time course in Planning, independently of the Glasgow School of Architecture · A record player is purchased for the School at the Director’s request, and a concert of records is played weekly
  • 1963 · Student Numbers: 2089
  • 1964 · Student Numbers: 2267
    Descriptive Geometry and Perspective no longer examinable subjects · Approval sought for full-time Town Planning course but decision is made for it to be taught at University of Strathclyde · Harry J. Barnes is promoted to Director (holds post until 1980) · Glasgow School of Architecture ceases to exist and remaining students transfer to University of Strathclyde
  • 1965 · Student Numbers: 2222
    Villa at 17 Scott Street purchased for future expansion (thought to be the site of current GSA Library)
  • 1966 · Student Numbers: 2310
    Temporary accommodation leased at no. 195 Bath Street and occupied by Weaving and Embroidery · No. 203 Pitt Street rented to accommodate displaced classes · Department of Planning housed at no. 197 Bath Street · Culzean Castle begins to be used as a residential hostel and studio for use by the students
  • 1967 · Student Numbers: 1945
    Fire doors in corridors and mezzanine levels in studios are installed in Mackintosh Building · Haldane Building bought from the Territorial Army (formerly a drill hall) for £31,000 · Liberal and Complimentary Studies introduced · Hostel at Culzean Castle officially opened · Construction of Newbery Tower begins
  • 1968 · Student Numbers: 1842
    Last of Glasgow School of Architecture students graduate from University of Strathclyde · New Campus buildings named Foulis Building, Newbery Tower, Bourdon Building and Haldane Building · Plans for Bourdon Building drawn up · 114 Hill St purchased to be used as a female student hostel · Two flats leased on Renfrew Street to house the Architecture Department · Four flats leased on Bath Street to house the Planning Department and Liberal Studies
  • 1969 · Student Numbers: 1610
    Bilsland House hostel for female students opens on Hill Street
  • 1970 · Student Numbers: 1634
    Gilbert Innes hostel for male students opens at 262 Renfrew Street · Mackintosh School of Architecture is established with degrees accredited by Glasgow University

1971 - 1990
Re-imagining Glasgow

During the 1970s the heavy industries which had made Glasgow wealthy severely declined. At the same time, the city’s cultural economy was beginning to grow. Organisations such as The Glasgow Print Studio, The Third Eye Centre, Transmission Gallery, Street Level Photoworks and The Glasgow Sculpture Studios were all established in the 1970s and 1980s.

During this period GSA introduced new courses in Fine Art Photography and Environmental Art. This marked a move away from painting as the primary medium for fine art students.

In addition to this, the School’s undergraduate diploma which focussed on practical training in the visual arts, was replaced by a new BA(Hons) Degree course which promoted critical engagement with these subject areas. Masters Courses in Design, Fine Art and Architecture were also established.

The 1980s also saw the emergence of the New Glasgow Boys, a group of GSA graduates who produced striking figurative paintings. The success of these artists marked the beginning of a new interest in Glasgow and its artists.

During the 1980s the city rebranded itself with a new marketing campaign, Glasgow’s Miles Better and successfully bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 1990.

Some key facts for this period include:
  • 1971 · Student Numbers:1684
    Newbery Tower completed · Department of Photography introduced
  • 1972 · Student Numbers: 1613
    Cosmo Cinema (now The GFT) first used by the School
  • 1973 · Student Numbers: 1682
    Richmond building purchased at 240-250 Renfrew St · J.D. Kelly Building (formerly a nursing home) at 121 Hill Street purchased and work begins to convert it to a hostel
  • 1974 · Student Numbers: 1723
    Richmond Building opened for use for staff and students following brief site works · Flat at 17 Baliol Street rented · Premises at 7 Blythswood Square purchased
  • 1975 · Student Numbers: 1762
  • 1976 · Student Numbers: 1821
    Conversion of the Haldane Building completed at the cost of £94,000 · J.D. Kelly Building ready for use as student residence · BA (Hons) degree fist awarded for Design and Fine Art
  • 1977 · Student Numbers: 1841
  • 1978 · Student Numbers: 1719
    Assembly Hall Building is refitted with salvaged interior from the Victoria Cafe (formerly on Cathcart Rd) · First BA in Town Planning awarded
  • 1979 · Student Numbers: 1728
    Degrees of the Council for National Academic Awards now awarded · Four year diplomas abolished · Bourdon building officially opened by HRH the Duke of Gloucester
  • 1980 · Student Numbers: 1711
    Professor Anthony Jones becomes Director (holds post until 1985)
  • 1981 · GSA/USA Programme begins allowing staff exchange with American institutions
  • 1982 · Student Numbers: 1801
    Extension to Newbery Tower completed (now houses the refectory and staff lounge) · BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art Photography introduced
  • 1983 · Student Numbers: 1697
    Blythswood Square residence vacated and sold · Main Library moved from Mackintosh Building to Bourdon Building · Assembly Hall refitted as a social facility for students by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia Architects · Coffee and snack bar opened in Newbery Tower
  • 1984 · Student Numbers: 1717
    MA Design course begins · MArch course begins · Planning degree now validated by Glasgow University
  • 1985 · Student Numbers: 1790
    Murals and Stained Glass renamed Environmental Art · Organised public guided tours of the Mackintosh Building begin · Thomas Pannell becomes Director (holds post until 1988)
  • 1986 · Student Numbers: 1836
    Fire ravishes McLellan Galleries and reconstruction begins · Competition launched to redesign streetscape and street furniture in front of Mackintosh Building · Shop proposed to promote Mackintosh style products
  • 1987 · Student Numbers: 1800
    Planning Department absorbed into Strathclyde University · BEng and MEng courses in Product Design Engineering validated by Glasgow University begin · MA Fine Art begins
  • 1988 · Student Numbers: 1974
    Work begins on balcony in Main Library · Approval given for Margaret Macdonald House on Buccleuch Street intended to be self-funding student accommodation
  • 1989 · Student Numbers: 2023
    William Buchanan becomes Acting Director (until 1990)
  • 1990 · Student Numbers: 2199

1991 - Present
City of Culture, and today…

During the 1990s and 2000s Glasgow’s reputation as a cultural centre steadily grew. Many GSA graduates stayed in the city, contributing to its creative economy and cultural success. A number of alumni became famous through winning awards such as The Turner Prize and Beck’s futures, or by establishing successful design and architectural companies. All of these factors brought a renewed international interest in GSA and its activities.

The School’s international links, courses and campus all expanded in the 90s and 00s. Student exchange and study programmes were formed with institutions in the USA, Europe, Asia and Australasia.

A new Digital Design Studio opened in 1997, acknowledging the increasing use of digital technology in creative practice, and a number of specialised postgraduate courses were introduced in the 2000s.

In the 1990s, The Students Representative Council established itself as a key music and club venue in the city, a reflection of the close links between music and the visual arts in Glasgow. Their building The Vic underwent a major refurbishment during 2012-2014 providing enhanced exhibition, music and social facilities.

In 2014 the Reid Building opened to provide new facilities for the School’s design courses. In May of that year, a fire broke out in the Mackintosh Building, destroying parts of the west wing, including the library. A comprehensive restoration was almost complete when, in July 2018, a second fire broke out, significantly damaging the whole building. Plans are now in place to undertake a faithful restoration. 

Some key facts for this period include:
  • 1990 · John Whiteman is Director for the year
  • 1991 · Student Numbers: 2072
    Professor Dugald Cameron becomes Director (holds post until 1999) · Photography Department burgled with £32,500 losses incurred · The Student’s Material Store begins trading to the public
  • 1992 · Student Numbers: 2195
  • 1993 · Student Numbers: 2084
    The School’s Material Shop is leased out · Glasgow University begins to award the school’s degrees in Fine Art and Design
  • 1994 · Student Numbers: 2256
    Harry Barnes Building purchased at 9-11 West Graham Street and conversion begins (completed 1995)
  • 1995 · Margaret Macdonald House completed and named · J.D. Kelly Building converted again, from student residence to academic accommodation
  • 1996 · Bisland House sold
  • 1997 · Digital Design Studio established and moves into House for an Art Lover
  • 1998 · Extension to Foulis Building completed, designed by ZM Architecture
  • 1999 · Professor Seona Reid takes up post of Director
  • 2000 · Centre for Advanced Textiles (CAT) established
  • 2003 · Student Numbers: 1502
  • 2004 · Student Numbers: 1599
  • 2005 · Student Numbers: 1554
    £8 million Conservation and Access project for Mackintosh Building submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF funding confirmed the following year)
  • 2006 · Student Numbers: 1684
    Plans made for Digital Design Studio to move to purpose built premises at Pacific Quay · Major Heritage Lottery Funding received to catalogue the archive of Gillespie, Kidd and Coia Architects
  • 2007 · Student Numbers: 1748
  • 2008 · Student Numbers: 1765
    Decision is made to close Ceramics Department
  • 2009 · The Glasgow School of Art launches £50 million competition to redesign the campus (retaining Mackintosh Building)
  • 2009 · Winning competition team announced as Steven Holl Architects with Glasgow practice JM Architects
  • 2013 · Professor Tom Inns becomes Director
  • 2014 · The Seona Reid Building opens 
  • 2016 · GSA’s Highlands & Islands campus was opened on the Altyre Estate, near Forres
  • 2018 · Fire significantly damages Mackintosh Building
  • 2020 · Professor Penny Macbeth becomes Director