The Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) and the development of the Arts Council in Scotland
: background, politics, visual art policy 1919-1947

  • Euan McArthur

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This work is a history of how the arts council system of public funding of contemporary art developed in Scotland between 1919 and 1947, with a specific focus on the visual arts. It treats that history as belonging, primarily, to the history of education and, through its origins in the voluntary sector, to the history of the emerging welfare state. The thesis explores the significance of philosophical Idealism, both as social theory and aesthetic theory. It argues that Idealism had a profound, if in some respects conflicting, influence on the processes described here, including the seminal importance of The 1919 Report and in forming then-contemporary ideas of national cultural identity. Central to the purpose of the thesis is an account of the political and administrative context within which this development took place, especially in relation to the Scottish Education Department. The thesis presents in effect a case study in the negotiation of administrative devolution, to secure a Scottish dimension while preserving an over-arching British unity. The conclusion is that the success of Scottish demands for devolution in the face of strong resistance in London was crucial to preserving the Arts Council's British identity, but that this was a Pyrrhic victory for those Scots who believed that devolution would be a brief interlude before full independence was achieved under Home Rule.The third part of the thesis examines visual art policy and activities between 1940 and 1947. As policy is nothing without practice, the thesis presents an overview of the actual activities that were carried out in these years, as far as imperfect data allow. A picture emerges of a major, and creditable, effort, with limited resources in difficult circumstances, to make visual art more accessible and comprehensible to a much wider public in Scotland than in pre-war years.
    Date of Award2005
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMurdo Macdonald (Supervisor) & Lindsay Paterson (Supervisor)

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