The Athens University of Fine Arts (ASFA) is a pivotal institution in Greece, reflecting the evolution of the nation’s artistic education and contributing significantly to the cultural fabric of the country. With a history intertwined with the birth of the modern Greek state, the ASFA has undergone a remarkable journey since its founding in the mid-19th century.
The Genesis of Art Education in Greece
The school that would become ASFA began humbly in 1837 as the “School of Arts,” an initiative to foster artistic talent in the young nation. The goal was to emulate the prestigious art institutions of Western Europe, drawing inspiration from the academies of Bavaria and France. From the beginning, the school embraced an inclusive philosophy, offering classes on Sundays and holidays to accommodate students from all walks of life.
A Foundation of Diversity and Inclusivity
ASFA’s open-door policy allowed students of all ages and backgrounds to enroll, emphasizing a democratic approach to art education. Initially, the curriculum was broad, including tracing, mathematics, mold making, and architecture, reflecting a blend of technical and artistic disciplines.
The School’s Artistic Direction and Growth
In the 1840s, ASFA began to focus more on the fine arts. The influence of European artists and educators, such as the Danish Hansen brothers and the French painter Pierre Bonirote, steered the school toward a more refined artistic curriculum. During this period, oil painting and other fine arts subjects were added, solidifying ASFA’s reputation as a beacon of artistic excellence.
The Expansion of Curriculum and Facilities
In the decades that followed, the school expanded both its curriculum and its facilities. Daily attendance was established, and the institution began to specialize in the fine arts, branching out to include painting, sculpture, and printmaking. This era of growth necessitated a move to a larger facility to accommodate the increasing number of students, further emphasizing the school’s importance in the art community.
The Road to Independence
The turn of the 20th century was transformative for ASFA. The Military Movement of 1909 set in motion a series of reforms that culminated in the administrative separation of the School of Fine Arts from the Industrial Arts Department. This pivotal moment allowed ASFA to operate independently and focus solely on the visual arts.
Legislative Advances and the Inclusion of Women
Legislative changes in the 1930s furthered the school’s development. The hiring of teachers was changed from appointment to competitive examination, promoting meritocracy. In addition, the school addressed gender equality by establishing a department for young women, which, although short-lived, paved the way for co-education and further inclusivity.
The Modern Era and Contemporary Contributions
In the second half of the 20th century, ASFA continued to evolve. The school’s involvement in political struggles against the junta during the 1967-1974 dictatorship highlighted its role as a center of progressive thought. After the dictatorship, the faculty was rejuvenated with artists who brought contemporary art trends into the classroom.
Expansion and Theoretical Advancements
The school’s expansion into the “Sikyarideion” building in the 1990s and the establishment of the Department of Theoretical Studies of Art signified ASFA’s commitment to both practical and theoretical education. These steps ensured that ASFA remained at the forefront of art education in Greece.
ASFA adapting to the modern era
Today, the Athens School of Fine Arts continues to cultivate the talents of future artists, contributing to the global art scene while honoring its rich history. As it adapts to the modern era, ASFA maintains its founding principles of inclusivity and excellence, and remains a testament to the enduring importance of art in society.
Website: Athens University of Fine Arts