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Fine Arts Education at WU

Resources for the 19th and early 20th century history of the Sam Fox School of Art and Design.

St. Louis School of Fine Arts

In 1857, Chancellor Eliot wanted a school of art for Washington University. The O’Fallon Polytechnic Institute had made a modest beginning with its small School of Design. When O’Fallon was sold, this program became part of the University’s Polytechnic Department, and was renamed the “School of Art and Design” in 1871.  In November 1874, the University hired drawing instructor Halsey C. Ives, who later became a full professor and added painting, sculpture, and decorative arts to the curriculum.

In 1878, the only son of Wayman Crow, Wayman Crow, Jr., died, so he decided to give the University a new museum in his son’s honor.  This building at the corner of 19th and Locust was dedicated in May 1881.  With this new building, the University agreed to create an independent school. Known as the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts, when founded in 1881 it was the first art school west of the Mississippi River.

The museum was rededicated in 1906 as the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts and moved to Forest Park, into the Palace of Arts building, constructed for the 1904 World’s Fair.  Then in 1909 the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts dissolved as a department of Washington University and became the City Art Museum (now the Saint Louis Art Museum, or SLAM).

In 1926, the School of Fine Arts moved to a new building, Bixby Hall, on the current campus.

The University’s art collection remained on loan to the city until 1960 when the newly constructed Gallery of Art located in Steinberg Hall allowed its return to campus. The Gallery of Art was renamed the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in 2004 as a result of a donation by the Kemper family of St. Louis and Kansas City in honor of the late Mildred Lane Kemper. In 2006, the museum moved to its own facility within the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts complex.

WU Archive Collections

Below are inventories of materials available at University Archives related to the history of Fine Arts education at Washington University:


"Palette Scrapings" was the student publication of the St. Louis School of Fine Arts.  This title was published from 1882-1885, at various intervals. 

Original copies of all the issues are available at the Archives.

Currently available only in original format:

1882 Vol. 1 No. 1 and 2

Dec. 1882 Vol. 2 No. 1

Select years are available through GoogleBooks:

Picturing the School of Fine Art

Additional Resources