How To Decorate Your School in the 19th Century

Library of Congress
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Decorating a classroom takes more than a hefty stapler, and not every teacher will go beyond tacking up a map on the front wall or sticking a sign that says "no whining zone!" on the door before calling it quits. But The Boston Public Art League of 1898 expected more. In their guide titled Notes & Suggestions on School Room Decoration, they define their overall goal as promoting "the adornment of schoolrooms, and the cultivation of art in the schools" by decorating 

the corridors, rooms, and halls, with reproductions of the masterpieces of art,–photographs, casts, and, should our means ever permit, with the more costly works of art, selecting, arranging, and grouping according to the grade and mental range of the pupils concerned.

Aside from providing descriptions of other schools' interior decorating decisions as both inspiration and evidence of the program's success, the book also provides "practical suggestions." The League urges schools to tint the walls because

the glaring white of the walls of our schoolrooms was not only inartistic but actually injurious to the pupils' eyes, straining and weakening them; and further consideration led to the welcome fact that art and hygiene were here at one, namely, that the tints which would rest and please the eye were also those which were most artistic, such as soft gray-greens or delicate shades of dull blue, while for halls and corridors terra cotta tones afford a contrast to the class rooms.

They then give a detailed list of specific works of art that are appropriate and available for reproduction. Among the sculptures, photographs, paintings, woodcuts, and casts listed are the bust of Homer, Millet's painting The Gleaners, a photograph of the Pantheon, and a relief of "Angels with Musical Instruments." 

The full guide is available through Library of Congress