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Fine Art 100 degree show

Celebrating the past and present of Fine Art at Newcastle University

Published on: 23 May 2024

The BA Hons Fine Art course is celebrating its centenary as the next generation of talented artists to study at the University get ready for their Degree Show.

The first BA Hons in Fine Art in England

Newcastle University is celebrating the centenary of its internationally renowned Fine Art degree – the very first BA (Hons) Fine Art in England.

The course welcomed its first undergraduates in 1923 and four years later, Ethel Urquhart became the first person in the country to graduate with a Fine Art degree.  To mark this milestone in the history of Art Education, the Fine Art department is celebrating Fine Art 100, a four-year celebration of the creation and awarding of the very first BA (Hons) of Fine Art in England.  

Now, the latest generation of talented artists to study at the University are getting ready to display their final year works during the Degree Show in the Fine Art Building, Hatton Gallery and Boiler House. The exhibition is one of the University’s annual highlights and this year, the students’ work explores the shift from the individual to the collective, imagine communities and new ways of living and making together through multidisciplinary, hybrid practices that challenge our understanding of art making.

Christian Mieves Head of Fine Art said: ”We’re proud of our history and the people who have taught and studied here. Now we’re looking forward to the next 100 years. Over the next four years we will celebrate the past, look at the present and question what the next 100 years of Newcastle might look like.

“Next, we are looking forward to the Fine Art Degree Show, which will see more than 70 artists exhibit their final year work. Each year, we are impressed with the quality of the work they produce and proud of what they have achieved.”


Students and staff at the King Edward School of Fine Art and Handicrafts - which would become the Fine Art Department - circa 1927.


This year’s exhibition continues a strong tradition of innovation in Fine Art at Newcastle University.

Nick Fox, Deputy Head of Fine Art at Newcastle University and who is co-ordinating the Fine Art 100 initiative, said: “Although the Fine Art Department can trace its roots as a School of Art back to 1837, the adoption of the  Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art in 1923 was a radical step at the time that placed Fine Art education and research on an equal footing with other academic disciplines in a University. It is lent even more significance in terms of gender equality as the first candidate to be awarded a BA Fine Art degree in 1927, after four years of study, was a woman.” 

Developing the degree was the first of a series of innovations that has kept Fine Art at Newcastle at the forefront of academic and creative practice in the UK. Over the years, many significant artists have either taught or studied on the course, including Richard Hamilton, Victor Pasmore, Sean Scully, Mali Morris, Sarah Pickstone, Jane & Louise Wilson, Joy Labinjo and Bryan Ferry.  

In the 1950s and 60s, Hamilton and Pasmore developed the influential Basic Design course which transformed the way Fine Art was taught. In 1965, Hamilton was instrumental in bringing Kurt Schwitter’s Merz Barn Wall, which was at serious risk of damage, to the University’s Hatton Gallery where it now permanently resides.  



A piece by Katherine Hunter who is exhibiting in this year's Fine Art Degree Show

A vital role

The University celebrations began with Right Here Right Now, an exhibition of postcards which involved all current staff and students in one space, offering a snapshot of the Fine Art department as it exists at this milestone in its history.   Over the next four years FINE ART 100 will comprise a series of exhibitions, symposia and creative events in and beyond the university campus, celebrating the innovation, value and contribution of Fine Art at Newcastle across education, research and creative practice.

Professor Vee Pollock, Dean of Culture and the Creative Arts at Newcastle University, said: “Arts education will continue to play a vital role over the next century. Creativity, innovation, and building a community of practice have grounded our Fine Art course for over a hundred years and will continue to do so as we look forward.  

 “We will continue to equip our students to be highly skilled, curious, critical and empathetic thinkers and makers who make significant contributions to our culture, economy and society.” 

 As part of the Fine Art 100 celebrations The Fine Art 100 Fund  has been launched to enable students from under-represented backgrounds to have the same opportunities of access to high-quality education and opportunities in the creative sector.   You can find out more here 

 The Fine Art Degree Show is open to the public from  10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, from Saturday 25 May until 8th of June in the Hatton Gallery, Fine Art Department and Boiler House.

Hamilton and Pasmore hang their landmark exhibition The Exhibit in 1957. Photos supplied by Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives,

One Hundred Years of Fine Art at Newcastle - timeline:


The Art School becomes the first institution in England to gains Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree awarding status. 


Director Professor Richard Hatton dies and the Art School gallery is renamed the Hatton Gallery. 


Ethel Urquhart graduates with an Honours Bachelor of Arts, becoming the first student in England to complete a Fine Art university degree.  
Lawrence Gowing (1918-1991 instigates the acquisition of a significant collection of paintings for the Hatton Gallery. He brings new staff into the Department, including Victor Pasmore (1908-1998) to teach painting, and Richard Hamilton (1922-2011), to teach design. 


Richard Hamilton and Victor Pasmore collaborate to develop a first-year ‘basic course’ of experimental, analytical mark and form-making exercises. Their ideas will help to transform the way art is taught in the UK.  


Bryan Ferry graduates with a degree in Fine Art and Sean Scully begins his studies. 



The Fine Art Department and the Hatton Gallery are threatened by closure due to financial problems.

Conceptual artist Susan Hiller is appointed Baltic Professor of Fine Art for three years (1999-2002), linking Fine Art at Newcastle to the early years of BALTIC. The appointment results in “The Producers” series of talks with contemporary curators at the turn of the millennium (2001-2003).  


Joy Labinjo graduates and Jane and Louise Wilson become joint Professor of Fine Art. 

Hatton Gallery undergoes a £3.8 million redevelopment. The funding also enables urgent conservation of the iconic Merz Barn Wall by Kurt Schwitters, one of the most significant figures in 20th century art. The wall was brought to the gallery in 1965 and incorporated into the fabric of the building.  


2018-2021: Professor Uta Kogelsberger initiates ”The Producers part II:  – talks discussing new positions  in curation, in  collaboration with Art Monthly and Hatton Gallery. Speakers include international curators, Polly Staple and Achim Borchardt-Hume. The series builds on the The Producers: Contemporary Curators in Conversation initiated in 2001 by Professor Susan Hiller.  



Excellence in Contemporary Art and Heritage. Turner Prize 2022 nominee Ingrid Pollard receives Fine Art visual artist Fellowship. The Fellowship at Belsay Hall in partnership with English Heritage culminates in a site-specific artwork.  


The next 100 years  

Looking to the next 100 years, Fine Art at Newcastle wants to ensure it remains an inclusive and diverse place for artists of the future to think, create, experiment, and thrive.   


FINE ART 100 initiated, a programme of exhibitions, symposia and events with Fine Art staff, students, alumni and partners to celebrate the past, look at the present, and question what the next 100 years of Fine Art education and research might be. The programme marks the innovation, value and contribution of Fine Art at Newcastle across art pedagogy, research and creative practice. 


The initiative includes Fine Art 100 Fund. The fund to support its creative & civic vision for fair and equal access to Fine Art education at Newcastle University for all students.  Thefund aimsto ensure that students from under-represented backgrounds will have the same opportunities of access to high-quality education and opportunities in the creative sector through bursaries for students, materials grants, micro exhibition grants, mentoring, and professional development training and support.   





Art by Lucas D'Praser-Corp

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