In 1823, six years after the Royal Decree on Teekenscholen (drawing schools), Maastricht got its very own Stadsteekenschool (city drawing school). The delay may have been due to the fact that the Municipality had to foot the bill. On top of that, there was a certain amount of resistance nationwide to standardizing drawing lessons, which were previously provided by private tutors or societies. The education covered not just the ‘fine arts’ but also the ‘practical arts’. Provided their marks were good enough, students were given a silver medal upon graduating, for which the school must apply to the government. Student numbers were quite large, some years topping 100. Most of them were children, sometimes as young as 8. The number of teaching hours and the finer details of the curriculum remained vague.
Pierre Lipkens was appointed as director and drawing tutor; he had already been giving drawing lessons from his home in the city, using his own collection of plaster casts. It is this collection that formed the basis of the present-day ‘gipsotheek’, the repository of plaster casts.
One of the Board members was the highly respected master builder Mathias Soiron. The location of the first Stadsteekenschool was lost in the mists of time. It moved around over the years. During the 19th century, the former Augustinian church, d’n Awwestiene - on what is now Kesselskade - was the most frequently used space.
In the archives for 1823, there was mention of creating a window in the roof to admit daylight into the premises housing the school, a proposal that is anathema to Soiron's successor, Hermans. The latter believed that enlarging the existing window is sufficient - a view shared by the municipal authority, which saw it as an excessively costly undertaking. Soiron himself later discovered that, besides not being level, the window has been enlarged by a mere two inches, rather than three feet.
In July 1826, Lipkens instructed his doctor to inform the Board of his deteriorating health. He died the following month, to be replaced in his tutoring role by the most advanced student. Théodore Schaepkens was 16 years of age at the time of his appointment and, for the first few months, his students included his 11-year-old brother Alexander.
In: J.Blonden, P. 8:
‘It would appear that the Royal Decree of 13 April 1817 on drawing schools was far from a resounding success. ‘The majority of such schools focused too exclusively on the fine arts, virtually neglecting the practical arts, such that these schools, as regards the training of prospective artisans, failed to deliver the benefits that one might expect of an establishment that were more fit for purpose.’ Hence a new Royal Decree was enacted on 10 October 1829, to which a vitally important ‘Plan for the organization of education at the drawing schools’ was added.
According to this Plan, the education will cover the practical arts: 1. The drawing of objects pertaining to architecture, or of composite tools. 2. Lessons on the principles of descriptive geometry and composition of the related drawings. This education shall be accompanied by information or lessons on construction, given verbally.
Fine arts: drawing the human body, from sculptures, and eventually from life, with such additional lessons as the nature of the establishment shall permit.
Henceforth 2 medals may be applied for, one for the practical, the other for the fine arts. In the report for 1829, 2 medals were requested, one for the best architectural line drawing and the second for the best drawing from plaster.’