Who grades whom, or why Dalí was thrown out of art school
On my recent holidays in Florence I was lucky enough to once more bump into my former Channel 4 Education Board co-member, James Bradburne, who is the enigmatic Direttore of the Palazzo Strozzi in the home of the Italian rennaissance. He was kind enough to invite my young family into the Picasso and Dalí exhibition, and Catriona had great fun inventing her own cubist creations our of fuzzy felt.
One painting drew my attention in particular - the one at the top of this post. It's The Sailor, painted while Dalí was in Madrid's Neocubist Academy, and at about the same time he was thrown out of art school. The reason? He said that one of the professors was not good enough to grade him.
It's a lovely, wry story, because it gets at the very heart of what we know about assessment - that children do better when they compare themselves to their own past performances, rather than to a sliding scale of comparative grading - and Dalí called into question what we're still grappling with today: who decides what is 'good' and, in the end, does it really matter for a true lifelong learner what they say at one given point of time anyway?