Why Study Art History?
We spoke to some of our current Art History A-Level pupils to find out why they love the subject so much.
Isobel Hipper, U6:
“Art History has genuinely been one of my favourite subjects I have studied. It has given me skills I otherwise would have never picked up and I now notice much I have learnt from the course in my surroundings during ordinary life, as well as being able to enjoy galleries and museums in a whole new way as I can understand and identify so many aspects of art displayed. Moreover, it has overlapped greatly with my other subjects such as History, learning about Russian Futurism, giving more depth to my knowledge in both subjects.
Despite not studying art itself or being particularly skilled in the area and frankly never seeing myself having much to do with it, I found Art History extremely interesting and easy to pick up. It has given me a well-rounded knowledge of hundreds of years of different art movements and I have been able to see the gradual changes and innovations of art from Renaissance altarpieces all the way to the work of Jackson Pollock throughout the course.”
Isabel Cutts, L6:
“The curriculum is very varied and covers a wide breadth of subject matter. I find that the course is always interesting and challenging – we’ve looked at Sacred Temples and churches; Gothic Cathedrals; Medieval and Romanesque architecture and the 20th century buildings of American architect, Frank Lloyd-Wright.
We’ve been learning a whole new set of skills to analyse the visual world around us and to apply critical thinking. These skills allow us to understand the meaning and relevance of artworks and we also get to explore contexts, techniques, materials, place and the artists themselves.
In the future, I am interested in studying Anthropology at university and I believe that this subject will be relevant to any modules that I might choose as we have learned such a wide range of processes and skills.”
Madelyn Peachment, U6
“Before taking Art History at A level, I didn't have a great deal of knowledge on the subject. When going to art museums before taking the course, I never took the time to step back and admire a painting for its meaning, all I saw was its appearance and nothing deeper. Art History has taught me to look at the ‘bigger picture’ by learning the context and intentions of the artists, and how these have been conveyed through their works. I now look at artworks in a different light and I appreciate them more.”
Emily White, L6:
“I have loved reading about Feminist Art, which is a way of categorising art made (mostly) by women, that consciously links its strategies and goals to those of the Women’s Rights Movement of the late 1960s and 70s, and to feminist ideas and politics ever since. We have learnt about artists who have worked with their own body to demonstrate ideas about identity politics, and the representation of women in art history, such as Adrian Piper and Judy Chicago.
The structure of lessons varies from visual analysis as a class, to reading around a period, to an activity such as ‘Be a Museum Curator and Educator’. I found this critical thinking and writing activity interesting as it was unlike anything I had done before. We had to rewrite a museum label, by researching to ensure all the information on the label was correct, then deciding how to use relevant contextual information and critical/theoretical texts to inform our own label, and then explaining the art historical and curatorial decisions that we made.
I have also loved the events and opportunities outside of lessons, including seminars on methodologies and ARTiculation, a public speaking competition for young people to speak about a work of art, architecture or an artefact. ARTiculation was a great experience to improve self-led research, writing and presentational skills.”