Art History can teach you more about the world than you think

Grads with real jobs told us how it helped them

Art History has been axed from A-Level curriculum. The subject, criticised as “soft” even at university level, is apparently no longer necessary. But anyone who’s studied it will know that’s far from the truth. It teaches us about culture, encourages you to look at things in new ways and is just as hard as any STEM subject.

We’ve spoken to working professionals that studied the subject at school or those working in the field currently, and asked them how Art History has helped them get to where they are now.

Jessica Morgan – working as a Photographic Producer

History of Art as a subject was a great starting point to get me into the working world. The ability to explain your choice of one image over another is something highly prized in creative industries. Magazine editors, social media managers, agents, fashion stylists and graphic designers, to name but a few, make these decisions every day. We are constantly bombarded with images on the street, in our homes and through social media.

The need for people with a visually educated eye will never diminish, especially with the ability to explain and sell to a client your choice of image. There will always be a need for rational, well-rounded and well educated young people, which I believe that an Art History A-level and by extension, degree, creates and encourages.

Catherine Ingram – holds an Art History PhD from Oxford and is now a writer

It’s totally stupid and ignorant to axe Art History as it’s a subject that works in the favour of our country. We have one of the most exciting creative industries and we don’t have a lot of exports anymore. If Brexit wasn’t going to kill our creative industry, this will be the final nail in the coffin. We’ve got all the big international names leaving and now we’re killing our education circuit of creativity. It’s just so ridiculous and its going to create a really dead culture.

Rebecca Thomas – Journalist and Entrepreneur 

I studied History of Art at degree level and graduated Manchester in 1993. I was actually one of the two state pupils taking the course. History of Art taught me to really analyse and consider what I was looking at, why something was made, how it was intended to influence me. The subject has been very useful as a journalist – I never accept things at face value.

Elizabeth Gabay – Wine writer living in the South of France

I studied History and History of Art at Leeds, graduating in 1982. Understanding classical art made me aware of art and literature on my travels – but most importantly, studying the development of photography and how images can be manipulated by the media was eye-opening.

It meant I learnt to question every image around me – to see how it was using my emotions, playing on my cultural heritage. Without history of art – how can we bemoan losing our culture? how can we understand the context of our lives?

Dr Jennifer Alexander – Professor at Warwick University

The study of visual materials underpins the whole of 21st century life, History of Art is no softer a subject than History.

John Spayne – Chairman of the Contemporary Applied Arts Gallery 

Art History gives student valuable skills of critical analysis and understanding of art and art objects, examining their origin, cultural and historical context. These skills are transferrable to a wide variety of careers ranging from art galleries, auction rooms, curating to the world of media and communications.

If the study of Art History is blocked at A Level, an opportunity to “whet the appetite” of the student will have been lost, and inevitably fewer students will opt to study the subject at degree level. It will be like damning the river upstream. Let’s be honest, this issue is not about ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ courses, it’s about cost of reduction. A slippery slope… There must be other less draconian measures of cost containment?

Also, at an individual level, Art History bestows a level of insight and understanding that will stay with the student forever giving them a rich appreciation of art and our cultural heritage.