When, in 2016, the Government proposed to eliminate Art History A-level from the school curriculum, art historians reacted with cries of disdain, describing this act as “a miserable and short-sighted decision”.
As a recent Art History graduate myself, I agree! Art History is the direct study of past and present cultures, and thus should not be eliminated, but rather should be offered by all exam boards! In a society as modern and as technologically dominated as our own, promoting culture is of the utmost importance and should not be neglected.
Studying Art History is different to many of the assumptions made about it, but how are students going to find this out? Since the subject is not offered at GCSE level, A-level is the first moment when you not only encounter it, but truly understand what studying it entails. Unlike most people think, History of Art does not mean hanging around in museums and endlessly staring at artworks in total awe. Rather, this unique and culturally enriching subject is the in-depth study of our international heritage, and draws upon a large variety of different subjects, including politics, history, sociology etc. Art History is such an amalgamation of various subjects that, for one of my modules at university, we received a series of unusual lectures that focused entirely on chemical reactions and equations!
Personally, had I not studied Art History at A-level, I would not have had the courage to apply to study it at University. Not only because I would not have know what studying Art History really involved, but also because I would not have had any foundations for my degree course. While not all Art History University courses require the A-level, it would be more beneficial to have the option as you already have some knowledge of how to approach artworks and how to write appropriate essays. Trust me – writing your first Art History essay is confusing and it takes some time to get your head around it!
Thankfully, we can end on a positive note – the Pearson exam board saved Art History by introducing a new exam available for students as of September 2017.