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Why Study Art History?

Learn why the study of art history is important and where it can lead you.

In a financial climate where the arts and humanities are lower priority subjects, the value of art history (and visual culture) should not be forgotten. It should certainly not be overlooked by students wanting a creative yet academic degree. Art history offers a wide-ranging field of study and provides graduates with a range of skills applicable in many employment sectors. By what is art history, and why should you study it?

What does it involve?

Studying art history, like all history, aids our understanding of the present and the future through the analysis of the past. While art history focuses on art and its production, this incorporates many other fields, including social history, aesthetics, economics, politics and anthropology.

The discipline’s methodologies also draw heavily on philosophy and critical theory. It combines well with a range of other humanities subjects to create stimulating joint honours programmes.

Students of art history and visual culture are exposed to a wide range of disciplines and approaches, and apply these to the full range of countries and historical periods, thus leading to cultural, political and historical awareness. Students carry out independent research, learn to read texts and images critically, write and speak on these topics, and draw their own conclusions.

Where can it lead?

Art historians feed the public’s interest in art; many students want to go on to work in public museums and galleries. Their studies, therefore, contribute to the preservation of national heritage, plus the works from all over the world that we are lucky enough to house in the UK, and also to the educational activities carried about by museums and galleries. The heritage tourism industry is also a major part of the country’s economy, attracting millions of visitors every year and contributing to related businesses throughout the UK.

As well as careers within the arts, art history graduates develop widely applicable skills: working independently, writing essays, delivering presentations, undertaking research and analysing texts and images. In short, the discipline breeds culturally aware independent thinkers, avid researchers and passionate communicators whose knowledge stretches far beyond the art which first drew them to the subject.

Written by Rosalind McKever
Chair of Student Group
Association of Art Historians

Enjoyed this article? Read our reasons why you should study art in France.

Why Study Art History in Italy?

To say “art history” in Italian, you say “Storia dell’arte”

Italy has one of the richest histories in terms of art and culture in the entire world, which is why it is often seen as the holy land for Art History students.
Hannah Robertson is a First-Class Art History graduate from the University  of Sussex who visited Rome in Italy as a part of her course. We asked her why Italy was such an important destination for her, “I would say that it was really important to be submerged into the art and your surroundings to get a real idea of the importance and impact of the art – like seeing the Sistine chapel or Trevi fountain, you can only get to grips with its beauty when you are there looking at it, and even to non-art historians you can feel its impact and beauty! Rome itself was just a fascinating city, every corner you turned you would be met with a fascinating church, and it really took you back in time!”

Italy is the country with the most UNESCO world heritage sites in the world: the whole country is an open-air museum! This makes the boot-shaped peninsula a living classroom for international students.

There is an overwhelming amount of study abroad programmes, as it is such a popular location, and each location will give you a deep insight into a specific part of Italian Art History.

For instance, if you find yourself in Rome, you could head to Vatican City to catch a glimpse of Raphael’s famous fresco, School of Athens. Or maybe you’re curious to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in her glory at the Uffizi in Florence. Of course, you don’t want to miss seeing some of Michelangelo’s grandiose works like The Last Supper in Milan or the massive works in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

For art aficionados, Italy is a paradise with an invaluable heritage of works and places: in Italy you will experience the greatest achievements in art, architecture and sculpture from the Classical World, to the Renaissance, the Baroque and contemporary art.

If you directly enrol through a University, it can cost you on average around $3,500 USD, which is a very reasonable price.

Italy also tends to offer a great deal of summer courses, which are more intense but for a shorter length of time.

The low price and the flexibility of the courses means that studying Art History in Italy is easily accessible for everyone.

Italy can be fairly cheap to live in