Things only Art History Students will understand
Hi everyone! Today I thought I would do a list of things only Art History students understand…we’re a unique breed that is often misunderstood so these might educate you, or just reaffirm what you already know. Enjoy!
1) No one you know understands what Art History is.
Whenever someone asks me what I study, I am already rolling my eyes at the thought of the conversation I will have when I reply: ‘Art History’. The general response is ‘Oh so what is that?’, ‘Oh so you paint?’ or ‘Oh so a historian but just with paintings?’. I then spend a good ten minutes explaining that it is about how art influences history, and how history influences art and that we look at all mediums of art, not just painting. I then get a blank stare and a puzzled face staring back at me and I know they still don’t get it and they think I’m a crazy person. Even my Dad, who I see at least twice a month, thinks I’m an artist – *facepalm*
2) You wish you could go back in time and meet your favourite artists
Everyone has a favourite era/artistic movement, mine is the Italian Renaissance. I would love to meet Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo before they became ninja turtles (just kidding), but I would like to see the world as they saw it and be involved in the culture and politics at the time just to truly understand it.
3) You have crushes on people who have been dead for hundreds of years
You will find yourself walking around a gallery or museum and seeing a huge painting of a nude man or a sculpture that is anatomically correct (and very muscular) and in your head you will say ‘ooh hello’ and pretend that you are analysing when you are really checking them out…we’ve all done it so don’t deny it!
4) You feel that the only thing you do in life is memorize names and dates
Oh and materials, gallery locations, the meanings of colours, fruits and other symbols, what saints are the patron of and how to identify them, Biblical and mythological stories…am I missing any? Of course I am. Just get ready to remember a bunch of stuff that many people would regard as completely useless knowledge.
5) You spend most of your days looking at pretty pictures…but you hate having to write twenty pages about them
When you write an essay on an artist, specific movement or a single piece of art it becomes like a word that is repeated too often and doesn’t look or sound like a word anymore. I usually pick an essay title that sounds interesting or that features art that I like but after doing an essay on J.M.W. Turner and John Ruskin’s theory, I don’t ever want to read a word of Modern Painters or see a single Romanticist boat or train again.
6) You can know the entire history of a painting, its historical significance in world history, the life story of its creator, and the symbolic meaning of every object depicted but you can’t do simple everyday tasks
After learning all the stuff I mentioned previously, you can start your day going to a lecture and absolutely bossing the meaning behind Andrea Mantegna’s Madonna della Vittoria and then come back to your flat and forget how to human. It’s quite frustrating.
7) A painting can bring you to tears the first time you see it and you can’t really explain why
I have always been drawn to religious works of art despite being absolutely atheist and not being a part of the audience that these works were originally intended for and I can’t really explain why. By the same token, I absolutely despise The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and most Conceptual Art purely on a basis that I don’t really understand. Say what you like about art, but it will ALWAYS evoke an emotion, whether it’s positive or not.
8) Every day, people will slyly tell you about how unimportant art history is… but then you go into art-history mode and start using archaic French and Italian words no one understands
As an Art Historian, you will constantly be told by Mathematicians, Engineers, Scientists and the like that your subject is for stupid people, that it is easy, that your subject doesn’t matter and you will be unemployed for the rest of your life…but do they know what contrapposto is or chiaroscuro? What about impasto? How about entasis? Hmm didn’t think so.
Thanks for reading!