Friday, 14 March 2014

Is studying Art History only for the 'posh'?

By Dr. Matthew Bowman

"Studying Art History is like learning how to analyse your own culture" - A level student, Sam Message.

A recent article in the Guardian has argued that the study of art history is 'not just a subject for posh girls', despite misconceptions and existing prejudices.

Matt Bowman has his say:

"Being neither posh nor a girl myself, it’s heartening to read a public reminder that art history is not an intellectual leisure activity for upper-middle classes and higher girls and women. Coming from a working class background and doing fifteen-to-eighteen hour shifts nearly every Saturday during my teenage years as a milkman’s assistant, a fascination for art and comics opened my eyes towards distant horizons far removed from my upbringing. My original aim was to be become a comic book artist, but I ended up studying art and then found my way into researching art history. Studies have long shown that social classes tend to reproduce themselves from generation to generation, and so the false notion that art history is for the rich rather than the poor plays an unfortunate role in that reproduction. This notion also threatens to engender snobbishness and philistinism while obstructing potential and more productive thoughts. Culture is one of the ways we define ourselves, and identifying the production and reception of culture with the rich threatens to deny others a part in that ongoing definition. Art opened a horizon for me, and I can only congratulate Caroline Osborne’s efforts in doing the same for others. Art can invite moments of convergence between different social classes, even though their lift experiences might be wildly different."

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