International Journal of Art & Design Education

Art History and Art Students

Volume 2.2   1983



Art History was introduced as a compulsory subject in British Art Colleges for the first time in 1963, when it was regarded with suspicion by many as a way of satisfying the authorities that Art students were capable of thinking as well as working with their hands. The article proposes that Art historians have a valuable part to play in students' artistic development, provided that they recognise that different approaches are often required from those that are generally approved in other areas of teaching. The paper argues that there can be an important and positive link between the teaching of Art History and Art practice. Artists today are faced with a bewildering variety of choices made even greater by improved communications - Art historians can at least suggest some routes through the maze. The priorities and emphases of teaching Art History are not necessarily the same as when teaching non-executant groups. The paper suggests that a starting point is to use Art History for contemporary artists to illuminate the present. A backwards linking of key periods in Art History may be more appropriate for contemporary students than a strictly chronological approach. The paper challenges the view that Art History should be based on intellectual stiffening, and argues that it must instead be based on an awareness of its importance to the creative development of the young artist to the understanding of the world he inhabits.