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Deciding if a History of Art Masters is For You

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This article was written by Caroline M.

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When I was sixteen I made the decision to move schools in order to study History of Art A-Level. I had always been interested in museums but it was no longer enough just to look. I wanted to understand why Van Gogh painted with such emotion, what type of statement Andy Warhol was trying to make, and how country houses had come to be filled with luxurious furniture, porcelain, silver and paintings! This move paid off and two years later I scuttled off to university to embark on an undergraduate degree in History of Art with French.

Towards the end of my undergraduate I realised I was still desperate to increase my knowledge, specifically of 18th and 19th Century European art. After much research I applied for Masters programmes and was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to study French and British Decorative Arts at The Wallace Collection Museum. I decided to do a Masters in History of Art for several reasons. Firstly, I wanted to challenge myself further, refine my research and analytical skills and continue my learning. Secondly, I was aware that most positions in museums, art galleries and auction houses now require a Masters degree specialising in a specific area of art history. Masters programmes in History of Art vary greatly and range from: Museum Studies, Decorative Arts, Design History, Architectural History, Art Business and History of Collecting.

So why study History of Art at Masters level? The absolute pleasure which art can give a person is surely one of the main reasons why most people are drawn to art history. You have the opportunity to understand the visual culture of the world around you. Placed at the crossroads of several different disciplines, History of Art can include cultural studies, anthropology, history, psychoanalysis, philosophy, and gender studies. The close textual reading, contextualisation, critical analysis and research skills that are necessary to study History of Art are also extremely transferrable skills.

Most importantly, a Masters in History of Art can truly enhance your future employability. If you decide to undertake a Masters make sure the modules seem relevant to you and your interests. Dont be afraid to contact prospective departments to discuss the course structure or objectives in more detail. If there are mandatory research projects, exhibitions or work placements then this experience will strengthen your CV even further! Above all, be honest with your professors, tell them what you want to get out of a Masters in History of Art and they will be able to offer their best advice.

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The transition from Undergraduate to Masters can sometimes be difficult. At Masters level you are required to adopt various perspectives, read extensively and understand the theoretical and socio-cultural systems behind your subject. Enabling clients to overcome this transition is one of the main areas that I specialise in as a Tavistock Tutor.

With course fees continually on the rise you need to make sure that your chosen subject at undergraduate or Masters level is worthwhile. What can you do with a degree in History of Art? The reality is, the world really is your oyster!A guide published by the Association of Art Historians, Careers in Art History, lists over forty specific careers. If you want to study and better understand the visual culture of the world around us, then History of Art will be enjoyable, fulfilling and ultimately, it will lead you towards your chosen career path.

I am extremely grateful to sixteen-year-old me, if it was not for her I would not have worked as an art curator nor be in the middle of my PhD in History of Art. Most importantly I would not be able to share my experience and passion for this wonderful subject with those around me- History of Art could be the perfect choice for you too!

Contact Caroline M for more information.