On 18th January, we were delighted to welcome Art Historian, Professor Gemma Blackshaw, who spoke to us on What is History of Art and Why Does it Matter?

The first impression we had of Professor Blackshaw was of her obvious creativity and independence. When she first addressed us, her manner was engaging and we instantly felt drawn towards what she had to say through her interaction from the off.

Her teenage education was very relatable to us, having also come from an all girls’ school. Each negative criticism she mentioned concerning History of Art, such as comments recently made in The Guardian by Jonathan Jones, declaring the A Level syllabus as ‘soft’ and only for the ‘privilege of the public-school elite’ was responded to with great passion against the claim.  She explained how this narrow-minded view towards the study of the subject showed evident lack of understanding of the visual arts, as, due to the expanding use of social media in today’s society, one could argue this subject is more crucial in order to prevent total absorption into false images, with a lack of awareness as to how to analyse their validity.

The speaker also went on to address the expression of female sexuality through art, referencing Egon Schiele and how he over sexualises women through images of figures in poses, suggestive of an erotic nature. Although she urged us to maintain an appreciation of his art, we were reminded of the images’ ability to stagnate the feminist movement, as such sexual depiction undermined the prospect of female equality and therefore required a high level of maturity to combine both the visual and symbolic factors. We found this interpretation resonated greatly among those gathered, as all were able to relate to her message of ‘education for all, opportunity for all, equality for all.’

Gracie and Josephine (UVI Form)