Memoirs of a Francophile: Part Two – Art History

At the end of Year 11, and NCEA Level One (GCSE, school certificate, year 11 exams etc.), I had to choose my subjects for Year 12, and Level Two. Level two, we were told by our teachers, was the fundamental in shaping our future careers. Picking subjects was vital. Unlike many other people I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I had no intention of continuing maths, science or Spanish (subjects I had scraped through in level one). My options were limited.

That was when I stumbled across Art History. It was lunch time in B block computer room, I had just come back from 3 days sick and had to enter my subject preferences for next year before the end of the day. So I clicked “English Literature”, “English Language”, “History”, “Social Studies” and “Geography”. I still had one subject to choose. I lot of people I knew were taking classics, and I could continue with Spanish, but I would need tuition to pass. I looked around the room panicking. In the corner was a sign. There was a copy of Manet’s Olympia next to Duchamps hilarious image of the Mona Lisa with a Moustache. The sign simply said “Take Art History, and it will take you places – year 12 and 13”. Curious I quickly clicked Art History as my final subject then went to have my lunch. 

I didn’t give it much of a second thought until the beginning of the New Year. When I walked into the faded classroom on my first day, with one wall lined with fascinating looking books, and the other with a timeline of art history, I knew my choice was the right one. It was in this class that my interest and obsession with France flourished. I learned of the French Revolution, of the Academie, of Baron Haussmann, of the Salon des Refusés, I learned about Impressionism and photography, I learnt about the “new” Paris… art history quickly became my favourite subject. I received the class award (which was basically the school award since there’s only one class). I knew suddenly what I wanted to do with my life… and that was Art History. 

I took Art History in Year 13, receiving the top results, and got into the best university in the country studying it. I now have a Bachelors Degree with a Major in Art History. It became a pivotal part of my identity and Francophilia! I loved art, just like a well versed French woman does, if not more! 

Art history was and is, one of the reasons I continue to love France. 

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