Art History 101: Five Great Art Spots in England

Hi Everyone! Thinking about studying abroad? Or perhaps you are already abroad? Well here are my suggested art spots in England for those in search of a fantastic museum or stroll throughout history. Definitely worth a trip!

Catherine at the Scottish National Gallery

Catherine at the Scottish National Gallery

5. Liverpool – Home of the Beatles, the thriving port city of Liverpool is known for its rich culture of music and art. For those who are interested in reliving the story of the Beatles, a journey on the Magical Mystery Tour and exploring the Beatles Museum are a must do activity! However, what I found most impressive about the city is its inspiring collection of art. Located at Albert Dock, the Tate Liverpool houses an impressive collection of contemporary works of art. In addition, the Walker Art Gallery houses the largest collection of European art outside of London. The collection contains a vast array of works from medieval Europe to modern day, and its current exhibition Victorian Treasures displays paintings from Victorian England with an emphasis on the works of the Pre-Raphaelites.

4. Oxford – The city of ‘dreaming spires’, Oxford, contains architecture from the Anglo-Saxons to present day. Walking through the picturesque streets of Oxford, you will find buildings from the English Gothic, Neoclassical, Baroque, Palladian, Gothic Revival, and Postmodern periods. The cultivation of diverse architecture within the city is what gives Oxford its quaint charm and beauty.

View of Durham Cathedral, Durham

View of Durham Cathedral, Durham

3. Durham – Located upon a rocky hill and overlooking the river are the Norman Cathedral and Castle of Durham. The twelfth century Cathedral houses the relics of Saint Cuthbert and Bede, and exhibits a collection of Anglo-Saxon sculptural objects. The city of Durham is a must-see city for any person interested in medieval art and architecture. The cobbled streets of the city, medieval buildings, and Riverwalk views emphasise the city as a rich historical and cultural centre.



View of the facade of York Minister, York

View of the facade of York Minister, York

2. York – Located 30 minutes by train from Leeds, is well known for its Roman fortification walls, twelfth century Minister, and medieval architecture throughout the city. From walking along the Roman city walls to exploring the Viking history of York in the Jorvik Viking Centre to strolling through the cobbled stoned streets of the medieval Shambles, a visit to York transcends you throughout the history of the city, and England itself.



Gallery Room at the Wallace Collection, London

Gallery Room at the Wallace Collection, London

1. London – A historic yet greatly cosmopolitan city, the city of London is home to most impressive art galleries and museums in England. From contemporary art at the Tate Modern, to British art at the Tate Britain, to decorative art and objects at the Victorian and Albert Museum, and to paintings that span European history at the National Gallery London and the Wallace Collection, the city of London has galleries and museums that will intrigue the interests of any visitor.



P.S. For those who make it to Scotland – check out any of the Scottish National Galleries!

Leeds: Returning to my Life Abroad

View of the Great Hall, University of Leeds.

View of the Great Hall, University of Leeds.

I have been back in Leeds for about two weeks now. Something I noticed is that it is definitely different returning for the second semester than it is arriving for the first time in Leeds. Yesterday, I met the new arrivals who are studying abroad at the University of Leeds for the spring semester with API. They reminded me of how I felt when I first arrived in Leeds. When I arrived in Leeds in September, I was living off the rush of excitement of being abroad. To me, the streets were lined with gold and life was surreal. Now, after living in Leeds for about four months, I have a life established here. I go to lectures, I have my friend group, study, and go on an occasional trip out of the country or in the UK. I am 'settled' with my student life in Leeds – and this is my reality now.

The past two weeks have comprised of endless revising (British term for studying for exams), finalizing essays, and sitting exams. In England, the exam period for the fall semester is in January, thus, it is encouraged and 'expected' that students revise over the holidays for their exams. I now know why that is encouraged and expected of students. Lecturers do not provide study guides for exams or hint at what might be on the exam. The exam can include any material learned over the semester. Lucky for me, I only had two essay based exams but, I had three 3,000 word essays due. This is because as a student studying History of Art, you are required to critically think and form conclusions about the material covered in lecture – and the formation of these conclusions comes in the form of written essays. Revising for exams definitely made me think critically, and to make independent scholarly choices, about what paintings and material to revise. I  enjoyed not having a study guide as I was in charge of my own learning and made my own educated decisions.

View of the Great Hall, University of Leeds.

View of the Great Hall, University of Leeds.

Furthermore, the exam process at the University of Leeds is very different than at Saint A's. The exam timetable tells you the time, location, and your seat number for your exam. At first, I was confused as to why I had my exams in The Edge Sports Hall….but, I soon realized it is because 300-500 other students from different modules (classes) are taking their exams in the same location as you. I guess that is what you have to do when the University has over 60,000 students. Sitting my first exam at the University of Leeds was a different experience. I had a specific seat number to sit in, my student ID had to be placed on my desk for checking, my phone placed in a clear zip-lock bag, no labels on water bottles, all coats and bags left at the back of the room, and proctors wearing yellow jackets that said 'exam marshal' patrolled the space. It reminded me of sitting an AP exam in high school but 10x more strict.

Ultimately, education in England is taken very seriously. Students are expected to study during the entire academic year. Since I arrived in Leeds, I have not had a break from studying or revising. I did not have a fall break, nor a thanksgiving break. In addition, I had essay deadlines due over the Christmas holiday. So although I was home in the States, I was at the library finalizing and submitting essays. Even today, I am done with my exams but, I have required readings that are due next week for Week 1 of the spring semester. But, this is all part of the experience of studying abroad in a different culture and I enjoy learning new information about the history of art. So for me, this is a phenomenal opportunity to further my studies of art history both in lectures and through traveling.

Cheers xx

Catherine Doucette '18: Leeds, England

Catherine Doucette '18 is a fine arts major with a concentration in art history from Brewster, Mass. Catherine is studying in Leeds with API.

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I decided to study abroad because I want to gain a new perspective on life and develop in my self-awareness. It may sound cliché but, I only have one life to live and I want to live it to the fullest – so why not spend a year living in England.

Catherine Doucette '18This is my chance to travel around Europe, to form new friendships, and to see iconic works of art and architecture that I would not otherwise have the chance to see as student studying art history. This is my moment to learn about myself and the world.

The world is SO big and full of unique cultures, it just didn’t seem right to stay in New Hampshire, I felt like I had to go abroad in order to discover myself and the world.

What do you hope to experience/accomplish while you’re abroad?

While I am abroad, I hope to experience life from a new perspective. I want to travel to places I have only dreamed of traveling to. This past semester at the University of Leeds, I had the opportunity to travel across Ireland and see the Cliffs of Moher and explore the vibrant city of Dublin. I had the opportunity to bike ride through the lavish gardens of the Chateau de Versailles and stand in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

I had the opportunity to stand in the ruins of medieval castles and cathedrals in England and I had the opportunity to meet the most honest, kind, humorous, and adventurous people who I am honored to call my best friends. Next semester at the University of Leeds, I hope to continue to expand my outlook of life and to form more memorable moments that will shape who I am as a person.

What obstacles do you think you might encounter abroad?

I think the most challenging obstacle I encountered abroad was myself. It is not easy moving to a new country for a year and to be able to call that new place home. I try to describe it like this: at Saint A’s and at home, who I am, in a way, is complete. It is like a solved Rubik's Cube. I had my friends, I knew the area, I knew what was expected in my classes, and I had familiar Professors – my routine was intact and comfortable.

When you go abroad that Rubik's Cube of yourself is jumbled up as you are now in a foreign country and living in a new culture. It is up to you to reconstruct your life in a new country. It up to you to solve the Rubik's Cube again while abroad, but it will never be solved in that same way as it was before. And if you are able to solve your Rubik's Cube of life again, and solve it in a new way, then you are able to open yourself to a world of rich new experiences.

I don’t know if my Rubik's Cube of life abroad is solved yet because I still have so much to discover and learn, but I do know that I am fortunate enough that I have become comfortable with myself and with my new home in Leeds to enjoy these moments and to allow these transformational experiences to shape who I am as a person.

Why did you choose this particular program?

I chose to study abroad at the University of Leeds for the academic year with API because I wanted to live an authentic student life in England and to study at a University that would challenge me academically. The University of Leeds is a highly regarded British University located in the north of England in a lively student city called Leeds.

I chose this program because the University offers a vast amount of unique and interesting art history classes that will benefit my own studies. Reflecting upon this past semester I spent abroad at the University, I can say that I made the right decision. I enrolled in classes that furthered my understanding of the history of art, further developed my research and writing skills, and allowed me to live an authentic student life in England.

What are you bringing with you that you absolutely can’t live without?

I brought my GoPro with me! I highly recommend bringing a camera with you abroad. I was able to capture some amazing moments of my travels and my friends this past semester!

What experiences/classes/opportunities have prepared you to go abroad?

My art history professors have prepared me to study abroad at an academically challenging University. The past two years my art history Professors have provided me with the tools and support to strengthen my writing and research skills. They have also provided me with an overall understanding of the history of art.

While studying at the University of Leeds, I spend a lot of time independently researching key topics and works of art for my weekly lectures. I feel confident in my ability to research and to find scholarly and academic sources that enhance my understanding of a topic and I feel confident in my ability to think critically about a work of art while writing essays and participating in seminar discussions.