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Studying art history can make you famous – honest!

18 August 2017

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

As A-level students celebrate (or commiserate) around the country, the Rake is reminded of just how close art history came to being dropped from the curriculum last year. When AQA announced its decision to scrap the qualification, Britain’s art-lovers were appalled. ‘This is a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible idea,’ exclaimed Yinka Shonibare – a sentiment affirmed in more words by art history advocates across the country, until another exam board, Pearson, stepped in to save the day.

The Rake can only hope that a new generation of budding art historians are inspired by their elders’ struggles and take up the subject at A-level – and beyond – this year. In case they still need convincing, here’s a list of the most famous art history students around…

Eddie Redmayne 

Dapper Hollywood darling Eddie Redmayne studied art history at Cambridge, completing his dissertation on Yves Klein’s ‘International Klein Blue’. ‘I wrote 30,000 words on this colour, and I never grew tired of it,’ he said.

Lily Cole

Cole was already a famous supermodel when she started at King’s College, Cambridge. She won a place to study Social and Political Science, but decided once she arrived that art history was for her. She graduated in 2011 with a double first.

Loyd Grossman

A late convert to the discipline, gastronome and purveyor of Premier cooking sauces Loyd Grossman turned his attention from the art of food to the art of history in 2008, when he enrolled at Magdalen College in – you guessed it – Cambridge, coming away with both a Master’s and a PhD. He’s also been involved in just about every UK heritage organisation you can think of…

Kate Middleton

Kate went to St Andrews to study art history and, erm, came away with the heir to the throne. Still, she’ll find no shortage of material to test her knowledge on in the various royal properties she now counts as home.

Gwyneth Paltrow           

Hollywood A-lister and Goop ‘curator’ Gwyneth Paltrow majored in art history at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Alas, she dropped out to pursue an acting career… but since then she’s played a shady art dealer in Mortdecai, and Dora Maar in 33 días, and amassed a small art collection of her own – so the Rake forgives her.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.