No old masters but not too abstract
Early Christian artefact error throws students
A detail from Ireland’s favourite painting, Frederic William Burton’s Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs, which made an appearance on the exam. Photograph: Copyright National Gallery of Ireland
There was another error on a Leaving Cert paper yesterday as history of art students were asked to identify an artefact from a period that was not adequately defined.
After comparing the 8th-century Derrynaflan Paten and the 12th-century Cross of Cong, students were asked to describe a third artefact “from the same period”, despite a 400-year gap between the two examples given.
Eagle-eyed students at Dunshaughlin Community College spotted the error and were thrown, according to teacher Helen Comiskey.
Overall, students got a shock when they opened the paper and found none of the usual suspects on the higher level art exam. There was no sign of Rembrandt, Botticelli, Raphael, Titian or any of the artists students would expect. “This exam looked very difficult at first glance,” said Ms Comiskey. “When we opened the paper we drew a breath because none of the expected artists were anywhere to be seen.”
However, said Ms Comiskey, on closer inspection the exam offered plenty of scope for students to explore artists and topics they have covered, although they needed to be creative in order to do that, she said.
“Enough of the periods were covered to allow students show what they knew but there were many parts to each question and plenty of essay-length answers required to keep them going. This was a challenging piece of work,” she said.
In the European section students were surprised when they saw the lesser-studied artist Paulo Uccello with his work The Hunt in the Forest, but the question was not difficult, said teachers. There was also an opportunity to describe another artist from the period such as Botticelli or another that students would have studied.
Angela Griffith, history of art teacher at the Institute of Education, described it as one of fairest papers in quite some time.
“If students took their time and read the question headings carefully, and referred to the accompanying illustrations, they had every opportunity to reach their full potential,” she said. “There were no trick questions. Questions were well phrased and it was well illustrated. Students could use the images to help structure and formulate their answers.”
“Ireland’s favourite painting – Burton’s Meeting on the Turret Stairs – appeared and this was a good thing given the amount of publicity afforded to the work over the last year or so. This was a topical and relevant question,” said Ms Griffith. “The only issue that may have caught students out in this section was the specific referencing of a lesser known Paulo Uccello work. However, the question was illustrated and students could apply what they knew of the artist and the movement to the image.
Film questions, poster design and digital imagery, architectural restoration and packaging all featured on yesterday’s paper as well. The Gathering, a recurring topic across the Leaving and Junior Cert exams this year, made an appearance on the art exam, with students asked to outline their visual ideas for a short film to celebrate the event.