Robert Orme

Robert Orme was my Art History teacher in high school. I was the only person in my year who wanted to take the subject, but he was willing to tutor me one-on-one.

He was brutal.

He was the teacher who held me to a higher standard than I thought was possible, and introduced me to dedicated research and critical thought. He made me read extensively, questioned me at every statement, and demanded rigor at all times. For the UK A-level exam, we were expected to sit the exam and write essays. Long-form essays, by hand. With illustrations. And correct dates. He had me memorising the dates of every major piece of art from Giotto to Hopper, and he didn’t let up until after the exam. He had me writing 25-page essays, alone in his office, every week. When it came time for the exam, I churned out over 50 pages of handwriting in one day.

I was always interested in a history of ideas -  I thought that paintings were the best way of communicating the ideas or beliefs of people in the past. So as soon as I was teaching history, I automatically did it from images from art, from slides in those days, and used the slides as the thing that would mean that you would instantly get a reaction from a group of kids who would want to interpret the image, would want to ask questions about it, then… a debate could begin.

Looking back on it now, after oh 25 years, it was really quite remarkable what he asked me to do. I am tremendously thankful for the experience I had with him. He is the man.


I just found this tribute video.