What is History of Art?

In History of Art, students are encouraged to research and investigate art through first-hand experience of an artwork and to study the influences on the artist. They also develop knowledge of key art terminology, and of how art has been interpreted in the past. The ability to analyse the formal characteristics of any work of art and architecture is developed by building the ability to analyse and interpret the choices made by artists. This is underpinned by a general knowledge and understanding of historical, social and cultural contexts.

Students will develop the ability to link these elements through sustained critical argument, supported by detailed evidence and reasoning, as well as close reading of images.

How is it studied?

Edexcel A-Level History of Art is taught within the two-year A-Level programme.

Students work in small groups to develop their visual literacy and interpretation skills across painting, sculpture and architecture from within the European tradition of art, from classical Greece (500 BCE) to the present. Students are taught to analyse composition colour, pictorial space, light and tone, form, line, scale, three-dimensional space, location, architectural elements and texture, pattern, and ornamentation.

Students then apply this understanding to two themes:

Nature in Art

War in Art.

These themes are explored through critical studies of selected works of art.

Students also study two distinct periods in art:

Rebellion and Revival: the British and French Avant-Garde (1848‒99)

Brave new world: Modernism in Europe (1900‒39).

How is A-Level History of Art assessed?

Exam Board: Edexcel

Paper 1Visual Analysis and Themes50%3 hours
Paper 2Period Studies50%3 hours




What do I need?

5 GCSEs grade 5 or above including Maths and English or equivalent international qualifications.

For international students who have taken IELTS, we require an overall score of 5.5 with a minimum of 5.5 for each of the reading and writing components.

For international students who have taken IGCSE English (Second Language), we require grade 5 or above.

Students need no prior experience of History of Art, although enthusiasm for art and the work of the artist is important, as well as some general understanding of the course of European history.

What should I study with History of Art?

History of Art supports, and is supported by, many other subjects. It is a good combination with creative and humanities subjects as well as with social sciences. It also can extend and broaden a scientific curriculum.

What can I do with A-Level History of Art?

Many students go on to creative courses in the arts or design areas, or use History of Art to move into roles in auction houses, museums or art galleries.

Questions about the course

What do I need to study History of Art?

You need enthusiasm for paintings, sculpture and architecture, and a willingness to learn how to analyse these critically using the correct terminology.

Can I study A-Level History of Art in one year?

As an A-Level History of Art retake student, yes.