What is the 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?

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 of the following themes in art: nature, identities, or war. These themes are explored through critical studies of selected works of art. Students also study two distinct periods in art drawn from the renaissance, the baroque, the British and French avant-garde, modernism or Pop Art.

How is A Level History of Art assessed?


Unit Modules Weighting Format
Paper 1 Visual Analysis and Themes 50% 3 hours
Paper 2 Period Studies 50% 3 hours



Exam Board: Edexcel

What do I need?

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.