History of Art

Senior school > Curriculum > A level > History of Art

History of Art is a richly stimulating A level subject that is directly relevant in today’s proliferation of visual culture. The course explores the major periods of art history from antiquity to modernity and aims to understand works in their unique context and from a global perspective.

Lessons are active and participatory, with a work of art or architecture often used a starting point for discussion. This kind of visual analysis is an important part of understanding both how to look at art but also how to formulate ideas and build an interpretation. Pupils develop their visual literacy whilst also gaining important insight into the historical context. Pupils are encouraged to think critically and creatively and to explore a range of sources. Finally, the course helps pupils to develop verbal and written communication and analytical skills.


Entry requirements: None required, although a Grade 6 in IGCSE English or equivalent would be beneficial. A genuine enthusiasm for all aspects of the subject are expected.

History of Art is a well-respected qualification with the academic credentials for university. History of Art is offered as a Single or Joint Honours degree at most universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. There is a rich variety of career paths including education, journalism, curating, sales, interior design, stylist, art restoration and conservation, and art therapy.

The qualification inspires pupils to engage with visual culture in many forms and with a new global perspective. Pupils will gain an understanding of the relationship between art and society; art historical terms, concepts and issues; the influence of cultural and political factors, differences in materials, techniques and processes in both art and architecture over time.

Year 12 Paper 1 : THEMES
Visual analysis (painting, sculpture and architecture)

Two Themes are studied in depth:

  • Nature in Art
  • Identities in Art

Year 13 Paper 2 : PERIODS
Two Periods are studied in depth:

  • Power and Persuasion: The Baroque in Catholic Europe (1597-1685)
  • Brave New World: ‘Modernism’ in Europe (1900-1939)


  • There are two written exams, each 3 hours
  • Each exam is worth 50% of the A level grade

The History of Art Department at Gresham’s is committed to presenting pupils with multiple opportunities to pursue the subject beyond the classroom and to experience art works and architecture first hand. There is a tailor made trip abroad every two years, typically to Paris or Rome. There are also annual trips which include London, the Sainsbury centre at UEA and the summer sculpture exhibition at Houghton Hall.

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A level
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