• Radley College, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 2HR
  • Telephone: 01235 543000, Fax: 01235 543106





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History of Art

A Level History of Art is an essay-based course, concerned with analysing works of art and architecture within an historical context.

It requires no practical artistic skills whatsoever. Students will learn how works of art and architecture are created through an analysis of the techniques and methods involved. We supplement the work covered in class with visits to London, exhibitions, local galleries and architectural sites. This subject works well when combined with virtually any other subject: in particular, it complements Ancient and Modern History, English and any of the languages. Additionally, it provides a student with a suitable alternative to the more traditional essay-based subjects. It is also envisaged that boys may well choose to join our annual trip to Italy (Rome and Florence) while on the course.


Candidates develop an ability to analyse and interpret a variety of works of painting, sculpture and architecture, alongside an understanding of some of the major themes:

AS Unit 1 Visual Analysis and Interpretation. This unit requires knowledge and understanding of formal characteristics, terminology and general knowledge of historical, social and cultural contexts for painting, sculpture and architecture.

AS Unit 2 Themes in History of Art - Candidates develop an understanding of eight historical art themes.


The A2 specification also offers two units. Each unit offers four optional topics and candidates select one topic from each unit. While specific historical periods are to be covered, these should allow for a wider choice of study:

A2 Unit 3 Investigation and Interpretation. (1) This unit requires the study of one prescribed period and location, from the optional topics listed in the specification.

A2 Unit 4 Investigation and Interpretation. (2) This unit requires the study of one prescribed period and location, chosen from the optional topics listed in the specification.


It should be stressed this is not an art appreciation course. It requires students not only to consider style, but to learn how to construct and present an argument - based upon the critical analysis of the iconography of an image, consideration of its technical production and historical context and use of appropriate terminology.

After A Level

In terms of university entry, this subject equips students with critical and analytical techniques -valuable assets for most undergraduate courses. Students may choose to go on to university to study History of Art, with the intention of following a career in the arts field - including in galleries, auction houses, and academia. However, History of Art provides any university candidate with a sound cultural understanding and many students pursue careers in the civil service, finance, journalism, teaching and advertising.

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