Art History


Course Length: Full academic year (30 weeks)
This Year's ScheduleClick here to view


Aims of the Course

There's so much more to the study of History of Art than admiring the aesthetics of an object. The study of art history helps you tease out the social, political and personal narratives of a piece of art, so that you can carve out a story of human experience.

We study painting, sculpture and architecture from both the Western European traditions and ‘World’ Art in their historical and cultural contexts, and we will ask a lot of questions. Who made them? What subject is shown? What are they made of? When were they made? How were they used? Who used them? How do they compare to similar objects, or other representations of the same subject? We ask these questions in different ways, but the most important question an art historian asks is: why does this object (be it a painting, sculpture, building, or something else) look the way it does and have the impact that it does?

Like other humanities subjects, History of Art teaches you a range of useful transferable skills, including:
  • How to construct a logical argument and form a judgement based on evidence.
  • How to research a topic thoroughly by finding and analysing a large body of relevant material.
  • how to present a case clearly and convincingly (written and spoken).
  • How to think creatively.

Subjects Covered in the Art History Course

The designer and deliverer of this course, Jenny Wells, will focus this year on two time periods: the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th until the start of WW2. 

The first half of the year will be focused on Impressionist paintings, paintings that are often thought of as tranquil, calming, part of our everyday experience ... but our study will uncover how they challenged the art world of the time. We will look at the revolutionary aspects of their subject matter, their painting style, the use of paint. Along with the Impressionists, we will consider the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Realism, Divisionism, Art Nouveau; the sculpture of Rodin and architecture and innovation of great buildings such as The Crystal Palace.

The second half of the year will build on the first term, and will explore the great artists including Picasso and Dali. Students learn to look at art in a new way and engage in a journey that will open their eyes to the experiments and thoughts of an era that started with great optimism, went through the trial of the First World War, and emerged fractured, questioning and opening up possibilities that we see in the great Conceptual works of the 21st Century. Styles include Cubism, Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism among others (painting and sculpture); and how architecture embraced Modernism, form and function, and buildings as ‘machines for living’!

Homework Expectations

Homework will include some set reading (including Facos' Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art; otherwise, texts are provided), watching specified research materials, and writing a response (2-3 hours per week).

Add-On Options

Once a term, there is a specified artist research project which extends over a number of weeks and is ideal for both A-level student and US students looking for honors credits.

Students are introduced to specific vocabulary and will grow in skills and confidence in visual analysis and writing skills. The add-on writing extension gives a more in-depth look at a specialist area of art, or writing and one piece of writing, and is highly recommended for anyone who is pursuing this subject toward the UK exam.

How It Supports Your Child's Education

For UK-based students, this is the first module of the highly-acclaimed UK Art History exam for Advanced Level qualifications, but it can also be part of a well-rounded education for any teen who wants a high-calibre and stimulating introduction to the subject.

For US students, this course counts for one high school credit, which can be upgraded to an honors credit with the add-on option.


Who Teaches Art History?

Jenny Wells holds a degree in History of Art and English from the University of York, and an MA from the Open University. She home educated her children, and has been teaching History of Art and English A Levels for the last ten years, including being a History of Art AQA examiner. Jenny has completed the Pearson training for the new History of Art A Level.
See all courses taught by Jenny