What is A-Level History of Art?

In History of Art we explore art and architecture from around the world and from all eras in history. We look at contemporary art such as Damien Hirst’s ‘Shark’ (aka The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living) and the controversies caused by the  art of Tracy Emin and Ai Wei Wei. We examine the contexts in which art is made and how it creates meaning. We explore the Renaissance and Baroque eras, and explore how art evolves in relation to society and culture. We examine how Feminist art history has radically transformed they way art historians interpret art today, in particular the analysis of the representation of women in painting and sculpture.

In our exploration of sculpture we will consider the current debate about the role of statues in relation to the BLM protests and in our examination of the the Benin bronzes we examine the shocking colonial context in which they were acquired. We look at the connection between art and architecture and examine an extraordinary range of architecture, from Christopher Wren and Zaha Hadid’’s buildings in Oxford to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

What you'll do

The first year introduces students to a critical vocabulary for analysing and interpreting art and architecture and we also study two theme-based topics, Nature in art and architecture and Identities in art and architecture.

In the second year, students investigate two specific periods of western art in depth. We study the Renaissance in Italy and Modernism in Europe. We look in detail at artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, Matisse and Dali.

Looking at art first hand is an important aspect of our course. Studying in Oxford gives students an excellent opportunity to see great art and architecture in the city’s museums, galleries and university buildings. We regularly visit the Ashmolean Museum to look at art from across the world and we visit the changing exhibitions of contemporary art at Modern Art Oxford. Students attend study days at the Ashmolean and artist talks at Modern Art Oxford. We regularly visit London museums and galleries. One of the highlights of our year is an annual study trip to Paris or Florence.

The History of Art exam comprises two three hour papers which consist of a series of shorter and longer questions: Paper 1 examines Visual Analysis and the two Themes topics; Paper 2 examines the two Periods topics.

Is it the right subject for you?

History of Art is great for students who are interested in art and architecture. History of Art connects directly with design and visual culture such as film and fashion and it deals in historical and philosophical contexts, so historians and philosophers may well be interested. Definitely an excellent option for anyone who enjoys visiting museums and galleries.

As an A-Level, History of Art complements subjects such as English, History, Philosophy, Classical Civilization, Religious Studies, Media Studies, Film Studies, Modern Languages, Sociology, and Psychology – to name a few!

What could you do next?

d’Overbroeck’s History of Art students regularly go on to study History of Art degrees at university. History of Art is a so-called ‘facilitating’ subject and will help you in your applications to any degree course. It is an excellent supporting subject for students interested in studying art or design, whether fine art, architecture, fashion, graphics, photography or film-making. History of Art also relates directly to subjects such as literature, history, philosophy and anthropology.

Our HoA students regularly gain offers of places on some of the best degree courses in the UK such as Cambridge, UCL, the Courtauld institute, Leeds, Sussex, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

Recent A-Level students are currently studying degrees in Fine Art at Newcastle, Fashion at CSM, Architecture at the Architectural Association, Theatre Design at Bristol Old Vic, Archaeology at UCL and Philosophy at Cambridge.

Your teachers

Who teaches History of Art?