A level History of Art

If newspaper gossip is to be believed, Kate Middleton chose to study history of art to bag herself a prince. You may be setting your sights slightly lower than marrying royalty, like gaining good grades to attend university, perhaps.

one year a level intensive Securing a high grade at A Level in just 9 months is highly achievable with this well established intensive one year A level course. Our students enjoy History of Art so much that some go off to university to study the subject; while others have used their high grade as leverage for degree studies in Classical Civilisation, History, Architecture and English Literature.

This traditional, essay based subject is welcomed by all of the more traditional universities and our students have proceeded to study the subject at universities ranging from Edinburgh and Birmingham to Oxford and UCL. Former students who have taken History of Art at RIC are now working at the BBC, the V&A and as practicing artists and film makers themselves.

Why does Michelangelo’s David have such big hands? Why do Picasso’s women look so distorted? Is Prince Charles right about modern architecture? The study of visual culture has many aspects to explore – from looking closely at individual works of art to identify different artists’ styles and techniques; to exploring the religious, political and cultural contexts in which artworks are made. The subject takes in a breadth of history that you won’t come across in most A Levels – taking in the period from 500 BC-2000AD. While this may seem daunting, we cover most of the important movements broadly for the analytical skills necessary for unit 1; while for units 2, 3 and 4 our focus is on our passion for twentieth century art. We explore the explosion of art movements in the century from Fauvism to the Young British Artists, examining how artists and architects responded to the technological and cultural changes of the era – using radical new materials and developing daring art forms. We also look at how artists reflected on their social and political circumstances – Kirchner’s reaction to horrors of war in Germany; the New York-based Jewish émigrés who thought that the Nazi atrocities could never be depicted in figurative art; the optimism and ambition of the Empire State Building; how Andy Warhol brought Pop to art; and why an unmade bed became one of late 20th Century’s most controversial artworks.

It is important to view works of art firsthand and the History of Art department regularly visits London’s galleries including the Courtauld Institute, The National Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Past trips have also included visits to Barcelona, Florence and Rome.

“ I had never really thought about History of Art in the past but I am glad I did this year. Not only has it been great fun, but also very interesting as well, and I now possess a newfound love for art and architecture which I hope to carry on in the future.” Nick, 2014-15 student


History of Art overlaps effectively with analytical essay based subjects such as English Literature and History. The discipline develops in students the ability to deconstruct artworks in their historical contexts which is a key aspect of English Literature and Film Studies. Many Fine Art students also take the subject as it enhances the visual analysis skills needed to comment on their own artwork and provides inspiration for their own ideas.

In summary, there is definitely more to History of Art A Level than being able to stand in an art gallery, wearing a beret and proclaiming loudly, ‘perfectly integrated… with a marvellous negative capability’, it can also be a rewarding subject to study that will help you bag that university place (or prince).

Lisa Herron, Head of Film and Media

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