History of Art

History of Art is an exciting academic discipline; discovering the materials, styles and techniques of artists and also setting art and architecture in an historical perspective. In this context you will be taught social, religious, political and cultural history in addition to visual analysis of the works themselves.

History of Art is a demanding and far reaching course. Who else, in the space of a few weeks, deals with matters as contrasting as the incorporation of myth into 19th century Scottish symbolist work, buon fresco technique, Ovid's Metamorphosis captured in the art of Titian, Savonarola and his effect on Renaissance Florence, 19th century industrial architecture, lost wax casting technique in bronze sculpture, and much more besides?

In short, the art historians have to a large extent incorporated their interest in the subject into their approach to the world around them: all are confident of the importance of the subject to our perceptions of any number of issues, from social or political history to the development of western architecture.

The History of Art department is an exciting, vibrant place where pupils come and use the History of Art library, debate the qualities of "Book of the Week" over a plate of brownies, create historical timelines around the walls and step out of into the wonderful Glenalmond College surroundings to make architectural notes about the buildings or compare winter trees to those painted by Casper David Friedrich.

Although no specific grades are required at GCSE it is an essay-based subject and your English language skills should be good. I expect a strong commitment to hard work and you will need to learn to use your eyes critically and intelligently so that you gain the fullest enjoyment from this fascinating subject.


Extra Curricular

It is important that the pupils go and see art in galleries and they will travel to Edinburgh and Glasgow often over the course of the A level. We also travel to London once a year for gallery visits and workshops,  and alternate trips to Paris and Florence.

Course Value

This subject is considered a full academic A Level by all universities and because of its breadth and cross-curricular study it is welcomed as a good Arts subject which both complements other Arts and/or may be studied with non-Arts subjects. Past students report that the vital essay, visual and critical skills which you will acquire from this course helped them tremendously in their university careers. Equally importantly, they have also thoroughly enjoyed the subject.

Head of Department:  Mrs Kate Butler, MA

A Level History of Art is regarded as a hard academic subject by top universities and as such pupils will be expected to read widely and produce well written essays with great frequency.

The new specification that will be followed from September 2017 establishes a framework for exploring aspects of both Western and Eastern art and architecture. It enables students to achieve an appreciation of some significant themes from classical Greece to the end of the twentieth century and demonstrate the skills of investigation and interpretation within the context of History of Art.

The four-unit specification requires students to develop pupils ability to communicate their knowledge and understanding of art historical movements, practitioners and works, considering the way that these change and evolve within chronological and other frameworks. It also builds their understanding of the relationship between society and art; art historical terms, concepts and issues; methods of researching, investigating and analysing and use of evidence and how works are interpreted and evaluated.


Course Description

Unit 1.     Visual Analysis and Interpretation

This unit develops knowledge and understanding of formal characteristics, terminology and a general knowledge of historical, social and cultural contexts for painting, sculpture and architecture.


Unit 2.   Themes in History of Art

Candidates develop an understanding of art historical themes in relation to examples of works of western art and architecture, artists and architects drawn from Classical Greece to the end of the twentieth century. Study of particular themes, such as patronage, form and style, gender and materials, techniques and processes are made.


Art and Architecture in nineteenth-century and sixteenth Europe

Included in the course is the study of: Realism and Impressionism in France, Post-Impressionism and Symbolism in European art, the Pre-Raphaelites and Neo-classical and Revivalist Architecture. We study the influence that the Industrial Revolution and politics of the Nineteenth Century had on art and architecture of the time and look at how history has been captured by art.


Included in the course is the study of: the High Renaissance in Italy, Tudor buildings, Realism in Northern European art and great Italian patrons of the art. Pupils will be taught the characteristics of paintings and architecture in different regions of Italy, the historical and social contexts of art and also how the influence of antiquity affected art of the era.


Topics covered can include the interpretation of War and Identity through art

This may cover architecture, sculpture and painting from around the globe and we often look at how different cultures approach the visual arts and the importance of architecture to various societies throughout the ages.


Recommended Entry Requirements

No previous study of the History of Art is required however it will interest pupils who enjoy art and history.  History of Art is an essay based subject in which there is no coursework, only four examinations, each consisting of a number of essays so this subject would suit a candidate who is capable of writing at length under examination conditions in a fluid and analytical way. Some familiarity with classical mythology and the Bible is invaluable for the study of the meaning of works of art.


Subject Combinations

History, English and Art are all subjects that go extremely well with History of Art, however we also have a number of scientists, classicists and geographers who do very well at this subject.


Careers and Higher Education

An A Level in History of Art develops critical thinking and the integration of research and knowledge. It provides an excellent grounding for professions as diverse as law, media, and business. It also serves as the foundation for careers in arts administration, museums, galleries, historic preservation, art libraries, publishing, journalism, advertising, art conservation, and art investment.