History of Art


Art history can open your eyes to a lifetime of informed and critical engagement with art and architecture and their role in the definition and meaning of culture


The first year of History of Art is all about breadth of study and, as such, the first unit develops skills of analysis of architecture, sculpture and painting. This is done through looking at examples of all three art forms from the ancient Greeks to 2000: from Parthenon to Damian Hirst effectively. In the unit entitled ‘Themes in the History of Art’, students learn about eight themes that introduce ways of thinking about the key historical questions: How? What? Why that subject? Who for? What did it mean? The eight themes are: subjects and genres, materials and processes, form and function in architecture, style in paintings and sculpture, patronage, the status of the artist, social and historical context and gender, ethnicity and nationality. Each theme is contextualised via a wide range of carefully chosen case studies from the Western tradition.

The two VIII modules unite the skills and thematic knowledge from the VII by delving into two very different historical periods and contexts. We study art and architecture in fifteenth-century Europe and in 1900-1945 Europe and the United States. The nature of the visual arts, the conditions in which the work is made and seen, the meanings and debates drawn from the work and the differences in the way that art history is written about in two such disparate periods ensures a challenging course.


Our Art Detectives Club, new in 2016, is a wonderful outreach project that introduces history of art through paintings at the National Gallery with a group of keen Year 6 students. A group of around 12 Paulinas from the VI and VII work once a week with them at lunchtime.

Since 2010, the school has been taking part in the heats of the Articulation Prize London, a rapidly growing national competition where participants present for ten minutes on a single work of art. The overall winner in 2014, when the competition was televised, was a Paulina. Although only one student can go through to the heat, all students in the VII and VIII are invited to prepare a topic. Last year our first entry by a Paulina to the Spoke Prize, a new and exciting art documentary competition, was awarded a Highly Commended for an ambitious ten minute film on Cezanne's Bathers.

It is likely that one or both of these years of study will be supported by a school trip; most recently we have travelled to Florence and Venice.


In the past four years Paulinas have studied art history at a number of leading UK and US universities, including Cambridge, Edinburgh, UCL, The Courtauld, Oxford, St Andrews, Columbia, Stanford and UPenn.

Currently Old Paulinas hold leading curatorial posistions at the Barbican, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Tate and The National Gallery and teaching at The Courtauld Institute and Cambridge; some have been at the cutting edge of contemporary art markets such as the White Cube Gallery. Dr Victoria Avery was largely responsible for attributing a pair of bronze sculptures to Michelangelo which made a huge splash in the media.

‘One never finishes learning about art. There are always new things to discover. Great works of art seem to look different every time one stands before them. They seem to be as inexhaustible and unpredictable as real human beings’
E.H. Gombrich

Qualification: A level

Board: AQA

Mode of Assessment: 100% examinations