History of Art

Find out more about studying History of Art at Westminster

History of Art

  • About
  • Curriculum
  • Enrichment
  • Staff
  • After Westminster
  • About

    History of Art is an ambitious and highly exciting subject. We live in an increasingly visual world and global society, and History of Art will equip pupils with the tools to decipher the meanings of images and to find significant links between different cultures and periods of history.

    Westminster offers an excellent opportunity to study History of Art in unique surroundings in the centre of London. Pupils frequently visit major collections such as the Tate Galleries, The National Gallery, the V&A, the British Museum, The Wallace Collection and the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), to bring the history of painting, architecture and sculpture to life. All members of the department are specialists and have previously worked in commercial galleries and museums.

    Department Contact Ms Rosa Goodman
    rosa.goodman@westminster.org.uk
  • Curriculum
    Upper School

    The study of History of Art requires pupils to develop analytical skills that can be applied to many walks of life, as well as tools to understand how images and objects shape our social and political identities. If you enjoy writing and looking at works of art or if you are curious about the value and status of art in society, you will find this subject stimulating and very rewarding. Classes are intimate, discursive and fun, and are treated like university seminars and tutorials. Courses are structured around discussions, presentations, note taking, visual images and trips to examine art and architecture in the flesh.  

    At Westminster we take the Edexcel A Level course, which spans over 2000 years, specialising in Western works, but also looking well beyond the European tradition. Pupils will sit two final examination papers. Paper 1 includes a visual survey of western art: painting, sculpture and architecture from the Classical world to the 21st century, testing visual literacy in an unseen paper. Paper 1 also includes the course’s two ‘Thematic Topics’: Nature encompasses man’s relationship with his environment, from landscape to land art; Identity considers gender, nationality, divinity and ethnicity, with particular focus on portraiture and propaganda. The majority of our case studies for Paper 1 are in London.  

    There are two historical topics in Paper 2: The Renaissance in Italy, which considers the art and architecture of 15th– and 16th-century Rome, Florence and Venice; we also study Modernism in Europe 1900 – 1939 looking at the machine age and the art of war, and their effect on the avant-garde. There are currently two trips on which all pupils are encouraged to go, one to Florence in the Sixth Form (Year 12) and one to Paris in the Remove (Year 13), alongside a voluntary trip to Rome or Venice to help with Paper 2.  

    Syllabus & Code
    Edexcel Level 3 Advanced GCE 9HT0 History of Art
    Sixth Form Entry
    Subject requirements for the course
    There are no subject requirements to study History of Art at A Level. This subject is, however, recommended to those who enjoy History, English and Philosophy but who also wish to explore visual culture and language. It is equally enjoyable for linguists, classicists and artists and combines well with most other subjects. Indeed, a typically forensic approach to observation and research taken by scientists is of great value in History of Art.

    Entrance Examination

    Pupils are not expected to have prior knowledge of the subject for the entrance examination, just a thirst for the subject. Pupils are asked to compare images and write a brief essay either about an exhibition they have seen or a response to a given article. We are looking for clarity of thought, enthusiasm and visual awareness.

  • Enrichment

    History of Art Society is very busy for a relatively small department. Every year we host ARTiculation, a National Art Debate, judged by Art World experts. Many pupils also enter SPoKE, which is an art historical documentary film competition, alongside essay competitions. We have a pupil-led zine called WHAM! that includes articles and artistic responses to visual and material culture. We also have lunchtime lectures organised and delivered by pupils.  

    Every term the department hosts excellent speakers from all walks of art-related life that push beyond the syllabus, including from The National Gallery, the Isabella Stewart-Gardner Museum, Christie’s, Art History Abroad, Oxford University and the RA. As part of the Options Programme for A Level pupils, the department offers various topics including The Art Market, which involves visits to St James’s auction houses and Mayfair galleries. The highlight of the Remove year is always GAS (Gastronomic Art Society), where we recreate mise-en-scène banqueting paintings, and then feast together.  

  • Staff

    * denotes Head of Department
    † denotes Housemaster

    Ms Rosa Goodman (RG) — Head of UCAS
    Mr Benjamin Walton (BDW)  †
  • After Westminster

    History of Art is a rigorous academic subject, and every year some pupils go on to read it at university. The subject can be studied alone or in combination with a variation of other subjects at the top universities. Pupils go on to further study in a wide range of other subjects related to the History of Art, such as PPE, HSPS, Archaeology, Anthropology and Architecture, as well as many other Humanities and Social Sciences.

    The commercial world of the 21st century is highly visual. The cultural and creative industries form part of the UK’s greatest selling points and fastest growing sectors, worth well over £100 billion per annum, and visual literacy is more valuable than ever. History of Art’s unique combination of visual sensitivity and intellectual rigour has proved valuable in areas such as journalism, marketing, advertising, publishing, law, and film and television work. More directly-related careers include those in lecturing and research, conservation and restoration, museum and gallery administration, commercial galleries and auction houses.

    Well-known Art Historian Andrew Graham-Dixon attended Westminster, as did art critic Alistair Sooke (The Telegraph), curator Imogen Tedbury (Royal Museums, Greenwich), broadcaster Katy Hessel (The Great Women Artists Podcast) and author Alice Procter (The Colonial Story of Art in Our Museums).

"Art history provided me with a deeply rewarding understanding of visual culture, which is ever important in an internet and image-based world. It has given me great confidence in my writing and research abilities, and leads by example in the School with an incredibly organised, well-run department."

— Ben, former pupil

Find out when your child is able to join the School using the personalised age checker and timeline.

read more →

Westminster School gratefully welcomes donations to support fundraising efforts across the School community.

read more →