“Paintings are among other things fossils of economic life”. Michael Baxandall’s contention points to the reason why art history is so endlessly fascinating and indicates also why it is such a good subject to study at A-level. History of Art touches on many other disciplines such as history, social history, theology and literature and so can provide a wide-ranging exploration of the humanities through the attractive medium of visual culture.
The new A-level AS syllabus
is designed to embrace this approach by being divided into eight thematic components. These include historical context and patronage as well as more traditional topics such as style and subject matter and modern viewpoints such as gender studies.
The course as it is taught at Queen Margaret’s also aims to maintain a chronological structure so that by the end of the AS year girls should have a reasonable grasp of the progression of key developments in Western European art from classical times to the present.
In the A2 year the syllabus remains thematic but requires greater depth of study, focussing on the art and architecture of just two centuries. This coming year the girls will be studying the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Once again the understanding of the topic will be gained above all by seeing works in their historical context.
There is no substitute for seeing works of art first-hand and we try to have as many trips as the busy school year allows.
For example,last year’s trips included visits to the great cathedrals of Durham and York and the National Gallery, Courtauld Art Gallery and Tate Britain in London.
The highlight of the two–year course is a week-long visit to Italy and is organised in association with Art History Abroad.