History of Art

The study of History of Art provides a critical introduction to culture and a stimulating insight into the use of images in an increasingly visual world. This respected humanities subject allows you to explore art and architecture in depth, understanding its past and present relationship to society, religion, politics, feminism, empire and the media.

Students undertake close visual analysis as well as managing and deploying evidence in constructing an argument. High-level communication skills, creative problem-solving and an independent questioning attitude are developed. Cultural awareness furthers empathy and insight. These skills are highly valued in the fast-growing creative industries, worth £100 billion to the UK economy in 2017.

History of Art provokes questions and debates the answers so students contribute actively with a focus on discussion. Edexcel Paper 1 starts with an introductory overview, practicing visual analysis of the rich tradition of painting, sculpture and architecture, using specialist vocabulary. We then explore global art and architecture, ancient and modern, through two major themes. ‘Identity’ covers the expression of identities that shape our understanding of gender, nationality and ethnicity, as individuals and societies. ‘War’ examines the expression of triumph or loss and how attitudes are shaped by works of propaganda that commemorate or challenge conflict. Paper 2 examines two historical periods: ‘Invention and Illusion’ covers the Renaissance in Italy 1420‒1520, and the ideas and iconic works that continue to shape ideals of beauty and perfection today. ‘Rebellion and Revival’ explores the British and French Avant-Garde 1848‒99, to discover how artists and architects responded to the challenges of industrialisation and technological advances.

History of Art is taught in the Tower Room of the Sixth Form Centre. The course is structured around tutorial group lessons using the interactive screen and an extensive departmental library. Drawing skills are not required.
Students continue their studies in History of Art at Russell Group universities such as Birmingham, Bristol, the Courtauld Institute, Edinburgh, Exeter, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Warwick. Students also go on to study related subjects such as Art and Design, Architecture, Anthropology and Archaeology, History and Classics. Visits to London museums to study cultural masterpieces at first-hand form an essential and enjoyable part of the course; biennial trips abroad include Paris and Florence. Students enter a range of competitions to extend their skills in essay writing, public speaking, and documentary film making, such as the Cambridge Vellacott History Prize, and the Paul Mellon Foundation Write on Art essay prize.


Head of Department

Dr Joanna Weddell

Joanna Weddell has been Head of History of Art at Mayfield since 2005. Dr Weddell also researches the history of museums and blogs on the V&A Museum website, publishing ‘Design Objects and the Museum’ co-edited with Liz Farrelly (Bloomsbury, 2016).