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History of Art A Level

Pearson Edexcel

A level History of Art

From the Renaissance to Surrealism, A level History of Art will provide you with the skills to read imagery and to better understand the world around you.


This course was made possible through the partnership with the Association for Art History and the support and expertise of Art History in Schools.



Association for Art History and Art History in Schools logos

In the time of social media, images pervade our lives. From magazines to book design, houses to swimming pools, the study of art informs you about the world, improving your visual literacy and analytical skills.

Our A level History of Art online course will help you to become a more inquiring, critical and analytical thinker. As you progress through this course, you’ll learn to develop reasoned arguments and draw logical conclusions. Studying A level History of Art online provides exceptional preparation for many careers where critical thinking and evidence plays a crucial role in decision making, as well as careers in the arts.

Take a look inside the course:

Why study History of Art?

If you enjoy learning about history and art, our A level History of Art online course is the perfect choice!

A level History of Art is for those fascinated by the visual arts. Studying famous works by artists including Picasso, Frida Kahlo and van Gogh, our A level History of Art course will help you to develop valuable skills in examining, analysing and discussing works of art from a broad range of periods, places, genres and themes, giving you access to the vocabulary and context of art.

Our A level History of Art course is ideal if you:

  • Are keen to study art history at degree level.
  • Want to step back in time to learn about artists throughout the centuries and how the world around them has influenced their work.
  • Would like to boost your research, analytical and methodical skills in preparation for higher education.
  • Enjoy learning about art.

Future opportunities

  • Studying art history at university.
  • A wide range of rewarding career paths in areas such as curation, conservation, writing, politics, law, business, design, teaching, tourism, journalism and research.

Course content

Section 1 Visual analysis: Painting

  • Topic 1 Introduction to painting: Oath of the Horatii
  • Topic 2 Genre
  • Topic 3 Christian religious painting
  • Topic 4 Mythological painting and the nude
  • Topic 5 The ‘lesser’ genres
  • Topic 6 Painting materials and techniques
  • Topic 7 Formal elements of painting: composition
  • Topic 8 Colour and pictorial space
  • Topic 9 From light and tone to pattern
  • Topic 10 Style
  • Assignment 1

Section 2 Visual analysis: Sculpture and architecture

  • Topic 1 Sculpting the human form
  • Topic 2 Genre and subject in sculpture
  • Topic 3 Materials, techniques and processes in sculpture
  • Topic 4 Formal elements in sculpture 1
  • Topic 5 Formal elements in sculpture 2
  • Topic 6 Formal elements in sculpture 3
  • Topic 7 Religious and domestic architecture
  • Topic 8 Civic and corporate architecture
  • Topic 9 Materials and techniques in architecture
  • Topic 10 Formal elements in architecture 1
  • Topic 11 Formal elements in architecture 2
  • Assignment 2

Section 3 Themes: Nature in art and architecture 1

  • Topic 1 Nature and landscape
  • Topic 2 Turner: The Harbour of Dieppe
  • Topic 3 The Starry Night
  • Topic 4 Animals in art: Double-Headed Serpent
  • Topic 5 Animals in art: Maman
  • Topic 6 Painting plants
  • Topic 7 Sunflower Seeds
  • Assignment 3

Section 4 Themes: Nature in art and architecture 2

  • Topic 1 Angkor Wat
  • Topic 2 ‘The greatest American architect’
  • Topic 3 The Great Wave
  • Topic 4 Hepworth: Pelagos
  • Topic 5 Humans and nature: Rain, Steam and Speed
  • Topic 6 Humans and nature: The Family of Man
  • Topic 7 Using critical texts
  • Assignment 4

Section 5 Themes: Identities in art and architecture 1

  • Topic 1 The Arnolfini Portrait
  • Topic 2 Two twentieth-century portraits
  • Topic 3 3D Portraiture: Prima Porta Augustus
  • Topic 4 Marc Quinn, Self 2006
  • Topic 5 Alison Lapper, Pregnant
  • Topic 6 Representing gender stereotypes in painting
  • Topic 7 Subverting gender stereotypes in painting
  • Assignment 5

Section 6 Themes: Identities in art and architecture 1

  • Topic 1 Identity in architecture: the Süleymaniye Mosque
  • Topic 2 Zaha Hadid, architect
  • Topic 3 The Benin plaques
  • Topic 4 Yinka Shonibare
  • Topic 5 Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle
  • Topic 6 Divine identity: the Ghent Altarpiece
  • Topic 7 Graham Sutherland: The Crucifixion
  • Assignment 6

Section 7 Periods: Rebellion and revival 1

  • Topic 1 Introduction to academic painting: Leighton
  • Topic 2 Painting everyday life: Frith
  • Topic 3 The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
  • Topic 4 Ford Madox Brown: Work
  • Topic 5 William Holman Hunt
  • Topic 6 Hunt: The Shadow of Death
  • Topic 7 Waterhouse: The Lady of Shalott
  • Topic 8 Arts and Crafts and Gothic Revival
  • Topic 9 The Albert Memorial
  • Assignment 7

Section 8 Periods: Rebellion and revival: France

  • Topic 1 Realism: Courbet’s The Stone Breakers
  • Topic 2 Manet: Olympia
  • Topic 3 Impressionism
  • Topic 4 Berthe Morisot
  • Topic 5 Gauguin: The Vision After the Sermon
  • Topic 6 Rodin: The Kiss
  • Topic 7 Rodin: two commemorative sculptures
  • Topic 8 Palais Garnier
  • Topic 9 Art Nouveau: Castel Béranger
  • Assignment 8

Section 9 Periods: Brave New World 1

  • Topic 1 Painting modern Paris: Robert Delaunay
  • Topic 2 Painting modern Paris: Sonia Delaunay
  • Topic 3 Fauvism and early Matisse
  • Topic 4 Henri Matisse post-Fauvism
  • Topic 5 German Expressionism
  • Topic 6 Origins of Cubism
  • Topic 7 Cubism: Picasso and Braque
  • Topic 8 Futurism
  • Assignment 9

Section 10 Periods: Brave New World 2

  • Topic 1 Marcel Duchamp
  • Topic 2 Dada
  • Topic 3 Surrealism
  • Topic 4 Giacometti and primitivism
  • Topic 5 Giacometti and Surrealism
  • Topic 6 Suzanne Valadon
  • Topic 7 Modernist sculpture
  • Topic 8 Public and commercial architecture
  • Topic 9 Modernist domestic architecture
  • Assignment 10

Study A level History of Art with us and benefit from:

  • Flexible learning
  • Support from a personal tutor by email or messaging
  • Any time enrolment
  • Our exam booking service
  • Assignments with tutor feedback
  • Ongoing support from Student Support
  • Forums to discuss your course with other students


Choose when and where you access your course, using learn@nec our 24/7 learning platform.

This easy-to-use learning platform includes interactive checkpoints, quizzes and activities to help you evaluate your progress. More information about how the course works can be found here.

Our course tutors

You’ll have access to support from a personal tutor. All NEC tutors are subject experts, with experience of supporting online learners.

Meet Diane who is just one of our first-class History of Art tutors:

I studied History and History of Art at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and then went almost straight into teaching. During my 36 teaching years I’ve been subject leader in History, Psychology and History of Art – History of Art is my passion, although I see it as being linked to many other disciplines. Last year I retired from my college job in order to focus on my own art and to work on maintaining and developing my singing voice.

What you need to know

Exam board

  • Edexcel 9HT0


  • Online learning with support from a personal tutor


  • Complete at your own pace
  • Approx. 250-300* hours plus time for completing assignments

*The specification suggests that 300 hours is needed. You’ll also need time to complete assignments and prepare yourself for exams and some courses like English literature involve a lot of reading. Everyone is different so it’s impossible to say with certainty how long a course will take you, but you should expect to spend longer than 300 hours. Taken across the length of time we recommend, this equates to approximately 5 hours per week. This will increase if you choose to take it over a shorter time frame or may be less if you are retaking a subject and have covered a lot of of the course content.


  • 11 assignments (one introductory) – these do not contribute towards your final grade


Set textbooks – included as a free ebook with your course:

  • Thinking about Art: a thematic Guide to Art History, by Penny Huntsman, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN: 978-1-11890-497


  • The Shock of the New – students will receive 20% off voucher code upon enrolment to be used on the publisher’s website.
  • Internet access
  • Computer operating system and browser to support learn@nec

What's included?

Our course fees are clear and transparent to help you plan for any additional costs.

Your course fee includes:

  • 24/7 access to learn@nec platform and resources
  • Expertly designed online course materials (including ebook versions of textbooks where specified) that you need to complete the course
  • Support from our Student Services team
  • Structured assignments carefully designed to prepare you for exams
  • Guidance from your tutor for up to 24 months from your date of enrolment
  • Extensive feedback to all assignments that will support your learning
  • NEA (coursework) marking and authentication
  • Marking for one examination paper (from a previous year)
  • Guaranteed exam place
  • NEC’s guide to study skills: How to Succeed as an Independent Learner
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar guide
  • Time planner template to help you plan your study timetable
  • Information on how to apply for exams

Your course fee does not cover:

  • Any fees in relation to exam entries or assessments
  • Centre Assessment Grades (CAG) in the event of exam cancellation
  • Recommended textbooks for additional reading or set texts

If you need more support, you can purchase:

  • Online tutorials – if you need help with a specific topic you can arrange a 30 minute or 1 hour tutorial
  • Additional past paper marking – to help with your exam preparation
  • Revision tutorial –  to plan your revision and explore revision techniques
  • Help with your UCAS application service

For further information on additional/optional support you can purchase, please visit our additional services page.

Exams and assessment


Exams (two):

  • 50% of marks  (3 hours)
  • 50% of marks  (3 hours)

Additional support if you’re under 18

We know that our younger students often need an extra helping hand with their studies. In our experience learning online works best when either a parent or guardian are involved. This is why NEC has developed our unique Progress Tracker to help you to support your child.

NEC’s Progress Tracker will allow you to easily track your child’s progress across their subjects and gain insight to how well they are doing through access to their assignment grades and tutor feedback.  

Read more about how we work with young students who are studying at home or through a school.

Arrange a callback with a member of our Course Advice Team.

Would you like to talk to our Course Advice Team about the best route for you? Visit our Contact Us page, fill in the form and a member of the team will get back to you!