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3 Draft Leaving Certificate specifications consultations

3 Draft Leaving Certificate specifications consultations

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The Visual Studies Framework

The Visual Studies Framework supports teachers and students in planning for teaching and learning. The framework is structured around six elements: Context, Artists and Artworks, Analysis, Art Elements and Design Principles, Media and Areas of Practice, Innovation and Invention. When studying a period/movement, these elements should be used to understand what occurred before the period/movement being focused on, the period/movement itself and any effects of the period/movement on later ideas or artwork.  Whether students are engaged in practical classwork projects, or studying the expressions of visual culture, these elements should be used.

Visual Studies Framework

1. Before the period/movement:

Students should understand and be able to describe and discuss the context that informed and led to the chosen period/movement using the elements listed below.

2. The period/movement:

Students should understand and be able to describe and explain the period/movement using the elements listed below.

Element   Description

This is information that reveals more about the circumstances surrounding a period, movement, artist, work, related works, artefact/s, setting, event, statement or idea, and which explains it in more detail. This should include, where relevant, the historical, political, social, economic and ideological contexts of the time. Students should consider how these inform their reading of an artwork and how contexts impact on the appreciation of artists and the value of their work. Students should also learn to identify, study and understand artworks in ways that speak to them.
In understanding the context of the period/movement being studied, it is also important that students look at how patrons and agencies promote art and artists past and present. This will help students to understand how and why the work became popular, why artworks are valuable, why some are curated for exhibition and how this in turn affects how the work is viewed.

Students should also study a range of other examples of works that represent the visual culture that existed around their chosen area/s of study. For example, and this list is not exhaustive, architecture, landscape and urban/rural design, film, advertising, new media, UX design for websites or apps, fine art, craft, design, photography, fashion and more.

Artists and Artworks   

These are the artists and artworks that are most recognised* with a chosen period/movement and best demonstrate the ideas, subjects, style, Themes
Among the themes for Irish are; myself, at home, school, food, television, shopping, pastimes, clothes, the weather and special occasions. The teacher can select lots of topics from the themes. These topics could be extended to also include subjects that the child finds interesting.
, genres and techniques of that period/movement.

Students should study artists and artworks by viewing the actual work/sites where they are located, where possible. Students need to understand the artist’s reasons for creating their work; their upbringing, education, and other significant influences and events in their lives. For example, looking at artworks through different lenses such as identity, belief, worship or conflict, will help students to understand how the theme is perceived by the artist. They may also look at the impact of such work on the society of its time and the importance placed on the artwork in different times.


To analyse an artwork is to question it. The first question that could be asked is, “What is going on in this artwork?” In trying to answer this initial question the student will identify characteristics of the artwork based on criteria such as: meaning, topics, motifs, styles, materials and techniques used, colour, line, forms of presentation, etc. By identifying these characteristics, the students will observe and describe the artwork. They are gathering evidence to answer the further question of “What do I see that supports my observation/description?”. The student should combine this evidence with other sources of information, supported through the elements of the Visual Studies Framework. This will enable the student to more fully interpret the artwork, make connections between the characteristics they have observed, including other information they have researched, and to arrive at conclusions. It is the combination and linking of all of this information that enables a student to more fully analyse an artwork, to see the connections between works by the same artist or from the same period/movement and to further observe how these might have influenced later artists.

Students should be able to describe and discuss the work they are analysing using appropriate art terminology, including visual and critical language and be able to communicate and/or demonstrate their understanding of such terminology. Through analysing artworks, students may form personal opinions and it is just as important that they can use appropriate language and terminology to describe these too.

Art Elements and Design Principles

These are the building blocks of any work of art and their application to 2-D, 3-D or digital works can be analysed by considering their use either collectively or individually.

Students should be able to discuss and explain an artist’s use and understanding of the art elements and design principles in artworks they have created, such as the use and exploration of colour theory.

Media and Areas of Practice

Media are used within Areas of Practice as the means to interact, create, connect and communicate. An area of practice in art refers to a branch of knowledge or discreet method of working, for example, architecture, fashion design, film, graphic design, painting, printmaking (this list is not exhaustive).

In learning how artists use various media in their processes, students can understand how to use media in their own work. They will also learn about the potential and limitations of media in terms of making and the impact that choice of media has on the reading of an artwork. They may look at artists who have pushed the boundaries of media and the impact created as a result. Students will also gain an understanding of the implications of available media at different times and periods and any associated potential and/or limitations.

Innovation and Invention

Looking at Visual Studies through the lens of innovation and invention will help students to understand how philosophical, scientific, mathematical, industrial and artistic discovery, innovation and inventions impact the world of art.

Students should learn how the discovery of new materials, media and tools shape the development of art and how big ideas prompted changes and innovation in the world at large, as well as in the world of art.

3. After the period/movement:

Students should understand and be able to describe and explain the effects of the period/ movement on later ideas/artwork using the elements listed above.

* The term recognised should be taken to mean acknowledged artists who fulfil a minimum of three of the following criteria, where they or their work: are widely known from the canon of Art History; have been the subject of an exhibition (solo/group); is deemed to be of cultural and artistic merit and included/published in public/corporate collections; has been purchased/commissioned/selected by a public/corporate body; is acknowledged to be of cultural and artistic merit by other professional artists/curators; are members of professional accredited bodies.

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