History of Art at Cambridge
Our course covers a wide spectrum of art and architecture, from the medieval to modern and contemporary periods. The aim is to foster a wide and deep understanding of art and architecture, and to help you develop visual literacy and awareness, as well as a range of critical and analytical skills.
A treasury of resources
There’s no substitute for looking at the real objects and we take full advantage of Cambridge’s outstanding resources, including the Fitzwilliam Museum and its picture conservation department, Kettle’s Yard and the Colleges’ art collections.
The Department’s comprehensive library houses a rich collection of books, and you have access to the University Library and the Fitzwilliam Museum’s reference library (among others) as well. During vacations, travel is encouraged and College financial support is usually available (see individual College websites for details); we also organise study outings.
We advise that you visit museums, exhibitions and buildings, such as churches or country houses, and take descriptive notes or sketches of what you see. Try to analyse the effect works of art or architecture have on you.
If you're thinking of applying to study History of Art, you may like to read the following books:
- E H Gombrich The Story of Art
- H Honour and J Fleming A World History of Art
- D Watkin A History of Western Architecture
Some familiarity with classical mythology and the Bible is invaluable for the study of the meaning of works of art. The admissions area of the Department website suggests other preparatory reading.
Additional course costs
Before Arrival: Computing: Most students buy a computer or laptop and perhaps also a printer before coming to Cambridge - Estimated costs: £600-800.
Year 1: Required: stationery, printing, photocopying - Estimated cost £5-£10 pw
Year 2: Required: stationery, printing, photocopying - Estimated cost £5-£10 pw
Year 3: Required: stationery, printing, photocopying - Estimated cost £5-£10 pw
If you have any queries about resources/materials, please contact the Department.
Students may join History of Art from other Cambridge courses after Part I in another subject. It's possible to study one or two years of History of Art, either before or after another subject such as Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion; English; Modern and Medieval Languages; Classics; or Philosophy.
To be able to change course, you need the agreement of your College that any change is in your educational interests, and you must have the necessary background in the subject to which you wish to change – in some cases you may be required to undertake some catch-up work or take up the new course from the start/an earlier year. If you think you may wish to change course, we encourage you to contact a College admissions office for advice. You should also consider if/how changing course may affect any financial support arrangements.
Our graduates are well-equipped for employment in museums and art galleries, agencies for the care and conservation of monuments and heritage management, fine art dealing, publishing, advertising and the visual media, as well as for teaching.
Our prominent graduates include the artists Antony Gormley and Marc Quinn; the model and actress Lily Cole; Dr Philip Rylands, Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice; Dr Charles Saumarez Smith CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy in London; Sir Nicholas Serota, former Director of the Tate Gallery and now Chairman of the Arts Council; and the Hon James Stourton, former Chairman of Sotheby’s UK.