History of art

History of Art

Studying History of Art at Cambridge means not only to be taught by distinguished scholars who are the leaders in their field and dedicated both to their research and to their teaching, but also to have first-hand experience of Cambridge's important holdings of art and architecture, of the past as well as of today. Indeed, Cambridge and its Colleges boast an amazing array of architectural statements and styles and unique artistic treasures - and offer the opportunity of learning and working in an inspiring academic environment.

Some of the seminars, lectures and supervisions will be al fresco, amongst some of the finest and historically interesting buildings; others will take place amongst treasures: not only at the Fitzwilliam Museum (the University museum), justly renowned for its wide ranging collection of books and manuscripts, paintings, prints and artifacts of international importance, but also at one of its departments in Whittlesford - the Hamilton Kerr Institute of picture conservation.

Other venues include the University Library, which in addition to six million books, holds an important collection of medieval manuscripts, and various college libraries with their own impressive collections. Rare editions of architectural treatises can be seen first-hand in the Department Library, and casts of classical statues at the Museum of Classical Archaeology: indeed, exquisite surprises are to be met with - and studied - everywhere in Cambridge. Amongst these special places is Kettle's Yard. Away from the noise and crowds of the beaten track, perched on Castle Hill, just round the corner from Fitzwilliam College, Kettle's Yard is not an art gallery or museum, but, in the words of its erstwhile owner Jim Ede, 'a way of life'. As a History of Art student at Fitzwilliam College, you will be very welcome there at 'open house' time, exploring the principle of art as part of everyday experience through the University. History of Art is one of the smaller subjects, with one or two students admitted to Fitzwilliam each year - a small number typical of other undergraduate colleges.


The typical offer for History of Art in the English A Level system is A*AA, with the A* to be in an essay-based subject (and not, for example, in Art and Design). Colleges have power to vary this if particular circumstances merit it, and will also be able to give advice to potential applicants in case of uncertainty as to what comprises an essay-based subject.

The admissions process consists of two interviews, one with the Director of Studies in History of Art, who will usually be accompanied by another specialist member of staff, and one with the Admissions Tutor or other non expert academic.  The interview with the Director of Studies will include a visual analysis test, where applicants will be presented with a couple of images of works of art or architecture, and asked to comment on these. 

Applicants are required to submit one piece of recent written work as part of their application. These may be discussed at one of the interviews. 

Applicants are required to sit the History of Art admissions written assessment, if invited to interview. This will take the form of a structured comparison of images and no specialist knowledge will be assumed.  More information can be found on the University website.

Director of Studies

Mr Barry Phipps (University of Cambridge webpage) >>

More information

Department of History of Art >>