History of Art

  • UCAS Code: V350 BA/HA
  • Campus Code: 4
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Places per year: 1-2

History of Art is a lively, stimulating and rigorous course which covers a wide spectrum of art and architecture, from the medieval to modern 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. The course places a high priority on first-hand study of works of art and architecture, both within Cambridge and further afield.

Course Overview

Studying Art History doesn’t just mean looking at paintings and sculptures (although we do a lot of that): art historians study anything that was made at least partly to be looked at – anything with an aesthetic side to it. Teapots, churches, jewellery, wallpaper, gardens, adverts, gravestones, spoons, temples, picture frames, coins, graffiti, wall paintings, plates, fans, printed books, clothes, gargoyles, houses, pottery, illuminated manuscripts, palaces, candlesticks, museum design… all of these can be and are studied by an art historian.

We study these objects in their historical and cultural contexts, and ask a lot of questions. The most important question an art historian asks is: why does this object (be it a painting, sculpture, building, or something else) look the way it does and have the impact that it does?

The History of Art Department forms part of the Faculty of Architecture and History of Art, situated at nos. 1-5 Scroope Terrace in Trumpington Street, Cambridge, where it has a lecture room, seminar room and supervision rooms. It has additional accommodation in the building opposite, 4a Trumpington Street, the graduate centre of the Faculty, above the famous Hot Numbers café. The Faculty has a well-stocked library with over 35,000 volumes, including many rare books. But as a History of Art student you will also be out working in one of Cambridge’s over 100 libraries, or analysing artworks and architecture at Cambridge’s seven museums, as well as its wide range of college art collections.

How You Learn

All History of Art teaching is organised by the Faculty and often involves on-site study in museums or historic buildings, as well as lectures, seminars and supervisions. A typical Part I student can expect the following in their first year:

Paper 1 Objects (Michaelmas, Lent and Easter Terms):

  • Two on-site seminars per week (usually in a museum or a particular building in town)

Paper 4/5 Meaning of Art and Architecture (Michaelmas) AND Paper 2/3 Making of Art (Lent):

  • One class-based seminar
  • Three lectures per week
  • One supervision per week
  • One essay per week

All Part I students have a one-hour supervision for the short dissertation during Lent Term.

Typical Offer Conditions


A*AA – usually the A* is required in an essay-based subject


41-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level


See the University’s Entrance Requirements page

Subject Requirements 



A Level/IB Higher Level in one or more of English, a foreign language (ancient or modern), History, History of Art (or equivalent), Religious Studies or Classics


No particular subjects at A Level (or equivalent) are required for the History of Art course but subjects should be primarily academic. Subjects like History, English, Modern Languages, History of Art, Religious Studies and Classics are ideal, and Mathematics and experimental sciences are acceptable if accompanied by one or two arts A Levels. Art/History of Art does not necessarily confer an advantage.

Written Work


Admissions Assessment

All applicants for History of Art are required to take a written assessment if shortlisted for interview. The College will register you automatically for this assessment.

General Comments

Art historians study visual and material culture in their historical contexts. As such, we are looking for students with the potential to develop both acute skills of visual analysis and the ability to interpret works of art and architecture in relation to the social, political, religious and intellectual circumstances in which they were made and received.

At interview, candidates may be shown images of works of art and architecture, not as a test in identification or art-historical knowledge, but rather to allow the discussion of some of the issues raised by images. Interviews usually last 20–25 minutes, and you may be asked a range of questions arising from your essay, personal statement, and current studies. In particular, we will seek to assess your intellectual curiosity and potential for development as an art historian, academic aptitude and commitment to studying. In order to do so we may ask some unexpected questions, but your interview will take the form of a relaxed, informal conversation