History of Art

What makes the Cambridge History of Art course so special?

The course offers the opportunity to study art and architecture across a broad chronological period (in Part I) and then to choose special courses based on your own interests (in Part II). Cambridge has more museums per square mile than anywhere else, including seven world-class university collections including the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard. These, as well as the unique built environment, offer many opportunities for close first-hand study with experts in the field and independently. 

Why choose Newnham for History of Art?

Art historians benefit from living at Newnham because of its links with the Arts and Crafts Movement and impressive buildings by Basil Champneys. The College also has outstanding library provision in the subject, and is conveniently located between the History of Art Department and the University Library. There is a small but passionate group of undergraduates, many of whom are involved in visual arts initiatives. 

How many students take History of Art at Newnham and what options do they choose?

Newnham admits one or two students a year for History of Art. In the first year they all study Part I, which looks at the meaning and making of art and architecture from antiquity until now and includes a course involved in the first-hand study of objects in and around Cambridge. There is a chance to focus on the media and time periods that are most interesting for the short dissertation project. In the following two years, in Part II, students are able to pick courses on topics which interest them most – mainly, but not solely, in Western European art history – with experts in the field. There are further compulsory papers on approaches to the history of art and the display of art. The final-year dissertation offers the opportunity to go in-depth into any art-historical topic of the student’s own choosing. 

Details of Special Subject papers for the current academic year can be found in the online Guide to Courses (http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/history-of-art). 

How will I be taught at Newnham?

Lectures, seminars and supervisions (teaching in small groups of two or three) are organised centrally by the Department. In addition to the three or four lectures and one or two supervisions per week, there are also many opportunities to learn alongside experts within museums and galleries, both in Cambridge and further afield. 

Can you tell me about the History of Art fellows?

For information on the current teaching staff and Fellows for History of Art, please visit our teaching webpages.

What jobs do Newnham History of Art students go on to do?

Recent graduates have pursued a range of careers. Whilst many choose to stay in the department and do further study, sometimes in anticipation of an academic career, many others start work in the art world – museums, galleries, auction houses or art journalism – or apply the many transferable skills that studying art history provides to fields such as publishing, the media, finance or law, amongst others. 

Can I take a gap year?

You can choose to do so, but be sure to have a strong idea of what you intend to do and achieve during this time: for example, if it includes the opportunity to study a modern language, this could be very useful towards your study of the History of Art. 

Are there any A-Level subjects that are particularly useful?

Besides History of Art (which is by no means a prerequisite), subjects such as History, English, Classics and Modern Languages are especially pertinent and useful. The typical offer at A-level is A*AA, with the A* to be in an essay-based subject (and not, for example, in Art and Design). We can advise you in case of uncertainty as to what constitutes an essay-based subject. 

Is there an Admissions Assessment for History of Art?

Applicants who are shortlisted for interview may be required to take an assessment. Any assessment will not require registration and the College will provide the details directly to you. More information will be available in summer 2024.

How should I prepare for interview at Newnham?

The aim of the interview is for you to demonstrate your potential and to show a genuine passion for, and commitment to, the subject. It is important to be able to demonstrate this, perhaps through a familiarity with your local galleries or buildings. You would normally be invited during the interview to comment on, compare and contrast a set of images, in order to show your analytical skills. Again, this would not be a test of knowledge as such but more of your ability to respond with strong visual awareness. 

Where can I find out more?

Have a look at the History of Art Department’s website. The History of Art Subject Overview on the ‘My HE+’ website also provides information and resources for exploring your subject.

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