History of Art

The History of Art Tripos at Cambridge provides an introduction to the study of the history and criticism of art and architecture, primarily of Western Europe. The three-year course is designed to provide students with a sound general introduction to the history of art, its theory and methodologies.

The teaching includes making use of the exceptional resources of Cambridge collections and buildings. As well as greater knowledge of the subject, you will acquire critical and analytical skills and the ability to undertake independent research.

Cambridge is one of the best places in the world to study the History of Art. The city and University are home to fantastic collections of the finest art and architecture from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. Cambridge has a host of museums, some of the country’s greatest libraries, and internationally renowned and dedicated academic staff to guide your studies.

As a fairly small subject – it admits about 20-30 students across all the Colleges each year, the History of Art is organised very largely at a Departmental level, and for this reason students at different Colleges have basically the same academic experience. Whilst every College has a Director of Studies in the subject, all supervisions, lectures and seminars are organised centrally in the Department. History of Art is in this sense one of the most integrated subjects in the University.

Academic Requirements:

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 do not necessarily confer an advantage.

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.

See also Entrance requirements for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.

What we are looking for:

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.


Applicants usually have two interviews, one with the Director of Studies in History of Art, who will be accompanied by another specialist member of staff, and one with the Admissions Tutor or other non expert academic. In general you can expect to be questioned about your interest in the subject, motivation, knowledge gained so far, and in general in such a way as to find out about your strengths and suitability to the very high standards we expect in Cambridge.  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. This aspect of the interviews is not intended as a narrow identification test but rather to facilitate broader discussion of how we can read and respond to visual material. 

Applicants invited for interview will be asked to submit two examples of written work on any subject, but English, History or History of Art are preferred. 

If invited for interview, applicants will also be asked to sit a one-hour written admissions assessment. This will take the form of a structured comparison of images and, again, no specialist knowledge will be assumed. You do not need to register separately for this assessment; the arrangements will be made by the college. More information about the assessment, including some sample questions, can be found here

Director of Studies: Dr Anna Gannon

Full details of the History of Art course are provided on the department website, and summarised in the University Undergraduate Prospectus.