History of Art
Cambridge has offered a full undergraduate degree course in History of Art for several years. The City has unique holdings of art and architecture, with which all students can become familiar. They include antiquities from Egypt, Greece and Rome, medieval armour, European and Eastern ceramics, and paintings from the Middle Ages to the present day in the Fitzwilliam Museum (run by the University, and still open free to all); regular exhibitions in the Kettle's Yard Gallery; the New Hall Collection (see below); illuminated manuscripts in College libraries and the University Library; sculptures in College gardens; and buildings by famous architects from King's College Chapel to the new Colleges and Faculties. In addition, London is only an hour's journey away.
The Department is small, with twenty to thirty students in each year, and seven full-time teaching staff. Others, based in Colleges, libraries or museums, also contribute to the course however, and you receive a high level of individual attention and support.
Part I (the first year) of the History of Art course or 'Tripos' introduces you to a wide range of themes and methods in European art and architecture, helping you to develop visual, literary and analytical skills. Relatively broad courses cover artistic methods and materials, questions of quality and taste, and historical patterns in these, mainly with reference to Western art. Part II (the remaining two years) allows you considerable freedom to choose your own topics from a wide list, including those in which departmental staff are currently engaged in research. Assessment is largely by annual examinations. It is often possible to take either part of the Tripos on its own, before or after study of a different Tripos within Cambridge.
Murray Edwards College holds the largest collection of women's art in the UK (and almost the largest in the world), most of it on permanent exhibition around the College buildings and grounds, and including works by Mary Kelly, Paola Rego, Vanessa Bell, Barbara Hepworth, Maggi Hambling, Gwen Raverat, Sarah Cawkwell and Emily Patrick. Mary Kelly was Kettle's Yard Artist in Residence at New Hall in 1985/86. The College holds an annual Art Competition open to all students, and makes Vacation Study Grants to help you see art collections elsewhere in the UK and other countries.
Like all subjects, History of Art is taught partly through departmental lectures and partly through College-based supervisions - an hour spent with an expert in the subject, usually with no more than one other student, at which you consider together an essay you will have written beforehand in the light of your reading, and explore aspects of the course that particularly interest you.
Murray Edwards College usually admits one or two students for History of Art each year. Almost no combination of A-level subjects would prevent your being considered for a place; Art, a foreign language, English Literature and History are all particularly useful in different ways. We welcome applicants from other equivalent qualification systems.
Dr David Oldfield, Director of Studies
Checked by ER, August 2011