History of Art

Welcome to the History of Art page for prospective applicants to Christ's College. 

Course information

The History of Art Tripos at Cambridge is a three-year course that 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. From the first year, it places particular emphasis on direct contact with, and analysis of, works of art and architecture. Cambridge is especially well-placed in this respect, with a rich architectural heritage and museums and galleries of international significance.

Part I (first year) introduces students to a broad range of different art forms and materials from Antiquity of the present day. This aims to equip students with a solid grounding in an understanding of the making and meaning of works of art, and to hone skills of visual analysis. In addition to lectures, students benefit from the specialist knowledge of librarians, conservators and curators throughout Cambridge, notably at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Towards the end of the year, students write an extended essay on a work of art in Cambridge

Part II (second and third year) allows the student to select on a termly basis from a range of Special Subjects covering a variety of different media and art forms from Byzantine to modern times, that reflect the research interests of the Department’s staff. Additionally, in Part IIA students follow a course allowing them to deepen their understanding of critical methodologies adopted in the study of art history, and Part IIB offers a compulsory course that examines the collection and display of art, and the museographic issues that shape its interpretation and presentation. Students also write a dissertation of their own choice.

Lectures and seminars take place in the Department of History of Art, 10 minutes walk from Christ’s, and – in the first year, especially – on site in colleges, chapels, libraries, museums and conservation studios in and around Cambridge. In addition, students’ written work is discussed at weekly supervisions (small groups of 2 to 3 students), and regular term-time meetings are held with the College’s Director of Studies.

At Christ’s, the Director of Studies is Dr Lucia Tantardini. Her research centres on the Italian Renaissance and Early Modern period with an expertise in Milanese drawings and paintings spanning the period between Leonardo da Vinci’s stay in Milan and Caravaggio’s apprenticeship in that city.

Student Profiles

Arianna and Ruby are Christ's History of Art students and have written about their experiences of studying here. If you would like to read more accounts from Christ's students, please see the student profiles page.

"It’s worth remembering when considering this course that art can, of course, be very broadly defined"


Applying for History of Art

We welcome applications from all backgrounds and school types. Details and a timeline for the application process can be found on the how to apply page, and if you'll be applying from outside the UK, there is also a dedicated section for international students. The information below provides the additional details specific to applicants for History of Art.

Subject advice

The study of the History of Art is an academic discipline; skills in the practice of art are advantageous to the student’s understanding of media and technique, but in no sense essential.  Subjects which it would be useful to study to A-level (or equivalent) are History, English, a foreign language (especially Italian, French and German), as well as Greek and Latin. Previous study of History of Art is not essential, but prospective students will be expected to demonstrate an enthusiasm for, and visual sensitivity to, works of art, as well as a basic understanding of what the subject involves; for this reason, those invited to attend an interview, are generally shown one or more images/works of art and asked to comment.

Written work

After your application is received, you will be asked to send us one essay that you feel accurately reflects your abilities and interests. This should be work which has been prepared during the normal course of your studies and has already been marked by a teacher. We recommend that you keep a copy for your own reference as it may be discussed at interview. Full written work guidelines will be provided as part of the current applicants section on this website (published by 20 September each year).


Students invited for interviews in Cambridge normally have two interviews. Information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section

In the case of History of Art, international applicants are advised to apply for interview in Cambridge rather than an overseas interview (History of Art is one of the restricted subjects).

Admissions Assessment

All those applying to the University of Cambridge for History of Art who are called for interviews will also be asked to sit an admissions assessment while in Cambridge, normally on the same day as your interviews. The same assessment will be used regardless of the College you have applied to. This assessment will examine your academic abilities, knowledge-base and potential, and will form part of our holistic admissions process. Further information, including example papers and subject content, can be found on the University website.


The typical conditional offer for History of Art is A*AA at A-level (with the A* in a subject other than Art and Design), 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 at Higher Level, or the equivalent for other examination systems.  The international students section has further information about typical offers for other qualifications.

If you will have already finished school when you apply, please see the page for post-qualification applications.


Preparation advice and reading suggestions Advice from the History of Art department
The Fitzwilliam Museum World-renowned collection of over half a million beautiful works of art, masterpiece paintings and historical artefacts. In central Cambridge and much-visited by History of Art students! The collection is open to all - do check the opening hours before travelling, however.   
Museums, exhibitions and buildings near you or in places you are visiting.

Visit when you can, taking descriptive notes / sketches / photographs of what you see. If you're looking for suggestions try museums.co.uk or Google for art galleries and museums in your area. 

Art UK A cultural education charity enabling you to learn about the UK’s national art collection (including works that are not on public display)
Art History Journal Essays, critical reviews, and special issues that engage with new developments and critical debate in art history.

"For History of Art you want a place with galleries nearby, because it’s important to be able to look at art first hand. For me Cambridge was the right balance of city to art."


Further information

For further detail, see the course information on the Cambridge Admissions website and the Information for prospective students on the History of Art department website

If you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about the College and the History of Art course in person. If you are not able to come to an Open Day, we will be happy to answer any queries you may have by email (admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk).