History of Art

Jean Michel Massing with students

Discussion with the Director of Studies over food at a garden party

Welcome to the subject page for History of Art at King’s! Here you will find an overview of History of Art at King’s, the Cambridge History of Art course, the people who teach and research in History of Art at King’s, plus information about applying as an undergraduate.

History of Art at King's

King’s has long been prominent in History of Art. Former Fellows in the subject include such prominent art historians as Michael Jaffé, who was director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Caroline Elam, long editor of the Burlington Magazine, and Nicholas Penny, the current Director of the National Gallery. What is more, King’s has a long tradition of its Fellows in English – notably John Barrell, Norman Bryson and Peter de Bolla – writing about the History of Art.

Because of Keynes’s close connection with the Bloomsbury group, the College has a particularly fine collection of paintings by such artists as Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and much fascinating archive material relating to British art in the early twentieth century in the King's Archive Centre. The College also owns many other fine paintings, some on display in the Chapel, others on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Students chatting to a Fellow

Jean-Michel Massing with Yeshe on Graduation Day

King’s has a particularly large and thriving undergraduate and graduate community of art historians, making it a vibrant place for students committed to History of Art. The college library has excellent holdings of books on the visual arts and also provides a very pleasant place to study: see the virtual tour

King's students also have easy access to the History of Art Department at Scoope Terrace, Trumpington Street, which is just a 10 minute walk up the road (the Department is marked by the red pin on this map), as well as the University Library behind the College (map).

Practical art is not taught as part of the curriculum, but the King’s Art Centre is a lively place. Life drawing and painting classes are held there, and there is a regular programme of exhibitions of work by students and others. A student picture loan collection, for the sole use of undergraduates and graduates, includes many works by contemporary artists.

King’s art historians are now teaching in universities across the world including Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand and the USA, and are working in museums, directing such major institutions as the Warburg Institute in London or the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. However, History of Art at King’s can be the entry to successful careers in a broad range of fields. In the past few years, these have included the art market, art and arts administration, international relations, journalism, and publishing. A significant number of graduates who studied painting conservation at the Hamilton Kerr Institute are now employed in major institutions.

A student perspective

Having just finished first year, Louis wrote about his experiences of King's History of Art, including what you study in first year, the workload, the application process, College life and what he does in his spare time. This is well worth reading to get a sense of what studying History of Art at King's is really like. 

History of Art course

The History of Art course begins with a year (Part I) in which studies are focused on the materials of art, the interpretation of art, and understanding works of art accessible in Cambridge and in Cambridge collections. In the second two years (Part IIA and IIB) you take a paper on the history of the history of art, a paper on the display of art, four from a wide choice of special subject papers in which you study a period or theme in art history in great depth, and write a dissertation. It is possible to change to History of Art after taking Part I in another Tripos, and to take an adjusted form of Part II in one or two years. Full details of the course can be found via the History of Art website.

History of Art Director of Studies and fellows

Alice blackhurst

Alice Blackhurst is a Junior Research Fellow in French and the Visual Arts. She works on ideas of luxury, slow cinema in the work of Chantal Akerman, and the use of clothes and textiles in contemporary French visual art. Other research interests include critical theory, gender and sexuality studies, and fashion theory.

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Dr Aline Guillermet is a Junior Research Fellow in Art History and Theory. Her research investigates the impact of digital visual culture on contemporary painting.

Meredith Hale

Dr Meredith Hale (Director of Studies 2014-15) is the Speelman Fellow in Netherlandish Art at Wolfson College as well as Director of Studies at King's this year. Her research interests include early modern print culture, particularly political satire, transnational print markets and issues related to visual and material culture; Netherlandish painting and architecture associated with the 'Glorious Revolution'; and the reception of Dutch and Flemish art in England.

Jean Michel Massing

Professor Jean Michel Massing is a King's fellow in History of Art. His interests range widely over the history not only of Western art but also of art in Africa, and he has been heavily involved in the organisation of a number of major international exhibitions.

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Professor Caroline van Eck is a specialist in European art and architecture from 1500 to 1800. Her research interests include art, agency and living presence, interactions between rhetoric and the visual arts, the anthropology of art, and the work of Aby Warburg.

Applying for History of Art at King's

applying for history of art

Applying with limited support?

We welcome applications from suitably qualified students at any kind of school, all over the world. Please see the entrance requirements page for details of our most common offers. The numbers admitted in History of Art vary from year to year, but we rarely admit fewer than two or more than five students each year.

The application process for all subjects is explained on our how to apply page, which we advise applicants to read thoroughly in combination with the details below about subject choices and interests for History of Art, sending a school essay, the interviews and the History of Art at-interview written assessment.

Subject requirements

To apply to study History of Art at King’s, you are not expected to have studied history of art at school, and an A level or equivalent qualification in art or history of art does not necessarily confer an advantage. When choosing subjects you may find the general advice on subject choices helpful.

written work

Once you have applied through UCAS, you will be asked to submit a recent piece of school work of your choice. For those looking early, written work guidelines are published in September as part of the Applicant Information. All applicants will receive an email shortly after the 15 October deadline sending you to this information. The deadline for written work will be in early November (see how to apply) and essays must not be sent before 15 October.

Interviews

Interviews in History of Art take place in early December, and involve both general and specific questions about your motivations for study, analytical skills and intellectual potential.

admissions assessment

Students who are invited for interview in History of Art are also asked to take the at-interview written assessment for History of Art, which lasts one hour. You do not need to register for this written assessment as it will be organised automatically by the College if you are invited for interview.

Your performance in the History of Art at-interview written assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

Reading and resources

Further Information

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