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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.

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

Jean Michel Massing

Professor Jean Michel Massing is a King's fellow and Director of Studies 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.

Applying for History of Art at King's

We welcome applicants from all kinds of schools, all over the world. Candidates 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. You may like to consult our Subject Matters leaflet for general advice about choosing subjects.

The application process is explained on our how to apply page, which we advise you to read thoroughly. After you have applied through UCAS, you will be asked to send one piece of written work, of your choice. If we invite you for interview you will have two interviews. These will involve both general and specific questions about your motivations for study, analytical skills and intellectual potential.

Our most common offers in a range of examination systems are listed on our entrance requirements page. 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.

Reading and resources

Further Information

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