Clare College Cambridge

History of Art

Link to University Subject Page


With its spectacular built environment, museums and libraries, Cambridge offers a unique opportunity to study the History of Art. The Department has an exceptional reputation within the field, ranking highly in the Guardian’s League Table and winning outstandingly high student satisfaction scores. It is located in Scroope Terrace, near the Fitzwilliam Museum. Most lectures and seminars take place in the Department, and its facilities include the Faculty Library.

Clare College, often said to be the friendliest and most welcoming in Cambridge, centres around the beautiful seventeenth-century Old Court and the handsome Memorial Court, built by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (designer of Liverpool Cathedral). As well as possessing an excellent art collection in its own right, the college prides itself on showing important contemporary sculpture throughout its grounds and runs regular photography and fine art competitions for its undergraduates. Former students have gone on to senior positions in academia and the arts.

Part I is a one-year course which offers a broad introduction to the making and meaning of art. Part II involves the study of special subjects, which range from the art and architecture of medieval Europe to the modern period.

Further details about History of Art are available from the University of Cambridge Undergraduate Prospectus, or direct from the Secretary, the Department of History of Art, 1-5 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge CB2 1PX, Tel: 01223 332975, Fax: 01223 332976, or the Faculty website at


Studying History of Art at Clare

Because of the comparatively few undergraduates reading History of Art at Cambridge, most of the teaching, including supervision, is organised by the Department. In the first year (Part I), students follow courses on the meaning and making of art, as well as a year-long course focusing on the extraordinarily rich collections of art and architecture in Cambridge, and write a short dissertation on a subject of their choosing. In each year of Part II, students aim to cover one special subject each term alongside a further year-long compulsory course on theoretical approaches to the subject. For most subjects there is a core course of lectures. Each student meets weekly with his or her supervisor for the term, to plan and execute an individual programme of study, which includes the writing of essays, discussion of issues raised in the lectures and suggestions for further reading. All students have the opportunity to develop further their own research and academic writing skills in the third year by writing a longer dissertation under specialist supervision.

History of Art Admission to Clare

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. Other typical offers would be based on 7,7,6 (40+ overall) in the IB or the equivalent in other educational systems. 

Written Assessment

All applicants are required to take the university-wide pre-interview written assessment for History of Art. Further information about this is available here.

Written Work and Interviews

All applicants, except in exceptional circumstances, will be interviewed in the second or third week of December. Each candidate will normally have two interviews.To give you a further way of showing your potential, we also invite you to submit two pieces of written school work. We will write to you to ask for this work to be sent to us by the middle of November, preceding the December interviews. We like to see school work because it does not involve candidates in any extra preparation, and it gives us a chance to see how you work under everyday, as well as examination conditions.

Director of Studies in History of Art

Dr Gabriel Byng directs studies in the History of Art for Clare, and is also Director of Studies for other Colleges within the University. 

Reading Lists

Click here for a list of recommended books.

See Student Profile: Sophia Luu