History of Art

Everything you are about to read has been written by current and recently graduated students at the University of Cambridge, to give you honest information about what it’s like to be a student at Cambridge.

The History of Art course in Cambridge is predominantly taught with a “hands-on” approach. That is to say that most of the lectures take place in and around Cambridge in front of the objects discussed during lectures. As year groups are particularly small (~ 25) everybody gets the chance to ask questions and engage with the lecture taught by experts in the field. History of Art at Cambridge can be a wonderfully intriguing experience that is both challenging and rewarding.

History of Art

What about the History of Art course at Cambridge appealed to you?

Stella, Downing College, 1st year
Stella
Downing College, 1st year

Small group teaching/Lectures on Site/Very good job perspectives after graduation

How have you found the structure of the course?

Stella, Downing College, 1st year
Stella
Downing College, 1st year
Course Structure

Having very few lectures (see below) the course demands a lot of self-discipline and organisation. There are, however, plenty of opportunities organised by the department to engage in more specialised topics such as for example the Slade lecture series (Link), or the Medieval Art Seminar Series held every other week in the year 2015-2016.

What is your faculty/department like?

Stella, Downing College, 1st year
Stella
Downing College, 1st year

The joined History of Art and Architecture Faculty is small and cosy (although I can tell you that you won’t spend much time there if you’re not working in the library). The faculty library has a broad collection of subjects and the staff is very friendly and helpful.

What types of work do you have to do?

Stella, Downing College, 1st year
Stella
Downing College, 1st year
Types of work

1 essay per week, thus 1 supervision per week (only for Meaning/Making papers; Object paper only in exams). For Meaning/Making papers there might be also reading/ (casual) presentations to prepare for weekly seminar.

The course book which is given to students at the beginning of the academic year contains a fairly good bibliography. Although it is not always clear what books/articles to read for which essay, yet this is part of the skill set you will acquire when doing this course. In some weeks the same essay question will be answered by all first years, hence one must look for alternatives when it comes to reading as limited numbers of copies of the same book are available.

Do you have career plans?

Stella, Downing College, 1st year
Stella
Downing College, 1st year

I originally intended to do something with conservation studies afterwards. I definitely want to work in a museum or heritage. However, Cambridge opens up so many possibilities that I am not sure anymore what path exactly to choose.

Typical timetable of a 1st year History of Art student

Stella, Downing College, 1st year
Stella
Downing College, 1st year

Depending on how fast you read/write the weekly essay will take up large parts of lecture/seminar free time:

Thursday: After handing in my essay I print out my reading for Monday’s seminar and prepare over the weekend. Take the day easy and make my room look human again (after it was left in an absolute mess while essay writing- ups).

Friday: collect first thoughts about the essay question; looking up books/articles for next week’s essay; if possible get hold of the books at the faculty as it closes over the weekend; read through essay to remind myself of the topic I have just written about (which has vanished surprisingly fast from my memory); go to supervision; enjoy the evening

Saturday & Sunday: do seminar work; read for next essay (keeping the question in mind so I don’t get carried away by interesting but irrelevant passages) while taking notes*; go to a Yoga/Pilates class (if it’s a good week otherwise watch some series); meet friends; do laundry, food shopping, etc.

Monday & Tuesday: do a bit more of reading (yes my entire desk is piled with books - I’m feeling pretty smart); go to lectures/seminar; think about how to answer essay question (again); making an essay plan (desperately trying to fit in some more ideas and notes while promising oneself to read less next time for a clearer argument)**

Wednesday: write the essay… go for lunch…continue to write the essay… *as an international student (Austrian) it can take up a bit of time to finish my reading (especially with nasty philosophical texts, which are surprisingly interesting once one gets through the “what is art?” stage) ** took me a while to get used to the English style of arguing (why exactly do I need to answer the question three times- intro, body, conclusion- it’s a mystery) *** ‘Meaning of Architecture/Art’ is replaced by ‘Making of Art’ in our second term.

- Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9am - - - - -
10am - Meaning of Architecture/Art (Lecture)*** Meaning of Architecture/Art (Lecture) Meaning of Architecture/Art (Lecture) -
11am - - - - -
12am - - - - -
1pm - - - - -
2pm - - - - Supervision
3pm Meaning of Architecture/Art (Seminar) Objects Seminar - Objects Seminar -
4pm - - - - -

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