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History of Art

History of Art infographic - c. 30 admitted per year at Cambridge, no specific subject requirements, c. 2 admitted per year at Pembroke


History of Art at Pembroke

Pembroke is close to the Department, which is just a five minute walk along Trumpington Street. We are even closer to the Fitzwilliam Museum, which has one of the finest collections of art in the country and is used extensively in teaching. Seminars and lectures are also regularly held at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge’s outstanding gallery of modern and contemporary art, and in the world-class buildings and collections of many of the colleges. 

Rosalind Polly Blakesley, Professor of Russian and European Art and a Fellow of Pembroke, is the College’s Director of Studies in History of Art. A specialist in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art with particular expertise in Russian visual culture and in the Arts and Crafts Movement, she teaches undergraduate and graduate students at all levels. She has also served as Head of Department (from 2016-2019), as a Syndic of the Fitzwilliam Museum, and on the Advisory Board of Kettle’s Yard. She is joined by Dr Jessica Maratsos, the current Keith Sykes Research Fellow, who specialises in the religious traditions and pictorial innovations of Renaissance Italy.

We have a vibrant community of graduate as well as undergraduate students in the subject.  Students get to know the College’s art historians as well as other Fellows well through formal teaching, visits to local collections and buildings, and informal social gatherings. The College offers plenty of opportunities for undergraduate and graduate art historians including travel grants and life drawing classes (currently every Monday evening during term time) and a college art and photography society known as PAPS. There is a well-equipped college Art Room for those interested in undertaking practical art and design, while a recent bequest has made Pembroke Library one of the richest college libraries for the subject, with several thousand books on art and architectural history. These practical and financial opportunities, coupled with the presence of Fellows in the subject and the college's own outstanding architecture, make Pembroke one of the most vibrant and supportive colleges for the study of History of Art.


Pembroke aims to admit up to two and exceptionally three undergraduates per year for the History of Art Tripos.

No A-level subject is stipulated or deemed inappropriate. If Art and Design is offered as one of three A Levels, it is desirable that an A* be achieved in a subject other than (or in addition to) Art and Design. Achieving an A* in an academic, essay-based subject would be preferable. No prior qualification in the History of Art is necessary, as we are keen to encourage applications from interested students from all backgrounds. Applicants should prepare for interview by reading around the subject, looking at specific buildings and works of art, and considering these in an informed and critical manner.

The admissions process consists of two interviews, one with the Director of Studies in History of Art, who will usually be accompanied by another specialist member of staff, and one with the Admissions Tutor or other non expert academic. Beforehand, applicants will be asked to send in two essays of their choice written for their A-level subjects or other comparable school exams. These may be discussed at one of the interviews. The interview with the Director of Studies will include a visual analysis test, where applicants will be presented with a couple of images of works of art or architecture, and asked to comment on these.

If invited for interview, applicants will also be asked to sit a one-hour written admissions assessment. This will take the form of a structured comparison of two sets of images. Again, no specialist knowledge will be assumed. You do not need to register separately for this assessment; the arrangements will be made by the college. More information about the assessment, including some sample questions, can be found here.

Further Information 


Recent Pembroke graduates in History of Art have embarked on careers in national and local museums and galleries, auction houses, journalism, and arts publishing or PR. Some have decided to undertake teaching or postgraduate research, and others have successfully transferred their verbal, visual, and analytical skills to non-arts-related career paths. The course offers particularly good preparation for careers that place emphasis on visual literacy, such as advertising and marketing.  Whatever their destination, students tend to become passionate about their course, and retain close ties with their lecturers and supervisors after they graduate. Current undergraduates are happy to discuss their experience of the History of Art Tripos with prospective applicants.

Get in touch 

If you are interested in learning more about the course at Pembroke from a Fellow in the subject or a current student, please contact the Director of Studies in History of Art, who will happily put you in touch:

For further information on the specifics of the course and admissions criteria please see the page about History of Art on the University website. 


Go to the History of Art faculty website