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Preparatory Reading

Admissions image 3

The most important preparation for coming to Cambridge involves learning to train your visual memory and to develop your own critical skills. Visit as many museums and exhibitions as you can, taking descriptive notes of what you see. Visit buildings such as churches or country houses; you may find it helpful to record them photographically. Don't be afraid to sketch, even if you have no artistic talent, as it is an excellent way of studying and remembering images, buildings and artefacts.

When a work of art or architecture excites you, try to analyse why it has this effect.

Other helpful preparation is to gain a firm grounding in iconography by improving your knowledge of the Bible and classical mythology. A good basic knowledge of European history is also extremely useful.

The course does not require any specific prior knowledge of the History of Art, but you may like to read some of the following books before you come up to Cambridge.

S. F. Eisenman and others, Nineteenth-Century Art: A Critical History (several eds.)

E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art (several eds.)
H. Honour & J. Fleming, A World History of Art (several eds.)
N. Pevsner, An Outline of European Architecture (several eds.)
J. Summerson, Architecture in Britain, 1530-1830 (Pelican History of Art), (several eds.)
D. Watkin, A History of Western Architecture, London 1986

Reference books
You may like to buy the following titles, which will be useful throughout the course:

J.R. Hale (ed.), A Concise Encyclopaedia of the Italian Renaissance (several eds.)
J. Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, John Murray, 1974
J. Fleming, H. Honour, N. Pevsner, The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture (several eds.)

Historical Approaches
During the course you will study the critical approaches of past authors, many of whom offer inspiring views of the subject.

Examples include:

C. Baudelaire, The painter of Modern Life & other Essays, ed. J. Mayne (several eds.)
B. Berenson, The Italian Painters of the Renaissance (several eds.)
J. Burckhardt, The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy (several eds.)
R. Fry, Cézanne: a Study of his Development, London 1927
E. Mâle, The Gothic Image, London 1961
G. Morelli, Italian Painters: Critical Studies of their Works, London 1892
E. Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art, Stockholm 1960
E. Panofsky, Studies in Iconology (several eds.)
M. Podro, The Critical Historians of Art (several eds.)
J. Reynolds, Discourses on Art, ed. R. Wark (several eds.)
F. Saxl, Lectures, London 1957
M. Schapiro, Word and Image, Leyden 1972
G. Vasari, Lives of the Artists (several eds.)
H. Wölfflin, Principles of Art History (several eds.)

Special Topics
Finally, some suggestions for more specialised reading:

M. Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy, 2nd ed., Oxford 1988
J. Gage, Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction, London 1993
E.H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion (several eds.)
F. Haskell & N. Penny, Taste and the Antique, New Haven & London 1981
M. Kemp, The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat (several eds.)
G. Pollock, Vision and difference: femininity, feminism and the histories of art, London 1988
J. Summerson, The Classical Language of Architecture (several eds.)
J. White, The Birth and Rebirth of Pictorial Space (several eds.)