lobster1
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has anyone been through the application process for history of art at oxford (or any essay-based course)? I am applying this year and feeling slightly unprepared... any advice would be much appreciated (:
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Scotney
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(Original post by lobster1)
has anyone been through the application process for history of art at oxford (or any essay-based course)? I am applying this year and feeling slightly unprepared... any advice would be much appreciated (:
Number 1 tip GO TO OPEN DAY and attend subject talk.They will explain process,there will be a mock interview and you will get to ask questions of the tutors.I believe they are on 3rd or 4th Sept but check website.
Number 2 all subjects at Oxford are essay based
What in particular are you concerned about?
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lobster1
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Right, I'll book the open day, thank you! I'm looking at history of art. They wanted two essays, one 750 word (on a piece of art) and one 2000 (any marked essay demonstrating an ability to construct a sustained written argument). What aspects of the essays will they be particularly interested in? The overall argument? clarity? the topic you have chosen?
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Scotney
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(Original post by lobster1)
Right, I'll book the open day, thank you! I'm looking at history of art. They wanted two essays, one 750 word (on a piece of art) and one 2000 (any marked essay demonstrating an ability to construct a sustained written argument). What aspects of the essays will they be particularly interested in? The overall argument? clarity? the topic you have chosen?
I imagine all of those things.I am no expert on history of Art but I think they will as usual be looking for well reasoned argument ,critical thinking and genuine passion for the subject.For your piece about on a piece of Art pick something you really love and can really talk about with an original viewpoint.And of course its historical prospective.
The Oxford website for history of art gives lots of info in the video about course and interviews.
I would also pick out some colleges you like the look of so you can also visit those.There are so many it helps to have a short list.
.A Tsr member has written a comprehensive guide about applying to Oxford which might be helpful it is called Oxford Demystified [email protected] Oxford Mum.
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Oxford Mum
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Hi lobster1
How are you?

When you say history of art, do you mean fine art ( sorry, on the phone so can’t really see internet at the same time!

I once read a getting into Oxbridge book and the person who wrote it was a successful applicant to art history at Cambridge.

She had first applied for history, but once in the interview room she had nothing of note to say, because she had not done any extra reading, or shown any passion for the subject. After her rejection, her teacher suggested history of art.

She decided this time she must succeed, so went all keen. Every time she went to a city, in the uk or abroad, she would make the art gallery her first port of call. For instance if you do visit Oxford, do not miss the ashmolean. They have all kinds of works of art, both old and new, with fascinating special exhibitions. I can recall going to see two superb Van Gogh s in one memorable visit.

Now here’s a sneaky thing. My younger son is a bit of an art buff. ( although a medic, art is his best subject)

He went to see the Canaletto s in the ashmolean. When he asked if there were any more, they said there were some in a special room, but they were drawings, not paintings.

Well they got him some gloves and whipped out those Canaletto, to the delight of my son. Then they said the magic words, do you want to see some da Vinci’s drawings? There followed several moments of bliss for my son, as he saw these wonderful drawings close up.

More in a minute my train is here
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Oxford Mum
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Ok so when you are in the art gallery, make sure you with get a guide or speak to the custodians sitting near the pictures. Most of the time nobody ever even bothers to engage them in conversation, so if you approach them their eyes will light up and you will have several minutes very interesting and profitable conversations with them. My elder son is interested in stately homes and constantly talks to them, so much so they thought he was reading history at Oxford ( it was actually German)!

Your holidays should no longer be your own. Instead of the Costa del sol, drag your parents or friends round the great art galleries of Europe? This is what my younger son did! We went to Paris to see the Louvre ( but much preferred the orsay) or go to Florence to the uffizi ( book in advance for all these galleries as we never got inside the uffizi) queue to see the David by Michelangelo.

Another must is the Vatican museum for the sistine chapel and the many valuable artworks in their collection.

So you can really appreciate the art, read up on certain pictures and artists beforehand.

My son also loves watching programmes by the famous art historian ( he’s so famous I have forgotten his name) it’s something to do with graham I think . Will ask son when I get home.

The important thing to do is read,read read and learn how to really appreciate a work of art. Look at its history, how it reflects the era the painter lived in, how the picture may reflect stages of the artist’s life, how they may have been influenced by other artists, how they may have influenced other. Imagery, technique etc etc
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2500_2
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(Original post by lobster1)
has anyone been through the application process for history of art at oxford (or any essay-based course)? I am applying this year and feeling slightly unprepared... any advice would be much appreciated (:
As with any Oxford application, they are really explicit on their website, the secret is to read it carefully and follow it to the letter. Choose your existing essay not because it's your best mark, but because it best fits what they want. And for the new writing, note that they want it only to be about a single piece, that you need first-hand experience of that piece and that you focus on what you think is significant (so you need to explain why you think it's significant).
The course doesn't need pre-uni formal art history study but they will expect you to have done independent investigation - ideally you should be familiar with the big names and hopefully be able to pick them out of a line-up, and you should have visited a lot of exhibitions over the last year (and can talk about them not just 'I liked x' but in a way that makes linkages), both traditional and contemporary. Youtube can also be your friend here.
Finally, when you go visit Oxford, while Ashmolean is a great visit, I'd particularly recommend you visit Oxford MoMA and Christ Church Picture Gallery. If you are really lucky in the latter, you might hear a tutorial take place and pick up some tips. They usually stand in front of a single painting and discuss it in detail.
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2500_2
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My son also loves watching programmes by the famous art historian ( he’s so famous I have forgotten his name) it’s something to do with graham I think . Will ask son when I get home.
Andrew Graham-Dixon.
He's lovely and his programmes are excellent, but I'd be wary of quoting him in an entrance essay or interview for HoA. Particularly at Oxford.
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lobster1
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(Original post by Scotney)
I imagine all of those things.I am no expert on history of Art but I think they will as usual be looking for well reasoned argument ,critical thinking and genuine passion for the subject.For your piece about on a piece of Art pick something you really love and can really talk about with an original viewpoint.And of course its historical prospective.
The Oxford website for history of art gives lots of info in the video about course and interviews.
I would also pick out some colleges you like the look of so you can also visit those.There are so many it helps to have a short list.
.A Tsr member has written a comprehensive guide about applying to Oxford which might be helpful it is called Oxford Demystified [email protected] Oxford Mum.
Thank you so much for the excellent advice. I have just been around Tate St Ives today and felt particularly compelled by the Huguette Caland's visiting exhibition. I am now trying to decide on an argument to base my essay around. I am a feminist and I feel that her work encapsulates so many of my own viewpoints on feminity. It also revolves around her own family experiences and the Lebanese civil war. As you said, I now think I just need to narrow it down to more specific ideas so that my overall argument is succinct and original.*
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Sounds good to me
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lobster1
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
Ok so when you are in the art gallery, make sure you with get a guide or speak to the custodians sitting near the pictures. Most of the time nobody ever even bothers to engage them in conversation, so if you approach them their eyes will light up and you will have several minutes very interesting and profitable conversations with them. My elder son is interested in stately homes and constantly talks to them, so much so they thought he was reading history at Oxford ( it was actually German)!

Your holidays should no longer be your own. Instead of the Costa del sol, drag your parents or friends round the great art galleries of Europe? This is what my younger son did! We went to Paris to see the Louvre ( but much preferred the orsay) or go to Florence to the uffizi ( book in advance for all these galleries as we never got inside the uffizi) queue to see the David by Michelangelo.

Another must is the Vatican museum for the sistine chapel and the many valuable artworks in their collection.

So you can really appreciate the art, read up on certain pictures and artists beforehand.

My son also loves watching programmes by the famous art historian ( he’s so famous I have forgotten his name) it’s something to do with graham I think . Will ask son when I get home.

The important thing to do is read,read read and learn how to really appreciate a work of art. Look at its history, how it reflects the era the painter lived in, how the picture may reflect stages of the artist’s life, how they may have been influenced by other artists, how they may have influenced other. Imagery, technique etc etc
Hi Oxford mum,

Thank you for all your advice! How amazing that your son got a special viewing of some of da Vinci's drawings… maybe I'll try the same thing when I visit (:*

I took your advice about speaking to the custodians today (I always presumed they were just extremely uninterested in the art work, since they have to look at it all day). I had a fascinating conversation about Henry Moore, Nicholson and Hepworth and how they are all linked by St Ives.*


My mum is also very excited about the idea of another trip abroad… we've been to Florence, Barcelona and Paris in the last few years which have been excellent for seeing art galleries and architecture. When I go to the Oxford open day in September I'll also have a chance to looks at the galleries there.*


I am trying to read about 5 art books at once at the moment, I am not convinced I will finish them all by the end of the year (alongside school work). How much do they expect you to have read before applying?*
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lobster1
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(Original post by 2500_2)
Andrew Graham-Dixon.
He's lovely and his programmes are excellent, but I'd be wary of quoting him in an entrance essay or interview for HoA. Particularly at Oxford.
thank you!
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Oxford Mum
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It’s not the quantity of books that matter it’s how you reflect on them, and how you appreciate the pictures.

If you visit Oxford, do drop by Exeter college chapel. William Morris and Edward Burns Jones met there and formed the arts and crafts movement. You can see a beautiful tapestry by burnes Jones and some little curtains by Morris near the altar...
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lobster1
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(Original post by 2500_2)
As with any Oxford application, they are really explicit on their website, the secret is to read it carefully and follow it to the letter. Choose your existing essay not because it's your best mark, but because it best fits what they want. And for the new writing, note that they want it only to be about a single piece, that you need first-hand experience of that piece and that you focus on what you think is significant (so you need to explain why you think it's significant).
The course doesn't need pre-uni formal art history study but they will expect you to have done independent investigation - ideally you should be familiar with the big names and hopefully be able to pick them out of a line-up, and you should have visited a lot of exhibitions over the last year (and can talk about them not just 'I liked x' but in a way that makes linkages), both traditional and contemporary. Youtube can also be your friend here.
Finally, when you go visit Oxford, while Ashmolean is a great visit, I'd particularly recommend you visit Oxford MoMA and Christ Church Picture Gallery. If you are really lucky in the latter, you might hear a tutorial take place and pick up some tips. They usually stand in front of a single painting and discuss it in detail.
Thank you for your reply! I've been trying to really look into particular works which interest me alongside becoming familiar with art movements and more renowned artists... it's actually very interesting and exciting, even if it isn't relevant. I will be visiting Oxford in September for the open day; hopefully I'll have a chance to visit all the galleries then.

You also mentioned how the 750 word essay should be on a single piece of artwork, I have decided on the piece I am doing, but would it be wasting space to reference other art which is relevant to that particular work?

Thanks again for the advice (:
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lobster1
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
It’s not the quantity of books that matter it’s how you reflect on them, and how you appreciate the pictures.

If you visit Oxford, do drop by Exeter college chapel. William Morris and Edward Burns Jones met there and formed the arts and crafts movement. You can see a beautiful tapestry by burnes Jones and some little curtains by Morris near the altar...
Ah ok, maybe I'll look at fewer books in more depth.
That sounds wonderful! I'll make sure to take a look in the chapel, thank you (:
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It was my elder son’s college, the most beautiful chapel in the world
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lobster1
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It was my elder son’s college, the most beautiful chapel in the world
do you know if it takes history of art students?
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2500_2
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(Original post by lobster1)
You also mentioned how the 750 word essay should be on a single piece of artwork, I have decided on the piece I am doing, but would it be wasting space to reference other art which is relevant to that particular work?
Not at all, definitely reference other works (contextualising ones by other artists will help with your significance points too), but I'd minimise diluting your focus by talking too much about other works by the same artist.
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I know it takes fine art but not sure about history of art. Will look when I get home

My son had a friend at Exeter studying fine art. She used to paint with her boobs
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I am trying to read about 5 art books at once at the moment, I am not convinced I will finish them all by the end of the year (alongside school work). How much do they expect you to have read before applying?*
If it helps, I think there were about a dozen books on my pre-start reading list (Cambridge HoA though, not Oxford). During the course itself, there was a LOT of reading, probably half a dozen books a week for each essay. Skimming and summarising were the most important (and useful) skills I learned but don't worry, you don't need them yet, @oxfordmum is spot on that quality of reflection beats quantity at this point.

Practising looking (weird as that sounds) is really worth your time, be it in the flesh or in reproduction. Studies show we usually look at an artwork for 6 seconds - force yourself to move your eyes over it for 5 minutes if you can, noting all the contents, spot how elements relate to each other, look at the way the paint has been manipulated - can you see the canvas weave?, mentally check how your emotions have changed, try and bring to mind other artworks you've seen that remind you of it in some small or large way. In an exhibition note what the curators have chosen to hang on either side and try and puzzle out why.
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