Advanced Placement® Art History

This teaching resource covers major world art and architecture in the AP® Art History Curriculum from prehistory to the present. A guide is available to those in subscribing schools to provide structured access. The curriculum is designed to be a global survey with content organized chronologically, beginning with global prehistoric art and then continuing within geographic designations until 1980, when the course ends with global contemporary art. There are 250 specific exemplar works of art designated by the College Board representing the nine diverse content areas in the curriculum.

See our AP® Art History Guide

The required exemplar works for each content area are organized in overview groups (for example, Overview: Global Prehistory) located first in each content area subfolder of the resource. In addition, the study of many of these exemplars is enriched with more detailed analysis in Artstor’s AP® Art History Teaching Resources, an ongoing project to be completed in the fall of 2015. These comprehensive image sets are accompanied by essays and links to additional online content for further research and study.

Content Area 1: Global Prehistory, 30,000 to 500 B.C.E.
This content area consists of 11 works and includes examples from prehistoric Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific. Students should come to understand that human artistic communication existed worldwide long before the written word. Art making began in Africa and Asia and spread throughout the world reflecting changes in climate and topography. Materials depended on location and the proposed function of the work and included both large-scale stone and small scale carvings of bone, hardened clay, jade, and stone. Painting, drawing, and relief carving occurred on large rock formations as well as small objects. Art was used in ritual burial sites and to mark celestial phenomena such as solstices and equinoxes. Students should learn that art historians' growing understanding of prehistoric art has developed in conjunction with that of professionals in other disciplines in the social and physical sciences and that this collaborative understanding can change as new investigative techniques are developed.
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Content Area 2: Ancient Mediterranean, 3500 B.C.E. to 300 C.E.
This content area consists of 36 works and covers ancient cultures of the Near East, dynastic Egypt, Greece, Etruria, and Rome. Students should learn that there was an active exchange of ideas and artistic traditions throughout the region. The art and architecture of the ancient Near East and dynastic Egypt were often religious in function, with temporal leaders having significant spiritual power. An additional focus in ancient Egypt was on the function of art in the afterlife. The art and architecture of Ancient Greece focused on civic and individual virtue. Etruscan and Roman artists acquired and adapted artistic ideas from the Greeks, applying them to their own cultural context and artistic innovations. The written record provides context for the artistic output of many of these cultures.
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Content Area 3: Early Europe and Colonial Americas, 200–1750 C.E.
This content area consists of 54 works, and covers Medieval Europe, including Muslim Spain and Edirne, and the early modern Atlantic, with an emphasis on areas of colonial conquest, as well as Europe to 1750 C.E. Students will explore the varied medieval artistic traditions and the many influences on them, including ancient Roman traditions and those of West Asia, migrant tribal groups, and Scandinavia. The requirements of worship for Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths met by these artistic traditions and courtly centers will also be examined. The development of the Renaissance and Baroque periods of Europe are included in this content area as well as the impact of early globalization on the art of the early modern Atlantic world.
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Content Area 4: Later Europe and Americas, 1750–1980 C.E.
This content area consists of 51 works of art created in Europe or the Americas within the context of rapid industrialization and social change including urbanization, war, migration, and colonialism. The varied artistic and architectural movements and the emergence of women artists and artists of color created broader contexts for art and its role within the culture. The development of new media will be understood within a competitive environment of artistic training and public recognition. Definitions of art will be challenged. Students will see the pattern of patronage shift decidedly from religious to public secular institutions and individuals that will change the nature of the various audiences for art and help alter its meaning and function.
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Content Area 5: Indigenous Americas, 1000 B.C.E.–1980 C.E.
This content area consists of 14 works of First Nation cultural traditions from Ancient Mesoamerica, the Central Andes, and Native North America. Students will come to understand and differentiate between the major cultural groups of each of these regions while noting commonalities in function, media, and form where appropriate. Sacred sites in each region will increase student understanding of belief systems and rituals related to natural cycles of the earth and its relationship to the sun and stars. Changes in art production with the use and combination of indigenous and imported materials will be understood within the framework of invasion and colonialization. The forced assimilation of Native Americans and their response to cultural pressures and dramatic loss will be reflected in the art of the tribal groups of the region.
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Content Area 6: Africa, 1100–1980 C.E.
This content area consists of 14 works from the earliest rock art of the Sahara and early architecture in Southern Africa to masking traditions and wood carvings of the late 20th century in West and Central Africa. Emphasis in this content area will be placed on understanding these traditions within the context of active, performative rituals and belief systems that enforce and strengthen community values. The interaction of Africans with populations from other regions and the effects of that on art making, collecting, and display will be explored by students.
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Content Area 7: West and Central Asia, 500 B.C.E.–1980 C.E.
This content area consists of 11 works. The region includes the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant, Anatolia, Greater Iran, Central Asia, Inner Asia, and Himalayan Asia. West and Central Asia’s role as locations of interaction between European and Asian cultures will be explored. Buddhist and Persian interchange with Hellenistic traditions marks some of the earliest examples of this. Its continuation into the 20th Century includes Muslim and Christian exchange as well. Students should come to understand the form and function of the art of this region created in a variety of media including metal, cloth, in situ monumental carving, and fine illuminated manuscripts. Religious architecture reflects functions inherent to the belief systems of Islam and Buddhism.
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Content Area 8: South, East, and Southeast Asia, 300 B.C.E.–1980 C.E.
This content area consists of 21 works from ancient through modern China, the ancient Indus Valley, Pakistan, India, Southeast Asia and Japan. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and numerous other religions developed in the ancient world of South Asia and continued to impact culture in the modern era. Large-scale architectural projects reflect the regional belief systems and the presence of an organized and highly trained workforce to undertake them on behalf of a ruler and in devotion to a religion. Smaller-scale works held religious, philosophical or secular meaning involving painting on silk, paper, or ceramic vessels. Cast bronze and garden design are also included among the works created in this large and varied area of study.
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Content Area 9: Global Contemporary, 1980 C.E. to Present
Contemporary world art is covered in this final content area of the curriculum. The 27 examples reflect world traditions and the dramatic change in media used to convey artistic ideas. Appropriation and reinterpretation of cultural themes reflect issues of belonging and alienation prevalent in the contemporary world. Innovative use of materials in architecture and elaborate installation art reflect specialized training, tradition, and innovation. Gender, race and personal experiences of social political and cultural events reflect the desire of contemporary artists to express ideas valued by a global audience aware of the multiplicity of potential identities.
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