AP Art History

Credit Hours: 1.0

Course Length: 2 Semesters

Course Description

“The function of the art is not only to show life as it is, but to show life as it should be.” -W.E.B. DuBois
What is art? How is it made? What inspires art styles and revolutions? How can we respond and describe our own reactions to art? The visual language of human beings speaks more directly and immediately through the ages than any other form of human communication. Exploring the world through the study of art and architecture enables us to understand our times as well as those that have come before all over the globe.

Advanced Placement ® Art History builds the visual literacy and critical thinking skills needed to effectively analyze art across time and place. The framework of the AP® Art History course encourages students to develop deep understanding of representative art works from diverse cultures, including the fundamental knowledge that places these works in context and articulates the relationships among them.

The curriculum conveys the big ideas and essential questions at the center of an investigation into the world art and art production. Clear learning objectives that represent the art historical skills valued by art historians and higher education faculty will inform class assignments.

Students will acquire a comprehensive knowledge of historically significant artists, movements, aesthetic theories and practices, ranging from the prehistoric times to the significant contributions in the 21st Century. Art production of all cultures will be studied in relative proportion to their representation on the Art History Advanced Placement Exam.

Students will see the development of trends, movements, and events in art, how they reflected and affected the times in which they occurred, gaining insight into typically misunderstood topics pertaining to the visual arts. Students will research and write knowledgeably on a number of art history topics, reflecting and synthesizing their own theories on the many works they will see in virtual museums and collections. They will be expected, through carefully structured assignments, to exhibit an extensive scholarship in conjunction with these experiences.

Course Prerequisites


Required Textbook(s) and/or Materials

Access to Adobe Reader, Java, and Quicktime, audio capabilities, access to a printer and digital camera, microphone recording capability preferred but not required.

This course may not be appropriate for students with specific accessibility limitations as written. Please refer to the VHS Handbook policy on Special Education/Equity for more information on possible modifications.
Access to Adobe Reader, Java, and Quicktime, audio capabilities, access to a printer and digital camera, microphone recording capability preferred but not required.

Major Concepts

The curriculum and content of the course are based on three sets of big ideas and essential questions intended to encourage investigation of art throughout time and place and to foster students’ understanding of the discipline of art history.

Big ideas help students make connections between art historical concepts and the art works while essential questions frame explorations into the nature of art, art making, and our responses to art.

The AP Art History curriculum includes 12 learning objectives. These learning objectives represent the art historical skills that college and university faculty expect students to possess at the end of an introductory college-level art history course.

Through the exposure to the Big Ideas and learning objectives students will:

  • Be introduced to the discipline of art history and gain an understanding of the mechanisms of that field of study.
  • Learn to visually “read”, understand, and analyze a work of art.
  • Understand the impact of art in human affairs and the impact of cultural and historical events on the creation of art.
  • Be able to associate individual works of art/artists with major art movements.
  • Develop informed opinions and responses to works of art.
  • Demonstrate grasp of the above objectives on the AP® Art History Examination

Big Idea 1: Artists manipulate materials and ideas to create an aesthetic object, act, or event.

Students will:

  • Differentiate the components of form, function, content, and/or context of a work of art.
  • Explain how artistic decisions about art making shape a work of art.
  • Describe how context influences artistic decisions about creating a work of art.
  • Analyze form, function, content, and/or context to infer or explain the possible intentions for creating a specific work of art.

Big Idea 2: Art making is shaped by tradition and change.

Students will:

  • Describe features of tradition and/or change in a single work of art or in a group of related works.
  • Explain how and why specific traditions and/or changes are demonstrated in a single work or group of related works.
  • Analyze the influence of a single work of art or group of related works on other artistic production.

Big Idea 3: Interpretations of art are variable.

Students will:

  • Identify a work of art.
  • Analyze how formal qualities and/or content of a work of art elicit(s) a response.
  • Analyze how contextual variables lead to different interpretations of a work of art.
  • Justify attribution of an unknown work of art.