03. Early Europe & Colonial Americas, Art & Humanities

AP Art History: Theories and Interpretations of Early European and Colonial American Art

AP Art History: Theories and Interpretations of Early European and Colonial American Art
*Note: The enduring “Enduring understanding,” “Learning Objective,” & “Essential Knowledge” language comes from the 2019 AP Art History Curriculum and Exam Guide.

Enduring Understanding: The study of art history is shaped by different theories and interpretations of art and art making that change over time. These theories and interpretations may be generated both by visual analysis of works of art and by scholarship that may be affected by factors including, but not limited to, other disciplines, available technology, and the availability of evidence.

Learning Objective: Explain how theories and interpretations of works of art are shaped by visual analysis as well as by other disciplines, technology, or the availability of evidence.

Essential Knowledge: The study of art history is shaped by different theories and interpretations of art and art making that change over time and may be generated both by visual analysis as well as by scholarship. These theories and interpretations may be used, harnessed, manipulated, and adapted in order to make an art-historical argument about a work or a group of works of art. European medieval art is generally studied in chronological order and divided into geographical regions, governing cultures, and identifiable styles, with associated but distinctive artistic traditions. There is significant overlap in time, geography, practice, and heritage of art created within this time frame and region. Nationalist agendas and disciplinary divisions based on the predominant language (Greek, Latin, or Arabic) and religion (Judaism, Western or Eastern Orthodox Christianity, or Islam) have caused considerable fragmentation in the study of medieval art.

Essential Knowledge: Contextual information comes primarily from literary, theological, and governmental (both secular and religious) records, which vary in quantity according to period and geographical region, and to a lesser extent from archaeological excavations.

Essential Knowledge: Art from the early modern Atlantic world is typically studied in chronological order, by geographical region, according to style, and medium. Thus, early modernity and the Atlantic arena are highlighted, framing the initiation of globalization and emergence of modern Europe, and recognizing the role of the Americas in these developments. More attention has been given in recent years to larger cultural interactions, exchanges, and appropriations.

Essential Knowledge: Most primary source material is housed in archives and libraries worldwide and includes works of art both in situ and in private and public collections. An immense body of secondary scholarly literature also exists.

Essential Knowledge: The traditional art history survey presents a historical narrative that, by selectively mapping development of the so-called “Old World,” constructs the idea of the West. One problem with this model is that in privileging Europe, the Old World is placed in an oppositional relationship to the rest of the world, which tends to be marginalized, if not neglected. A focus on early modernity and interconnectedness of the Atlantic regions presents a more comprehensive approach to the study of art.

Essential Knowledge: Information and objects from different parts of the world were gathered in European cultural centers, where their influence is evident in the contents of curiosity cabinets; advances in science and technology; consolidation of European political and economic power; and the development of modern conceptions of difference, such as race and nationalism.

Suggested Works:

  • 68. The Arnolfini Portrait. Jan van Eyck. c. 1434 CE. Oil on wood.
  • 81. Frontispiece of the Codex Mendoza. Viceroyalty of New Spain. c. 1541–1542 CE. Ink and color on paper.

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