This reference page features an ever expanding list of classroom vocabulary and art history timeline listings (to be added throughout the school year).


Ashanti Nation (Ghana) Africa: Kente Cloth

17th Century - present day

Ashanti Kente Cloth Slide Show

Sika dwa kofi (Golden Stool), Ashanti People (7:55)

  • Kente cloth is one of the most immediately recognizable forms of African textiles
  • Kente cloth is deeply intertwined with the history of the Ashanti nation
  • The Ashanti Empire or Confederacy (which was located in what is today Ghana) first emerged in West Africa during the 17th century  
  • The word “Kente” which means basket comes from the Akan or Ashanti dialect. Akans also refer to Kente as nwentoma, which means woven cloth.
  • Kente cloth was traditionally made from silk during the 17th and 18th centuries but is now made mostly of cotton, as well as rayon, making it affordable for a much wider reach of the population.
  • Kente was originally worn by royalty, wealthy, or highly respected people.Today it is worn by all, particularly for special occasions.


Islamic Art

7th Century - present day

Why is Writing so important in Islamic Art? (2:56)

Sinan, Süleymaniye Mosque (6:36)

Two Royal Figures Saljuq Period (5:16)

  • Islamic art is a modern concept created by art historians in the 19th century to facilitate categorization and study of the material first produced under the Islamic peoples that emerged from Arabia in the seventh century.
  • The term Islamic art describes the art created specifically in the service of the Muslim faith (for example, a mosque and its furnishings)
  • Also characterizes the art and architecture historically produced in the lands ruled by Muslims, produced for Muslim patrons, or created by Muslim artists
  • The rule of the Umayyad caliphate (661-750) is often considered to be the formative period in Islamic Art
  • The 4 Basic Components of Islamic Ornamentation: calligraphy, vegetal patterns, figural representation, geometric patterns 


Northern Europe: Still life painting

1600-1800 A.D.

Willem Kalf, Still Life with a Silver Ewer: 1660 (4:03)

Rachel Ruysch, Fruit and Insects: 1711 (4:03)

  • Still-life painting = depiction of inanimate objects for the sake of their qualities of form, colour, texture, and composition.
  • Still-life painting as an independent genre flourished in the Netherlands during the early 1600s
  • Early Netherlandish still-life paintings often used imagery as allegories for “Vanitas” collections of objects symbolizing the inevitability of death and the vanity of earthly pleasures; they remind the viewer to consider mortality and to repent.
  • Standard Still Life Imagery: symbols of arts and sciences (books, maps, and musical instruments), wealth and power (purses, jewelry, gold objects), earthly pleasures (goblets, pipes, and playing cards), symbols of death or transience (skulls, clocks, burning candles, soap bubbles, and flowers), and sometimes symbols of resurrection and eternal life (ears of corn or sprigs of ivy or laurel)


Early Renaissance Art

1350-1600 A.D. (begins with the fall of the Roman Empire)

How to Recognize Italian Renaissance Art (video link)

Link to slideshow of artist's timelines for Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael

Italian Renaissance vs. Northern Renaissance: 

  • Italian: love of rational perspective, natural bodies, frescoes, and religious subjects
  • Northern: love of texture, stylized anatomy, use of oil paint, everyday life subject

Works of art reviewed in class:

  • Giotto Adoration of the Magi, c. 1305
  • Masaccio Holy Trinity, 1427
  • Fra Angelico The Annunciation, 1438-47
  • Fra Filippo Lippi Madonna and Child, 1460-65
  • Domenico Ghirlandaio Birth of the Virgin, 1485-90
  • Sandro Botticelli Birth of Venus, 1483-85 (Not Religious Subject)
  • Jan van Eyck Arnolfini Portrait, 1434 (Northern Renaissance)


Medieval Europe

476 - 1500 A.D. (begins with the fall of the Roman Empire)

Early Middle Ages: 476-1000

High Middle Ages: 1000-1300

Late Middle Ages: 1300-1500 (Black Death began in 1347, Decimated populations, slowed growth) 

Chartres Cathedral: (video link) 

  • Early Gothic
  • Featuring small windows, one large rose window, large piers support vaulted ceiling, visible from a distance, 
  • Church was center of village life

Illuminated manuscripts:

  • Handwritten and decorated books
  • Manuscript = manus (hand) and scriptus (to write)
  • Illuminated = illuminare (to light up), denotes the glow created by the radiant colors of the illustrations, as well as by real gold and silver.
  • Illuminations took the form of decorated letters, borders, and independent figurative scenes, also called miniatures.
  • Primarily made by Monks: copied books for worship, also commissions (historical records, Greek & Roman literature), worked in scriptorium, after 12th century, scribes weren’t always monks
  • Made from: Vellum (calf skin) or parchment (goat or sheep skin), written with ink using a quill pen from goose or swan feather
  • After the scribe was done with the writing an illuminator took over and Silver & gold leaf was added, then pictures, border decorations and ornamented letters were added, and finally the pages were folded, sewn together and bound between covers of wood or leather.
  • Originally most illuminated texts were Religious (The Bible, The Gospels, Choral Books, Prayer Books), but by the 14th Century other types of books were also being created (cookbooks, stories & legends, travel books, and histories)
  • The Book of Kells: created in the 9th Century and named for monastery of Kells, County Meath, Ireland, brought there after Viking raid on Iona, at least three different scribes and four artists worked on the Book of Kells which was made for display & ceremonial use, 13” x 10”, Hiberno-Saxon style featuring Curvilinear motifs, Elaborate initials and Zoomorphic interlacing
  • Book of Hours of Isabella of Spain: C. 1495-1500, 9” x 6”
  • Prayer Book of Claude de France: C. 1517, 2 ¾” x 2”
  • Prayer Book of Catherine of Cleves: C. 1440, 7 ½” x 5 ⅛”


China & Indonesia: Batik of Java

Developed in China as early as the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618)
(video link)

  • Batiks origins can be traced back to Asia, India and Africa. Some say the word is of Malay roots and translates "to write" or "to dot”.
  • Batik is a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to cloth, made either by drawing dots and lines in wax with a spouted tool called a canting, or by printing the resist with a copper stamp called a cap.
  • Batik was practiced in China as early as the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618). These were silk batiks and were traditionally decorated with trees, animals, flute players, hunting scenes and stylized mountains.
  • Indonesia, most particularly the island of Java, is the area where batik has reached the greatest peak of accomplishment. The Dutch brought Indonesian craftsmen to teach the craft to Dutch warders in several factories in Holland from 1835. The Swiss produced imitation batik in the early 1940s.
  • The tradition of making batik can be found in dozens of countries today, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Nigeria; the batik of Indonesia, however, is the best-known. 


Japan: Sumi-e Brush Painting

Developed in China during the Sung dynasty (960-1274 A.D.)
Brought to Japan in the mid-14th Century

Ogawa Ryu - Sumi-e Bamboo Painting for Student Level 1 (3:29)

  • Sumi-e means: ‘Black Ink Painting’
  • Monochrome ink painting first developed in China during the Sung dynasty (960–1274). 
  • In the mid-14th century, Zen Buddhist monks took ink painting to Japan & other parts of Asia (the artists of Japan, Korea and Malaysia learned from the Chinese and then developed their own versions of East Asian brush painting).
  • Emphasis is placed on the beauty of each individual stroke of the brush.
  • The Four Treasures = the tools which are essential to East Asian painting: the ink stick, ink stone, brush and paper.
  • The 4 Basic Brush Strokes = the pulling stroke, pressure stroke, side stroke and smooshing stroke
  • An integral part of the composition is the red seal, which signifies the artist's name. Additional seals may be added to indicate a location or philosophy.


INDONESIA: Shadow Theater

Pre: 10th Century A.D.

Balinese Shadow Theater (5:00)

  • Wayang Kulit: elaborately decorated puppets made from perforated leather
  • Wayang Kruchil: wooden puppets in low relief
  • Wayang Golek; Three dimensional wooden figures manipulated by rods
  • Wayang Wong: Pantomime by live actors


JAPAN: Kofun Culture

250 - 552 A.D.

  • Highly organized aristocratic society, able to command huge numbers of workers & large region
  • This period was characterized by large earthen key-hole shaped burial mounds (kofun) surrounded by moats, some Kofun are as large as the Pyramids at Giza
  • Haniwa SculptureJapanese Haniwa warrior in keiko armor (5:02)


CHINA: Emperor Qin’s Terracotta Army

228 - 210 B.C.E.

Discoveries in Chinese Archaeology (4:17)

  • Emperor Qin ordered work to start on his mausoleum shortly after taking the throne (he died in 270 BC and work halted)
  • Over 700,000 workers involved
  • Discovered in 1974
  • Four Pits: 1. 6,000 Soldiers, 2. Cavalry & Infantry, 3. Officers & Chariots, 4. Empty


JAPAN: Yayoi Culture

4th Century B.C.E. - 3rd Century A.D.

  • Created pottery with clean, functional shapes using coil method with surface smoothed and clay slip added to seal
  • Pottery at this time was used for storage, cooking and offerings (preference for imperfect, natural style)
  • Metallurgy developed during this time - bronze and iron used to make weapons, armor, tools and bells (dotaku)


Imperial Rome

27 B.C.E. - 476 A.D.
(video link)

  • Powerful Army
  • Advanced city planning - plumbing, dams, aqueducts, roads
  • Acknowledged & adopted previous cultures
  • Over-extended & infighting


Greek Architecture

5th Century B.C.E.

The Classical Orders: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian (video link)

The Parthenon

  • All horizontal architectural elements arch slightly in the center. This means there are no true straight horizontal lines in the Parthenon. These architectural refinements made the Parthenon look alive and flawless to the human eye. This curvature is repeated in Nashville's Parthenon.
  • Nashville's Parthenon: brick, stone, structural reinforced concrete, and cast concrete aggregate; 10 years to build, 1921-1931
  • Parthenon in Athens: Pentelic marble; 10 years to construct the building, 447-438 B.C.
  • East Pediment sculptures: including Helios, Horses and Dionysus (video link)


Ancient Near East: Standard Of Ur

2,600-2,400 B.C.E.
(video link)


Egyptian Art

3,000 B.C.E. to 30 A.D.
(video link)

  • Saqqara (First True Pyramid) ca 27th Century BCE
  • Pyramids at Giza ca 2560 BCE.
  • Sphinx at Giza: ca 2,500 BCE, Lion with head of Egyptian King, 240 feet long, 66 feet high, “Very embodiment of antiquity and of mystery itself.”
  • Hatshepsut: ca. 1,450 BCE, daughter of Thutmose I, crowned herself pharaoh, successful, booming economy, many public works projects (video link)
  • Nefertiti: ca. 1,350 BCE, created at time of artistic and cultural shift, Akhenaten (shift to monotheism with he and his wife sole recipients of divine wisdom), new ideal of beauty to go with new religion
  • Tutankhamun: ca. 1,300 BCE, re-established religions from before Akhenaten’s reign, crowned with only six years old and died at eighteen, tomb found in 1922
  • Ramses II: ca. 1250 BC, reigned after his father (Ramses I), 30 years into reign, ritually transformed into a god during Sed festival


Sumeria: Cylinder Seals

3,500 B.C.E.

  • WHERE: Sumeria (Modern day Iraq)
  • WHY: Religious / Administrative Tool / Ownership / Jewelry


Paleolithic Cave Paintings

30,000-15,000 B.C.E.

The oldest known representational imagery comes from the Aurignacian culture of the Upper Paleolithic period (Paleolithic means old stone age). Archeological discoveries across a broad swath of Europe (especially Southern France, Northern Spain, and Swabia, in Germany) include over two hundred caves with spectacular Aurignacian paintings, drawings and sculpture that are among the earliest undisputed examples of representational image-making. (resource link)

  • Archeologists believe that the paintings discovered in the cave at Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc in France, are more than 30,000 years old. 
  • The images found at Lascaux and Altamira are more recent, dating to approximately 15,000 B.C.E. (video link)
  • The paintings at Pech Merle date to both 25,000 and 15,000 B.C.E.






5 elements of shape: straight line, curved line, angled line, circle, and dot.

Color Theory: is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of specific colors

  • Primary Colors: there are 3 primary colors (red, blue and yellow) that cannot be created through the combination of any other colors (the roots of all other colors) 
  • Secondary Colors: there are 3 secondary colors (orange, green and purple) which are the combinations of two primary colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel
  • Tertiary Colors: there are 6 tertiary colors (magenta, vermilion, amber, chartreuse, teal, and violet) which are created when one primary color is mixed with one of its nearest secondary colors

Complementary Colors: colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are considered to be complementary colors (example: red and green). The high contrast of complementary colors creates a vibrant look especially when used at full saturation. Complementary colors are tricky to use in large doses, but work well when you want something to stand out.

Fresco painting: method of painting water-based pigments on freshly applied plaster, usually on wall surfaces. The colours, which are made by grinding dry-powder pigments in pure water, dry and set with the plaster to become a permanent part of the wall. Fresco painting is ideal for making murals because it lends itself to a monumental style, is durable, and has a matte surface. 

Hue: the name we give to a color (red, blue, etc.). / one of the 3 properties of color

Intensity: refers to the strength/vividness of the color, for example "royal" blue or "dull" gray / one of the 3 properties of color

Monochromatic color schemes: derived from a single base hue and extended using its shades, tones and tints (tints are achieved by adding white and shades and tones are achieved by adding a darker color, grey or black).

Oil painting: a medium consisting of pigments suspended in drying oils. First created during the Renaissance. Slower drying and a more stable alternative to Tempera paints..

Perspective: is the technique used to represent three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface (a piece of paper or canvas ) in a way that looks natural and realistic. Perspective is used to create an illusion of space and depth on a flat surface (or the picture plane). There are three basic types of perspective: one-point, two-point, and three-point. The one/two/three refers to the number of vanishing points used to create the perspective illusion.


  • Linear perspective: a system of creating an illusion of depth on a flat surface. All parallel lines (orthogonals) in a painting or drawing using this system converge in a single vanishing point on the composition’s horizon line. At the beginning of the Italian Renaissance, early in the 15th century, the mathematical laws of perspective were discovered by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi, who worked out some of the basic principles, including the concept of the vanishing point, which had been known to the Greeks and Romans but had been lost. 
  • Foreshortening: method of rendering a specific object or figure in a picture in depth. The artist records, in varying degrees, the distortion that is seen by the eye when an object or figure is viewed at a distance or at an unusual angle. In a photograph of a recumbent figure positioned so that the feet are nearest the camera, for instance, the feet will seem unnaturally large and those body parts at a distance, such as the head, unnaturally small. 
  • One-point perspective: contains only one vanishing point on the horizon line. This type of perspective is typically used for images of roads, railway tracks, hallways, or buildings viewed so that the front is directly facing the viewer.
  • Two-point perspective (is the most commonly used): one vanishing point on either side, is used when the corner of a building is facing you.
  • Three-point perspective: (consisting of three vanishing points), is used when your subject is viewed from above or below and therefore the effects of perspective occur in three directions.

Pigment: Any of a group of compounds that are intensely coloured and are used to colour other materials. Pigments are insoluble and are applied not as solutions but as finely ground solid particles mixed with a liquid. In general, the same pigments are employed in oil- and water-based paints, printing inks, and plastics. Pigments may be organic (i.e., contain carbon) or inorganic. Organic pigments made from natural sources have been used for centuries, but most pigments used today are either inorganic or synthetic organic.

Tempera Painting: painting executed with pigment ground in a water-miscible medium. The word tempera originally came from the verb temper, “to bring to a desired consistency.” Dry pigments are made usable by “tempering” them with a binding and adhesive vehicle. True tempera is made by mixture with the yolk of fresh eggs, although manuscript illuminators often used egg white and some easel painters added the whole egg. 

Value: meaning a color's lightness or darkness (shade and tint are in reference to value changes in colors) / one of the 3 properties of color