These works of art cover a span of more than 100 years and encompass such varied media as painting, sculpture, and photography. During the century they frame, some of the most momentous events in modern history—including World Wars I and II, The Great Migration, and the invention of television—re-shaped nations and societies worldwide and affected how artists thought about and made art.
Though they are inevitably influenced by their time and place, artists are also driven by a combination of many different, and distinctly individual, inspirations. Some aim to break with tradition entirely, finding new ways to use media like paint or clay, or incorporating previously unheard-of materials into their work. A number of these works of art differed so radically from previous and contemporaneous ones that they are considered avant-garde. Other artists use their work to engage with or critique the society in which they live and the forces—both historical and current—by which it is shaped. They see their art as a catalyst for reflection, conversation, and varied responses.
All of these works share at least one thing in common: They are part of the Art History curriculum and appear on the Advanced Placement Art History exam administered to high-school students in the United States. The information and images here offer an introduction to some of the significant artists and objects in modern and contemporary art—for test-takers, teachers, and lifelong learners alike.