Art History Timeline Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Teach your students about art history with this helpful lesson plan. They will study a text lesson, take a related quiz about artists and art movements, as well as participate in an interesting hands-on activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson on art history, your students will be able to:

  • Define an art movement and name at least one artist from each movement
  • Explain the state of art in both the prehistoric and medieval time periods
  • Recap over a dozen types of art movements since the Baroque era


1-1.5 hours


  • Copies of the text lesson Art Movements: Definition & Timelines along with the related lesson quiz
  • Internet access
  • Photos of famous works of art (50-100 prepared in advance of class) along with two separate sets of matching index cards--one set featuring the name of the correct artist and one set featuring the correct art movement

Curriculum Standards

Please note that each state has different standards for art. Please consult your state's standards to ensure proper alignment.


  • Let your students know they will be studying art history.
  • Ask them if anyone has studied the topic previously, has a favorite artist or art movement, or has even recently visited an art museum.
  • Pass out copies of the text lesson, Art Movements: Definition & Timeline, one per student.
  • Read the introduction and the initial sections titled 'Prehistoric to Medieval (3000 B.C. to 1150 A.D.).' and 'Art Goes to Church (1150-1600 A.D.).' Ask your students:
    • How would you analyze the ways changes in the art world typically occur?
    • How would you define an art movement, and can you name two famous innovative works?
    • How would you create in your mind's eye the way you would describe early prehistoric art located in southwestern France?
    • How would you evaluate the ways medieval art and architecture set the stage for Renaissance art and architecture?
    • How would you describe da Vinci's Renaissance art and that of other artists, and how did benefactors play roles in the development of this artwork?
  • Next, read the section 'A Bit More Historical (1600-1880 A.D.).' Ask students:
    • How did Baroque art come to prominence, how would you define it, and who were two legends of the art form?
    • What did history paintings depict, and who was a famous artist of this style of art?
  • Now, read the section 'Rise of the Isms (1880-1931).' Ask:
    • Can you imagine how you would differentiate between Impressionism and Post-Impression?
    • Who was a famous Impressionist, and who was a famous Post-Impressionist?
    • Can you compare and contrast the four differing art styles of Expressionism, Cubism, Fauvism, and Symbolism, and name a famous artist from each style?
    • How did Regionalism differ from the previously mentioned styles, and who was a proponent of the art form?
  • Next, read the section 'Art between Wars (1916-1945).' Ask:
    • Can you compare and contrast the five differing styles of de Stijl, Constructivism, Bauhaus, Dada, and Surrealism, and again give an example of an artist from each style?
  • Now, read the two sections 'After World War II (1945-1975)' and 'Contemporary Art (1975-Today).' Ask:
    • Can you compare and contrast the four differing art styles of Abstract Expressionism, Color Field Painting, Kinetic Art, and Pop Art, and once more give an example of each style?
    • How would you define any art movements from 1975 onward, and in what ways have computers and photo-editing changed the art landscape?
  • Finally, read the 'Lesson Summary' section, and recap the lesson in its entirety.
    • Have your students take the lesson quiz to determine their knowledge of this subject matter.

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