Art Glossary
Meaning of Terms Used in Visual Arts.

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A-Z Glossary of Art Terms

Brief explanation of terminology used in the theory and practice of art.

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J-L - M - N - O - PQ - R - S - T - U-Z




Aboriginal Rock Art
Usually refers to Australian rock painting and petroglyphs.
Abstract art
Ill-defined and very widely used term which in its most general sense describes any art in which form and colour are stressed at the expense, or in the absence of, a representational image. Also known as concrete art or non-objective art.

Academic art
Literally, belonging to an Academy of art. Also: derogatory term meaning conventional, stereotyped, derivative.
Acrylic Painting
Uses a fast-drying, synthetic, water soluble paint that can be used on most surfaces. Made from colour pigments and a synthetic plastic binder, acrylic paint looks like oil and can be used in a variety of painting techniques.
Aegean Art
From various cultures around the eastern Mediterranean from c.2800 BCE to 1400 BCE, including Cycladic, Minoan (from Crete), and Mycenean.
Aerial perspective
A way of suggesting the far distance in a landscape by using paler colours (sometimes tinged with blue), less pronounced tones, and vaguer forms in those areas that are farthest from the viewer. By contrast objects in the foreground are painted in sharply outlined, brilliant, and warm colours, and background objects are shown in muted, cooler colours.
Philosophy applied to art, which attempts to formulate criteria for the understanding of the aesthetic (rather than utilitarian) qualities of art.
African Art
Guide to classical African sculpture, religious and tribal artworks and more.
Instrument for spraying paint, propelled by compressed air. Invented in 1893, it has been much used by commercial artists, whether for fine lines, large areas, or subtle gradations of colour and tone.
In Antiquity, a carbonate of lime used in Egyptian sculpture, especially for small portable pieces. Also: modern alabaster, a lime sulfate which can be highly polished but is easily scratched, popular in 14th-century Europe for tomb effigies.
Alla prima
Technique, commonly used in painting since the 19th century, whereby an artist completes a painting in one session without having provided layers of underpainting.
An allegory is the description of a subject in the guise of another subject. An allegorical painting might include figures emblematic of different emotional states of mind, for example envy or love, or personifying other abstract concepts, for example sight, glory, or beauty. These are called allegorical figures. The interpretation of an allegory therefore depends first on the identification of such figures, but even then the meaning can remain elusive.
All-over space
Jackson Pollock was the first artist to use all-over space in his "drip" paintings. It refers to paintings where there is no focal point but where everything on the canvas has the same degree of importance.
In Christian church architecture, the picture or decorated screen behind the altar. It may consist of a single painting or an elaborate group of hinged panels.
Ancient Art
Umbrella term encompassing early forms of creative expression from ancient Mediterranean civilizations, like Sumerian, Egyptian, Minoan, Mycenean, Persian.
Animalier (Animal Artist)
Term was originally used to describe the 19th-century school of French bronze sculptors who specialized in small animal figures. It has since been extended to embrace animal painters, such as Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-73), best-known for his portraits of dogs.
Animal style
Type of nomad art originating with the Celts in the 7th century BCE in southern Russia and the Caucasus; it was characterized by the predominance of animal motifs (zoomorphs), frequently distorted, ornamenting all kinds of portable objects including metalwork, textiles, wood and bone.
Animation Art
The creation of a motion picture from a series of still drawings.
Greek and Roman civilization until the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. Greek and Roman sculpture was admired during the Renaissance as an ideal art, and study of The Antique formed the basis of the curriculum in most art academics.
Applied art
The designing and decorating of functional objects or materials to give them aesthetic appeal, e.g. printing type, ceramics, glass, furniture, metal work and textiles. The term is frequently used to differentiate this type of work from the fine arts (painting, drawing, sculpture) whose value is primarily aesthetic.
Textile decoration in which cut fabric shapes are stitched to a fabric ground as a design.
Aquatint etching
Process whereby acid is allowed to bite into a copper plate prepared with resin which is then inked and printed.
Motif based on interlaced plant forms, found in the fine and decorative arts, in architecture, and especially typical of Islamic design.
Archaic Greek art
Greek art of the mid 12th century BCE to c.480 BCE; one of four convenient divisions of Greek art, the others being Geometric, Classical and Hellenistic.
Science or art of building. Also: the structure or style of what is built. See Architecture: History/Styles.
Framework or skeleton on which a sculptor molds his clay.
Armory Show
International exhibition of modern art held in New York in 1913 in the 69th Regiment Armory building. Exhibits included the work of the more Avant-Garde US artists and of the School of Paris. The exhibition was enormously popular and marked the birth of a real interest in modern art in 20th-century America.
A form of creative expression. For explanation, see: Definition and Meaning of Art. For forms and categories, see: Types of Art.
Art Brut
A term used to describe drawings, paintings and any other form of art done by untrained or amatuer artists. Could be applied to drawings done by children, people who are mentally ill or anyone who is does not describe themselves as an "artist" or who are not painting commercially.
Art Critics
Commentators and analysts of the visual arts.
Art Evaluation
How to judge the aesthetics, craftsmanship and artistic technique of a painting.
Art Schools
The term usually refers to tertiary colleges offering Bachelor of Fine Arts Degrees (BFA), Bachelor of Design Degrees (BDes), as well as BAs in applied art subjects.
Artifact (or artefact)
Any object of human workmanship. Also: (archeology) an object of prehistoric or aboriginal art, as distinguished from a similar but naturally occurring object.
Arts and Crafts Movement
Mid-19th-century artistic movement in England, inspired by John Ruskin and William Morris; it attempted to raise the standards of design and craftsmanship in the applied arts, and to reassert the craftsman's individuality in the face of increasing mechanization.
Asian Art
Architectures, arts and crafts from China, Japan, Korea, SE Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
Assemblage Art
Modern form consisting of objects collected and assembled together; the components are pre-formed, not made by the artist, and not intended originally as "art material".
Automatism in Art
Drawing and painting method associated with Surrealism in which the artist does not consciously create but doodles, allowing the subconscious mind and virtually uncontrolled movement of the hand to produce an image.
Artists whose work is ahead of that of most of their contemporaries; unconventional, experimental, innovative. Also descriptive of the work produced by such artists.

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Mythological scene popular in paintings of the Renaissance and 17th century depicting the revels of Bacchus, Roman god of wine.
Scene in painting which provides setting for main figures or design; sometimes used synonymously with ground.
Group of painters who specialized in bambocciate (Fr. bambochades): low-life and peasant scenes, popular in the Netherlands and Italy in the 17th century. The name derives from Pieter van Laer (1592-1642), a Dutch painter nicknamed "Il Bamboccio" ("Big Baby").
Banketjea or banquet piece
Banketjea is a Dutch word which means "little banquet". A Banketjea is the name given to a still life painting which features a range of luxury foods and expensive serving pieces.
Baroque classicism
classical style - exemplified in the paintings of Nicolas Poussin and the architecture of Carlo Fontana which flourished during the Baroque period.
Form of sculpting characterized by only a slight projection from the surrounding surface.
An artform which employs wax resistant designs on dyed textile fabrics.
A highly influential school (1919-33) of avant-garde design, founded by Walter Gropius (1883-1969) in Weimar. Synonymous with modernist architecture and arts & crafts.
Bayeux Tapestry
Anglo-Saxon embroidery depicting the Norman Conquest in 1066.
Biennale (Europe), Biennial (America)
Arts events held every two years: see: Best Contemporary Art Festivals.
Unglazed white porcelain, popular in Europe from the mid 17th century.
Black-figure technique
Style of decoration of ancient Greek ceramics, chiefly of 6th-century BCE Corinth. Designs were painted on the object in black metal oxide paint and then incised through to the reddish clay.
Blocking in
Before starting a painting, an artist may 'block-in' the composition of the painting using rough outlines or geometric shapes to show him how everything fits on the canvas. Virtually all portrait painters use this 'blocking in' method.
Body Art
A type of contemporary art in which the artist's body is the "canvas".
Body colour
Watercolour made opaque by mixing with white. Also: term used in painting to describe solid, definitive areas of colour which are then completed or modified with scumbles and glazes.
Body Painting
Ancient art of decorating the body.
Alloy of copper and tin, used for cast sculpture. Bronze sculpture is made from this alloy. Hence bronzist, a maker of bronze sculpture, plaques, etc.
Implement for applying paint, usually of hog or sable hair set in a wooden handle.
Brush stroke
The individual mark made by each application of paint with a BRUSH, usually retaining the mark of the separate brush hairs.
General term for manner or style in which paint is applied, and often considered by art historians as an identifying characteristic of a particular artist's work.
Buon fresco, see: fresco.
Metal tool used for engraving.
Portrait sculpture showing the sitter's head and shoulders only. See Portrait Busts.
Byzantine Art
Of the eastern Roman Empire centred on Constantinople, formerly Byzantium, from the 4th century AD. At various times it embraced both Classical Greek realism and stylized, hieratic, Oriental art.

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Cabinet picture
small or medium-sized painting executed at an easel, and designed for collectors, especially popular from the 17th century; see Easel Picture.
The Oriental fine art of drawing/writing.
Camera obscura (camera ottica)
device that uses a lens to project a reduced image of an object on to a flat surface so that the outline may be traced. Popular with artists from the Renaissance to the 18th century.
The fabric support used for an oil or acrylic painting, usually made of linen or cotton, stretched tightly and tacked onto a wooden frame. Linen is regarded as superior to heavy cotton in a canvas.
Tendency to follow the style of Caravaggio (1571-1610), exhibited by the Caravaggisti (17th-century painters working in Rome), who made particularly dramatic use of chiaroscuro.
Painting or drawing, usually a portrait, that exaggerates features for humorous or satirical effect.
Carolingian art
European art of the period covered by the reign of Charlemagne (CE 768-814) and his successors until CE 900; usually regarded as the foundation of medieval art.
Carpet page
In manuscript illumination, a page totally filled with decorative design.
Full-sized drawing for transferring design to painting, mural, or tapestry. Also: comic drawing; caricature.
The duplication of a model in metal or plaster by means of a mold; the model thus formed is a cast.
Catholic Art
Usually refers to the style of Catholic Counter-Reformation Art (c.1560-1700) which followed the Protestant Reformation.
Chinese porcelain or stoneware with a distinctive gray-green glaze.
Celtic Art
Hallstatt and La Tene styles of metalwork, and abstract designs characterized by knots, spirals and interlace patterns.
The general term used since the 19th century for pottery and porcelain, i.e. fired clay.
The common name for calcium carbonate, which is found as a natural deposit all over the world, and is composed of the remains of tiny crustaceans. Traditionally used in painting and drawing.
Champleve enamel
Decorated metal, usually copper, especially popular in Europe from the 11th century to the 14th; a hollowed-out pattern in the metal was filled with coloured glass pastes and the whole object fired, thus fusing glass to metal. (Compare Cloisonne enamel.)
Form of carbon used for drawing.
The contrasting use of light and shadow. artists who are famed for the use of chiaroscuro include Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Leonardo used chiaroscuro to enhance the three-dimensionality of his figures, Caravaggio used it for drama, and Rembrandt for both reasons.
Chinese Art
One of the most ancient artistic traditions, noted for its calligraphic, ink-and-wash, ceramic and bronze artworks. See: Chinese Pottery.
Term for a European style of art applied to furniture, ceramics, interior design, based on imaginary pseudo-Chinese motifs.
Chip carving
Early primitive carved decoration of Northern European oak furniture, executed with a chisel and gouge, until about the 16th century.
A monogram (the Sacred Monogram) formed by the first two letters - X and P (chi and rho) - of the Greek word for Christ. In religious art it may refer to the Resurrection of Christ.
Christian Art
Church architecture, painting, sculpture or decorative art associated with a Christian message.
Italian for the 16th century. Traditionally refers to Italian fine art (1500-1600).
Cire perdue (Fr."lost wax")
Casting process used in bronze sculpture.
Painting or drawing of city scenery.
The quality of classic or classical art. The term is applied in particular to the type of art that was the antithesis of Romanticism during the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was held to represent the virtues of restraint and harmony, in contrast to dramatic individual expression.
Cloisonne enamel
Decorated metal in which a design of metal strips is applied and the compartments (cloisons) formed are filled with coloured glass pastes. (Compare Champleve enamel.)
Collage Art ("pasting")
Technique originating with Cubism in which paper, photographs, and other everyday materials were pasted on to a support, and sometimes also painted.
Colonial Art of America
17th/18th century portraiture, miniatures, architecture, furniture-making and crafts in America. For a comparison, see: Australian Colonial Painting (c.1780-1880).
Renaissance term for colouring - mastery of colour in painting.
Term applied to various periods of painting, e.g. 16th-century Venetian, in which colour was emphasized, rather than drawing. "colourist" is an artist who specializes in, or is famed for, his/her use of colour.
For a general guide, see: Colour in Painting.
Colour wheel
A diagrammatic chart showing the placement of colors in relationship to each other. For more details, see: Colour Theory in Painting.
Composition, of a painting
Composition describes the complete work of art, and in particular the way that all its elements unite in an overall effect. Compositional elements in a painting might include: size of canvas, subject matter, focal points of the picture (if any), colour scheme, tonal warmth and contrasts, draughtsmanship, representation and meaning, among others.
Computer Art
Visual images either computer-generated or computer-controlled using software or hardware tools. Also referred to as Digital art.
Conceptualism/Conceptual Art
Form in which the concepts and ideas are more important than tangible, concrete works of art.
Concrete Art
Term coined in 1930 when Theo van Doesburg became editor of the magazine art Concret; it is sometimes used as a synonym for abstract art, though the emphasis is not just on geometric or abstract form, but on structure and organization in both design and execution.
Conte crayon
Proprietary manufactured chalk.
Contemporary art
A rather loose term, used by museums to describe post-war art, and by art critics to refer to art since 1970.
Content, of a painting
This traditionally refers to the message contained and communicated by the work of art, embracing its emotional, intellectual, symbolic, and narrative content.
Contrapposto ("opposite", "anti-thesis", "placed against")
word used in sculpture, referring to the posing of human form so that head and shoulders are twisted in a different direction from hips and legs.
A category embracing most decorative arts.
Design or patternwork (eg. Etruscan/Celtic interlace) based on pattern of curved lines; sinuous.
Cycladic art
type of Aegean art from the Cyclades - a group of Greek islands - c.2800 BCE to 1100 BCE.

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Dark Ages
period of the Middle Ages from c.5th century CE to 10th century, considered a phase in which philosophy and the arts were ignored or actively hindered.
Decalcomania (decalcomanie)
American term for lithography.
Decorative art
Collective name for art forms like ceramics, tapestries, enamelling, stained glass, metalwork, paper art, textiles, and others, which are deemed to be ornamental or decorative, rather than intellectual or spiritual. See also: French Decorative Arts (c.1640-1792).
Victorian craft which involves the cutting out of motifs from paper, gluing them to a surface and layering with varnish to give a completely smooth finish.
Degenerate art ("Entartete Kunst")
Nazi propaganda term used from c.1937 for works of modern art disapproved of by the party.
Design (artistic)
The plan involved in making something according to a set of aesthetics.
Pair of painted or sculptured panels hinged or joined together; especially popular for devotional pictures in the Middle Ages; see altarpiece.
Direct carving
Method of stone sculpture where form is carved immediately out of the block, and not transferred from a model.
Literally, "drawing" or "design", but which during the Renaissance acquired a broader meaning of overall concept.
Architectural feature found on top of building like the Pantheon in Rome, the Cathedral in Florence (Brunelleschi), Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome (Michelangelo and others), St Paul's Cathedral in London (Christopher Wren) and the Pantheon in Paris, designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot (1713-80).
Refers to the monochrome use of pencil, charcoal, pen, ink, or similar mediums on paper, card or other support, producing linework or a linear quality rather than mass. When used of a painting, it refers more specifically to the artist's method of representing form by these means, rather than by the use of colour and paint.
Copper engraving technique.

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pottery made from red or white clay, fired in a kiln at less than 1200 degrees Cent.
An upright support (typically a tripod) employed for holding an artist's canvas while it is being painted.
Easel painting (or picture)
small or medium-sized painting executed at an easel. These were usually intended for collectors and conoisseurs, although the term may also be used generally for any portable painting, as opposed to mural painting.
Ecce homo (Latin, "Behold the man")
the pictorial representation of Christ's presentation to the people by Pontius Pilate before the Crucifixion.
to mould, stamp, or carve a surface to produce a design in relief.
the process of fusing a vitreous substance (usually lead/potash glass) to metal at high temperature (about 800 degrees Cent) - as used in decorative metalwork and goldsmithing; see Cloisonne and Champleve.
Encaustic Painting
ancient technique of painting with wax and pigments fused by heat.
the technique of incising lines on wood, metal etc. Also: the impression made from the engraved block.
process in which the design is drawn on a metal plate through a wax ground; the design is cut into the plate with acid, and printed. Also: a print produced by this method.
Ethnographic art
art inspired by a particular racial culture, especially of the primitive type.
inert pigment used to bulk a paint or to lower the tinctorial strength of another pigment.

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Fabergé Easter Eggs
Objects of precious jewellery made by Russian firm of fin de siecle goldsmiths and jewellers.

type of tin-glazed earthenware, often used for architectural purposes. Also: archeological term for a type of ancient pottery in Egypt, comprising wares of glazed powdered quartz.
Figurative art
synonym for representational art.
Figure drawing (and figure painting)
Drawing or painting in which the human figure predominates, usually full length.
small model or sculpture of the human figure, like prehistoric Venus Figurines, such as Venus of Willendorf.
Fine art
art whose value is considered to be aesthetic rather than functional, i.e. architecture, sculpture, painting and drawing, and the graphic arts. Compare applied art and decorative art.
Flower painting
still-life painting of flowers, associated chiefly with Oriental art and the Dutch painters of the 17th century.
Folk art
Traditional art of peasant societies, which includes utilitarian, decorative and applied arts and crafts.
Refers to the area of the picture space closest to the viewer, immediately behind the picture plane. The next distant area is the middleground; the most distant is the background.
the use of the laws of perspective in art to make an individual form appear three dimensional.
Describes the elements in a work of art which are independent of the emotional or interpretative significance of the work: for example, the medium, scale, shape, colour, dimensions, line, mass, texture, and their mutual relationships.
the tendency to adhere to conventional forms at the expense of the subject matter.
Found Objects
items that are found, not made by the artist, and then defined and displayed as a work of art - also known as an "objets trouves" - and associated with Surrealism and Dada.
Fresco Painting
Mural painting on fresh plaster; sometimes called buon fresco ("true fresco") to distinguish it from painting "a secco", on dried plaster.
Fresco Secco
misleading term synonymous with painting "a secco".
Frottage (Fr. "rubbing") the technique of placing paper over textured objects or surfaces and rubbing with a wax crayon or graphite, to produce an image. Invented by Max Ernst.
the artistic theory that form should be determined by function, especially in architecture and the decorative arts, and that this will automatically produce objects that are aesthetically pleasing.

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Type of picture featuring an everyday scene containing human subjects.
Geometric Style
Greek style of decoration, flourishing from c.900 to c.725 BCE, based on linear and angular shapes.
Georgian art
refers to the styles prevalent through the reigns of the four King Georges in Britain from 1714 to 1830. Usually refers to architecture, furniture, silver and the like, rather than painting.
generally used for any mixture of an inert white pigment with glue, used as a ground for painting; strictly, a mixture in which the inert pigment is calcium sulfate. Gesso grosso is coarse gesso made from sifted plaster of Paris, used for the preliminary ground layer in medieval Italian panel paintings. Gesso sottile is fine crystalline gypsum, made by slaking plaster of Paris in excess water. Gesso can also be built up or molded into relief designs, or carved.
Gestural painting
a term that originally came into use to describe the painting of the abstract Expressionist artists Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Hans Hofmann and others. What they had in common was the application of paint in free sweeping gestures with the brush.
Giclee Prints
Fine art printing process using inkjet printers.
the area of work in mural or mosaic that could be finished in one day. In fresco painting, it refers to the area of intonaco applied each day. In true fresco, the joins of the giornate are usually visible.
Glass Painting
technique of decorating glass, not very clearly distinguished from glass enameling, although it may be more transparent and smoother. Early glass painting was not fired, and therefore not permanent.
transparent layer of paint applied over another; light passes through and is reflected back, modifying or intensifying the underlayer. Also: vitreous layer made from silica, applied to pottery as decoration or to make it water-tight.
Goldsmithing (Goldsmithery)
The applied art or craft of metalworking in gold and silver.
opaque watercolour paint. Also: a work executed in gouache medium.
Graffiti Art
a contemporary artform which first appeared in Philadelphia and New York during the late 1960s/early1970s.
Grand Tour
A cultural trip around Europe, taking in the painting, sculpture and architecture of Paris, Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples, Vienna and other important centres of classical, Renaissance and Baroque art.
Graphic design
Derived from the German word graphik. Describes the applied art of formulating/arranging image/text to communicate a message. It can be applied in any media, such as print, digital media, animation, packaging, and signs. See also: Graphic Art.
Grattage ("scraping")
Technique used by 20th-century artists, like Max Ernst (1891-1976), in which an upper layer of paint is partially scraped away to reveal the contrasting under-layer.
Greek Art
The foundation of Western painting and sculpture in general and Renaissance art in particular.
Greek Sculpture
Sculptors from ancient Greece pioneered the development of statues and reliefs.
Greek vases
range of pots of different sizes, used for different purposes, most of which were often decorated if not painted. The two main styles were black-figure and red-figure techniques.
technique of monochrome painting in shades of gray, used as underpainting or to imitate the effect of relief.
layer of preparation on a support to receive paint. Also: in etching, the acid-resistant material spread over the metal plate before the design is etched. Also: in pottery, the clay forming the body of a vessel on which a design is executed.

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The first identifiable continental culture and art-style of the Celts (c.600-450 BCE). Followed by La Tene Celtic culture.
Hand Stencils
Prehistoric negative images of hands (made by spray-painting through a tube): c.f. positive handprints.
Type of Performance art. Spontaneous artistic event or display.
drawing technique that uses closely spaced parallel lines to indicate toned areas. When crossed by other lines in the opposite direction it is known as cross-hatching.
Haut-relief (Alto-rilievo, high relief)
Form of sculptural relief characterized by a prominent projection from the surrounding surface.
Greek culture of the 11th century BCE to 323 BCE.
Greek culture after Alexander the Great (from 323 BCE) to the late 1st century BCE.
Hierarchy of the Genres
The ranking system promulgated by the fine arts academies which comprised five painting-genres. (1) History painting ("istoria", narrative compositions); (2) Portraiture (individual, group of self-portraits); (3) Genre-Painting (everyday scenes featuring human subjects); (4) Landscape Painting (scenic view is paramount: human content, merely illustrative); (5) Still Life (arrangements of domestic objects).
Hellenistic Art
describes Greek art from the death of Alexander the Great (323 BCE) to Rome's defeat of Greece (c.27 BCE).
style in which certain fixed types, often sacred, are repeated, e.g. in Egyptian or Byzantine art. It may also be applied to any art that uses severe, rigid figures rather than naturalistic ones.
pictorial form of writing, as used by the Egyptians.
High art
art that strives to attain the highest aesthetic and moral qualities in both content and expression.
architecture or sculpture decorated with narrative subjects. A historiated initial is an initial in an illuminated manuscript containing a narrative scene.
History of Art
Guide to the origins, evolution and development of the fine and visual arts.
History of Art Timeline
Chronological list of dates about the evolution of painting, sculpture and pottery.
History Painting
painting whose subject is some significant historical event, preferably Classical, mythological, actual or literary. From the 16th century to the 19th, history painting was more highly esteemed than other forms of painting, especially by the academies.
Holocaust Art
Includes Nazi propaganda works, images created by victims and postwar concentration camp memorials of the Shoah.
How to Appreciate Paintings
Explains how to analyse painterly skills and narrative content.

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Ice Sculpture
a contemporary form of plastic art which uses blocks of ice as material.
Icons (Icon Painting) (Greek, "image", "portrait")
in Byzantine, Greek and Russian Orthodox church art, the representation of Christ or the Virgin, or saints, in mosaic or painting; tending to be stereotyped or hieratic; hence iconic.
recognizable emblematic motifs and symbols in works of art.
Ideal art
Painting of various periods that is based on the artist's conception rather than visual perception, e.g. the art of the High Renaissance, or of 17th-century classicism.
The decoration of manuscript texts which may have started from the simple addition of minium to the script, the general part being written in black. From this grew quite extraordinary elaboration, fantastic interwoven strap patterns, decorative motifes, zoomorphic imagery, plant forms. miniature portraits of religious figures. It was one of the most important arts of the Middle Ages. Wherever there were monasteries the art seems to have been practised. The monastic scribe worked about six hours a day. After he had finished the work was proof-read. Then the sheets went to a rubricator who put in titles and headlines, then to the illuminator. The last worked miracles of miniature presentation with the materials at his command. The oldest known illumination is an Egyptian papyrus, the 'Book of the Dead'. The Greeks and Romans produced some work, but very little survives. The Byzantine manuscripts contain some perfect examples. Fourteenth-century Persian editions of the Koran, exquisite delicate designs. Among the famed European manuscripts are the 'Book of Hours' of the Duc de Berry produced by the Limbourg brothers (1410-13), and 'The Book of Kells', 8th century, now in Trinity College Library, Dublin. The manuscripts were worked on vellum, using not only colours, but also gold-leaf and other metals, tiny fragments of precious and semi-precious stones and raising paste.
Illuminated Manuscripts
Handwritten book on vellum or parchment, usually medieval, decorated with miniature painting, borders, and decorative capital letters; hence illumination. Exemplars: Book of Kells, Lindisfarne Gospels, Book of Durrow.
The use of optical and perspectival principles to create the illusion of painted objects being three dimensional; hence illusionist, illusionistic.
A method of enhancing written text by providing an illustration (pictorial explanation) of the written words.
Thick mass of paint or pastel; hence impasted, or impastoed.
India Ink
In fine art, a drawing ink made from a black pigment consisting of lampblack and glue.
Ink and Wash Painting
Japanese and Chinese painting technique, using ink in the same way as watercolour.
Installation Art
This typically employs mixed media (eg. sculpture and video), which typically fills an entire space, such as a room or gallery. It is commonly site-specific.
decoration produced by cutting into a surface, used in engraving, etching, gem carving.
the decoration of wood with inlay work, especially in 15th-century Italy.
a style of genre-painting perfected by Dutch Realists of the later 17th century; later taken up by Danish artists like Peter Vilhelm Ilsted (1861-33) and Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916).
International Gothic
since the 19th century, used to describe the style of art prevalent from c.1375 to 1425, balanced midway between naturalistic and idealistic values and characterized by delicate and rich colouring.
the smooth layer of lime plaster that receives the paint in fresco painting.
Irish School
For details, see: Irish Painting and Irish Sculpture.
Islamic Art
Includes architecture, pottery, faience mosaics, lustre-ware, relief sculpture, drawing, painting, calligraphy, manuscript illumination, textile design, metalwork, gemstone carving, and other crafts.
Italianate style
in an Italian manner. Also: in architecture, the adaptation of Italian Renaissance palace styles, especially so in America c.1840-65.
Italian Primitives
artists and their works in Italy prior to 1400.
Ivory Carving
Form of sculpture made using animal tusks and teeth, notably from elephants, whales and walruses.

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Jade Carving
sculpture of extremely hard stone, which may be blue, green, white, or brown; highly prized in Chinese art.
Japanese Art
Yamato-e, and Ukiyo-e painting, Buddhist Temple art and Zen ink-painting.
the craze for Japonaiserie - Japanese imports e.g. prints and furniture, brought to Europe in the mid 19th century - and its effect on European painting and decorative art.
Jasper Ware
type of stoneware pottery introduced by Josiah Wedgewood in 1774. Originally pure white but sometimes stained with cobalt oxide to produce "Wedgewood blue".
Jewellery Art
decorative art typically crafted from precious metal (gold, silver, platinum etc.) and gemstones like diamonds, sapphires, rubies, pearls and the like.
Junk Art
A sub-species of "found art", typically sculpture or assemblage, sometimes also called "funk art" or "trash art".


also known as China clay; used in the manufacture of hand-paste porcelain and sometimes in the GROUNDS of paintings. Chemically it is hydrated silicate of aluminium.
Key design
geometrical pattern of repeated horizontal and vertical straight lines, found in ancient Greek and Celtic art.
Kinetic art
most commonly sculptures (eg. mobiles, stabiles) designed to move and thus produce optical effects; first made in the 1920s, but most popular from 1950 onwards.
mass-produced vulgar craftwork articles of the kind manufactured for souvenirs; the word has now become a pejorative term for whatever is thought to be in flamboyant bad taste.
Archaic Greek statue of standing youth (pl. kouroi).
ancient Greek storage vessel; different shapes were used for water and wine.
Kufic script
angular, square type of Arabic script (the more flowing script is NASHKI); sometimes found in decorative Romanesque and Gothic art.


Objects (wood, bamboo, metal and other materials) coated in resinous decorative finish. Speciality of Chinese art.
Land Art (earthworks, environmental art)
A form of contemporary art dating from the 1960s and 70s created in the landscape, either by using natural forms, or by enhancing natural forms with man-made materials. Famous pioneer environmental artists include Robert Smithson, and Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Landscape painting

Composition in which the scenery is the principal subject. Also: scenic areas of a painting or drawing.
Lapis Lazuli
deep-blue semiprecious stone, used for jewellery, and from which the pigment ultramarine is extracted.
La Tene Style
style of decorative art that appeared c.5th century BCE in Europe and was fully developed in Celtic art of the pre-Roman period; the name is derived from a site in Switzerland where metal objects and weapons in this style have been found.
Life drawing
drawing from a live human model.
artistic style that emphasizes lines and contours; hence linearity and linearism.
Linear perspective
method of indicating spatial recession in a picture by placing objects in a series of receding planes; parallel lines receding from the onlooker's view-point will appear to meet at a vanishing point. Pioneers included Renaissance painters Masaccio and Andrea Mantegna.
Line engraving
the art or process of hand-engraving in Intaglio and copper plate, using a Burin. Also: a print taken from such a plate.
Lino cut
print produced by carving a design into a block of linoleum.
printing method in which a design is drawn on stone with a greasy crayon and then inked.
Lost Wax Method, see: Cire Perdue.
Style of light-related 19th century American landscape painting.

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according to the writings of Georgio Vasari (1511-74), the "stylishness" associated with the art of 16th-century Italy, epitomized in the work of Raphael and Michelangelo. Known as Mannerism.
model made on a small scale by a sculptor or a stage-designer as a preliminary three-dimensional "sketch'" for the final work.
Marble Sculpture
Made from limestone. It occurs in various colours, from pure white to black, often veined.
Marine art
painting or drawing of a sea subject.
originally a test piece of work done by the medieval apprentice in order to qualify as a Master of his Guild. The term is now used more freely to mean a work of outstanding importance or quality.
Medieval art
church architecture, illuminated manuscripts, stone sculpture, murals, metalwork and goldsmithery from the period of the Middle Ages (c.450-1450).
the means or material with which an artist expresses himself. In painting, the medium is the liquid in which pigment is mixed and thinned, e.g. linseed oil.
Decorative precious metals art developed in Sumer, Egypt and Crete, before being refined by Celtic, Byzantine and Romanesque artists in Belgium.
method of copper engraving, Also: a print produced by this method.
is a term which describes the artistic imitation of nature, rather than its interpretation: in order words, the showing of things as opposed to the telling of things (diegesis).
Miniature Painting
very small piece of work, such as a Medieval Manuscript Illumination. During the Renaissance and the 18th and 19th centuries, the term was more specifically applied to small portraits painted on ivory.
Minimalist art
modern art that rejects texture, subject, atmosphere, etc and reduces forms and colours to the simplest.
Mixed Media
the combination of different materials in the same work, sometimes including performance.
Kinetic sculpture probably originated by Alexander Calder in 1932; the sculpture is hung from wires so that it is moved by air currents.
Mobiliary Art
Prehistoric portable artworks.
three-dimensional representation of objects.
the theory of modernist art that rejects past styles, and promotes contemporary art as the true reflection of the age, hence modernist.
Modern Art
Traditionally starts with Impressionism, from about 1874 onwards, until the early post-world war II period. Late Pop-art then ushers in contemporary or post-modern art.
printing process that takes an impression from a metal or glass plate, producing only one print of each design, which must then be redrawn.
connected with, or serving as, a monument. Also: used figuratively of paintings and other art forms to mean imposing or massive.
Mosaic Art
designs formed from small pieces of stone, glass, marble, etc.
a repeated distinctive feature in a design.
Mughal art
art and architecture of the courts of the Muslim rulers in India, 1526-1707, as exemplified by Mughal painting and by the Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
Mural Painting
pictures painted on walls or ceilings, traditionally in fresco.
Mythological painting
Pictures of subjects chosen from Greek and Roman Classical mythology, popular from the 15th century to the 19th. Also called History Painting.

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Nail Art
A form of body painting.

The work, style, or art of untaught artists, usually crudely naturalistic.
The flowing form of Arabic calligrahic script (compare Kufic).
Accurate, detailed representation of objects or scenes as they appear, whether attractive or otherwise. (compare Realism).
Nazi Art
Mostly architecture, film, photography, sculpture and poster art serving Nazi' propagandist needs.
Non-objective art
A 20th century term applied to visual art which is not based on existing, observable forms, but rather on abstract or idealized forms, such as geometric, mathematical, imaginary, etc. An early pioneer of non-abstraction is Piet Mondrian.
Non-representational art
Also called non-objective, this style consisted of works which had no reference to anything outside themselves. In practice, it was mainly geometrically abstract.
Nude genre
For a brief survey of nudity in painting and sculpture, see: Female Nudes in Art History (Top 20). See also Male Nudes in Art History (Top 10).


Objet trouve, see: Found Object.
Oceanic art
From the South Pacific, including Australasia.
the total output of an artist. Also: a work of art.
Offset litho
lithographic technique in which ink is transferred from a plate to a rubber roller, and then onto the paper.
Oil painting
A medium where pigments are mixed with drying oils, such as linseed, walnut, or poppyseed, which found great favour due to its brilliance of detail, its rich colour, and its wider tonal range. Popularized during the 15th century in Northern Europe (whose climate did not favour fresco works), foremost pioneers of oil paint techniques included (in Holland) Hubert and Jan Van Eyck, and (in Italy) Leonardo Da Vinci.
There are various types of oil which are used as binders and drying agents (oil plus pigment dries by a process of oxidation by absorbing oxygen from the air) by oil painters. Linseed oil, made from flax seeds, adds gloss and transparency to paints and dries very thoroughly (within 3-5 days), making it ideal for underpainting. Stand oil is a thicker type of linseed oil, with a slower drying time (7-14 days), which is often diluted with (eg) turpentine, and used for glazing to produce a smooth, enamel-like finish with minimal traces of brushmarks. Poppyseed oil, much paler, more transparent and less likely to yellow than linseed, is often employed for white or lighter colours. Poppyseed oil takes longer to dry than linseed oil (5-7 days), so it is perfect for working wet on wet. Walnut oil is a thin, pale yellow-brown oil (dries in 4-5 days) which is commonly used to make oil paint more fluid.
Orders of Architecture
the five Classic orders, each composed of a column, having a base, shaft, capital, and entablature with architrave frieze, and cornice. There are three orders of Greek architecture: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. These were adapted by the Romans, who added Tuscan and Composite.
Origami paper folding
Reputedly invented in Japan around 1600, the Chinese version known as "zhezhi" may be older.
Ottonian art
Murals, illuminated manuscripts and architectural sculpture of the period 919 to early 11th century, under the Ottonian emperors.
Outsider art
Refers to works by those outside of mainstream society. Outsider art broadly includes folk art and ethnic art as well as by prisoners, the mentally ill and others neither trained in art nor making their works to sell them.
The final layer of paint that is applied over the under painting or under layer after it has dried. The idea behind layers of painting is that the under painting is used to define the basic shapes and design so that the overpainting can be used to fill in the details of the piece.

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Bristles may derive from a variety of animals including boar, wolf, squirrel and badger as well as synthetic. Red sable hair is considered the finest. Different shapes are employed for different types of painting tasks: larger, more indistinct areas of painting such as the sky in landscapes were typically done with flat or round-tipped hogs hair brushes, while specific detail was painted with fine pointed sable brushes. In addition, feathers were sometimes employed to smooth out areas of paint to remove visible brushwork. Badger Brushes were used to blend adjacent areas of different tones.
a term coined by the art historian Heinrich Wolfflin to describe one of two contrasting styles in painting: linear, which emphasizes contours; painterly, which emphasizes colour and tone; hence painterliness.
process of applying paint. Also: object produced by applying paint to a flat support, e.g. a wall or canvas.
For history and famous painters, see Fine Art Painting.
slab of wood, metal or glass used by the artist for mixing paint. Also: figuratively: the range of colours used by the artist. See: Colour Mixing Tips.
Palette knife
spatula-shaped knife for mixing or applying thick, bodied paint.
Panel painting
refers to the use of wooden panels, as support: a practice which was widespread until the appearance of canvas during the 15th century. In Flanders, Holland, France and England, oak panels were most popular; in Germany and Austria oak, beech, lime, chestnut, and cherrywood was used; while in Italy poplar was also employed. Dry seasoned planks were primed with several coats of "size" - a glue derived from animal skins - and gesso, a combination of powdered calcium sulfate (gypsum) and animal glue. One advantage of panels, was their extremely smooth surface, which made them ideal for painting fine detail.
painting of a view or landscape; especially large-scale painting around a room, or rolled on a cylinder.
Papier Colle ("pasted paper")
collage of paper/card, first used in 1912 by Georges Braque.
Parietal Art
Prehistoric paintings, engravings or relief sculptures on cave walls and ceilings.
Crayon made from pigment mixed with gum and water and pressed into a stick-shaped form, or work executed in this medium. Because pastel tends to be light and chalky in tone, the word is also used to describe pale, light colours.
idealized landscape painting or country scene.
small models made as preliminaries to larger models, when making sculpture.
Performance Art
Contemporary form; see also Happenings.
A term which refers to the "depth" of a picture - that is, the illusion of three-dimensional space on the picture's two-dimensional surface - whereby forms in the background appear smaller than those in the foreground. The "single point" or linear perspective system was pioneered by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) in Florence in relation to his architecture. Mathematically constructed so that all receding parallel lines seem to converge towards each other, eventually meeting at a single point (the vanishing point), this method of perspective was employed by artists from the early 15th century onwards. Curiously, Dutch and Flemish painters of the early 15th century developed their own independent method of perspective.
Primitive rock carvings and engravings.
metal boss or disc, worn as an ornament or decorating a horse's harness. Commonly seen in Hallstatt and La Tene style Celtic art.
Now a fine arts medium.
picture combining juxtaposed photographic images.
a hyper-realistic style of painting in which an image is created in such detail that it resembles a photograph.
Pictographs (Prehistoric)
Also called pictograms, they are images typically on rock faces which express an idea or information.
quaint, charming. From the 18th century onwards "The Picturesque" acquired a more specific meaning, particularly in connection with landscape painting, and architecture; it suggested a deliberate roughness or rusticity of design, and was to some extent transitional between Classicism and Romanticism.
representation of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ.
the colour element in paint. Pigments can consist of a wide variety of ingredients, including minerals, natural/artificial dyestuffs, and other synthetic compounds. See: Colour Pigments: Types, History.
Plains Art
describes the native American Indian art practised by the Sioux, Commanche and Blackfeet tribes, on the Western Plains of the United States.
used in art to describe anything that can be molded or modeled; the opposite of Glyptic.
Plastic art
three-dimensional forms of art such as sculpture, pottery, and architecture.
Plein air painting
refers to the spontaneous outdoor method of painting from nature - usually landscapes - as perfected by Claude Monet among others.
sketch, especially one made outdoors.
Polymorphic painting
multiform painting, produced by some modern kinetic artists. The appearance of the work changes according to the position of the observer.
Pop Art
Sixties movement led by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. See: Andy Warhol's Pop Art.
painted work (usually an altarpiece) of more than three panels; see also Diptych, Triptych.
hard, refined ceramic stoneware, invented by the Chinese in the 7th century. See Chinese Porcelain.
Portrait Art
Drawn or painted image of a person, usually naturalistic and identifiable; hence portraiture, portraitist. See also Bust.
Poster Art
Either advertising lithographic designs, propaganda posters or reproductions of famous paintings. For more details, see: History of Poster Art.
Potter's wheel
Horizontal revolving disk used to shape clay by the ceramicist.
A form of ceramic art, in which wet clay is shaped, dried, glazed and fired in a kiln to create a variety of vessels, and ornaments. For history and styles of Antiquity, see: Greek Pottery.
adherent of the French late 17th-century theory of poussinism: the supremacy of line (draftsmanship) over colour.
Prehistoric art
Creative expression of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods of the Stone Age. For a chronological dateline, see: Prehistoric Art Timeline.
Primary colours
red, blue, and yellow; the colours that can be mixed to produce other colours, but cannot themselves be produced from mixtures.
Primitivism/Primitive art
Paintings and drawings by people outside the influence of traditional Western styles. Also: works by intuitive painters or sculptors with a "naive" style commonly due to their lack of formal arts training.
any image, pattern, or lettering produced on fabric or paper by a variety of graphic processes. Also: (verb) to make an impression or image by such a process. Usually means letter-printing; printmaking involves producing an image that is aesthetically pleasing, or illustrative.
A term which applies to fine art printing processes, such as etching, engraving, lithography, woodcut, and silkscreen, in which multiple images are replicated from the same metal plate, stone, wood or linoleum block, or silkscreen, with monochrome or colour printing inks.
in painting, sculpture and architecture, this describes the ratio between the respective parts and the whole work, as annunciated (for instance) in the Canon of Proportion, a mathematical formula establishing ideal proportions of the various parts of the human body.
Protestant Reformation Art
A less overt, more humble, smaller-scale type of religious art, triggered by Luther's revolt (1517) and exemplified by the work of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Rembrandt and Jan Vermeer.
A term meaning the origins of a work of art, specifically its history of ownership since its creation. Museum curators and fine art research experts at auctioneers like Christie's and Sotheby's study a work's provenance to establish its authenticity.
Public Art
A loose term which, in practice, means artworks financed out of the public purse. Can also mean works (usually sculpture) sited in public places, such as the Chicago Picasso.

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Trompe l'oeil ceiling mural paintings that seem to extend the architectural features beyond the actual space of the room.
Quattrocento (It.)
Italian for the 15th century. Traditionally refers to Italian fine art (1400-1500).


Japanese pottery used for the tea ceremony; molded, not thrown on a wheel.
Name given by Dadaist Marcel Duchamp to prefabricated objects exhibited as works of art.
style of painting dating from the 19th century, typified by Courbet, that makes a deliberate choice of everyday subject matter (Realisme). Also: the opposite of abstract or distorted (similar to naturalism). Also: in Greek Classical sculpture. work that is not stylized or idealized.
Red-figure technique
The technique of the finest ancient Greek vase-painting in which figures were drawn in black and the back-ground blocked in in black so that the figure stood out in the red.
Relief sculpture
carving, etc in which forms project and depth is hollowed out; the type of relief is determined by the degree to which the design stands out; thus alto rilievo (high relief) and bas relief (low relief), in which the projection is slight.
Religious Art
Typically architecture, sculpture, painting or crafts or artifacts with a religious theme.
Renaissance ("rebirth")
The period of Renaissance art runs from c.1400 to 1600, divided into Early Renaissance (c.1400-90), High Renaissance (c.1490-1530), and Mannerism (c. 1530-1600); as a whole it was characterized by greater emphasis on realism, a mastery of linear perspective, Humanism (a belief in the primacy of man) and the rediscovery of Classical art. North of the Alps, the movement is known as the Northern Renaissance.
Technique of metalwork art, where metal is decorated by hammering from the side not seen, so that the design stands out in relief.
A method of creating or enhancing perspective in a painting, for instance by placing a large figure/object in the foreground. Such repoussoir figures were common features of Dutch figure painting of the seventeenth-century. Dutch Realist landscape artists often exploited the dramatic effect of repoussoir to enliven their pictures of the flat and featureless Dutch countryside.
Representational art
art that attempts to show objects as they really appear, or at least in some easily recognizable form.
Rock Art
Petroglyphs, pictographs and other forms of stone engraving or cave painting.

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French annual exhibition in Paris (held from 17th century onwards) of painting and sculpture by members of the Academy, traditionally hostile to innovation.
Salon d'Automne
Rival exhibition held in Paris by the Societe du Salon d'Automne.
Salon des Independants
exhibition of the Societe des Artistes Independents of 1884, including Seurat and Signac. The society had no selection jury.
Salon des Refuses
exhibition of 1863 promoted by Napoleon III to show works rejected by the official Paris Salon.
Sand Art
Practised for centuries by Navajo Indians, Australian aborigines, Oceanic natives and Tibetan Buddhists, it has been given a new lease of life by contemporary artists around the world.
the Japanese equivalent of Wen-jen hua (or "literary men's painting") in Chinese art; a literary-minded amateur who painted for pleasure.
scroll of paper or silk, popular in Oriental art. A hand scroll is about 30cm (12 in) wide and up to 30m (100 ft) long, and unrolls from right to left to give a continuous picture, viewed section by section. A hanging scroll, as the name implies, is hung like a painting. Both are usually painted in ink or watercolour.
Object carved or modeled in wood, stone, etc or cast in metal for an aesthetic, nonfunctional purpose; or the process of producing it; hence sculptor. "Sculptural" is used to describe art (including painting and drawing) that has pronounced three-dimensional qualities.
an opaque or semiopaque layer of paint applied over another so that the first is partially obliterated, producing a slightly broken effect.
painting or drawing of the sea and shipping.
Self-portraits were created as early as the Amarna Period (c.1365 BCE) in Ancient Egypt, although the genre wasn't properly exploited until the time of Albrecht Durer in late 15th century Germany. Since then, other important pioneers of self-portrait painting have included Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh and Egon Schiele.
a painting technique developed by Leonardo da Vinci, in which transitions from light to dark are so gradual they are almost imperceptible; sfumato blurs lines and creates a soft-focus effect.
A term meaning scratched; in painting, one colour is laid over another, and scratched with a tool so that the underlying colour is revealed.
A drawing method using a piece of metal, usually silver wire, drawn on a ground prepared with Chinese white, sometimes with pigment added.
Site-specific art
Any work of art (typically murals, or sculpture) created for a specific place, which cannot be separated or exhibited outside its intended environment.
Typically a sketch is a rapidly executed or casual portrayal of a subject, in pencil, charcoal, pen and ink or other portable medium, often produced as a preliminary work in preparation for something more detailed.
a type of high-rise building design pioneered by American architects in the Chicago School of Architecture (c.1880-1910).
A style of 20th century sculpture consisting of a stationary object, fixed to a base of some description. Contrasts with a mobile, the free-hanging sculptural invention of American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976), stabiles were also created by Calder.
Stained Glass Art
Attained its apogee during the era of Gothic Architecture.
Freestanding sculpture; life-size, representational art.
Stencil art
An image created by applying ink or paint through a cut-out surface.
Still Life painting
one of the major genres of Western art, it describes a type of painting featuring inanimate everyday objects. There are four types: (1) flower pieces, (2) breakfast or banquet pieces, (3) animal pieces, (4) Symbolic Still Lifes.
a drawing technique which employs many small dots or flecks to construct the image, or shading.
hard pottery made from clay plus a fusible stone (usually feldspar) and fired at 1200-1400°C so that the stone is vitrified.
Stone Sculpture
Includes carvings from metamorphic, sedementary and igneous rocks.
Canvas, paper, panel, wall, etc on which a painting or drawing is executed.

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wall hanging of silk or wool with a nonrepeating pattern or narrative design woven in by hand, during manufacture. For details and history, see: Tapestry Art.
a method of painting in which pigments are combined with an emulsion of water and egg yolks or whole eggs (plus sometimes glue or milk). Widely used in Italian art in the 14th and 15th centuries, both for panel painting and fresco, was then superceded by oil paint.
style of 17th-century painting associated with Caravaggio making much use of strong Chiaroscuro.
Terracotta (Latin: "baked earth")
hard, fired hut unglazed, brownish-red clay used for pottery, and building. See: Terracotta Sculpture.
circular picture or relief.
Italian for the 14th century. Traditionally refers to Italian fine art (1300-1400).
Tribal Art
Also called Primitive Native Art, it embraces the traditional art of tribal societies in the Americas, Africa, India, the South Pacific, and Australasia.
picture or carving in three parts; a form of polyptych common for altarpieces.
Trompe l'oeil
painting that "deceives the eye"; type of illusionistic painting characterized by its very precise naturalism.


Ukiyo-e (woodblock prints)
Japanese, meaning "pictures of the floating world". Genre painting, and later Woodblock prints, whose subjects were actors, domestic scenes, and courtesans.
Vanishing point
point at which the receding parallel lines in a painting appear to meet; see Linear perspective.
Vanitas Painting
Still Life paintings, popular in 17rh century Holland, which contain objects as reminders of the impermanence of temporal life and of mortality.
Victorian Art
British architecture, arts and crafts produced during the reign of Queen Victoria (c.1840-1900).
Video Art
Contemporary form pioneered by artists like Andy Warhol (1928-87) and Bill Viola (b.1951). Can be either stand-alone or combined with other media in an installation.
Viking Art
Norse art mainly embraces portable metalwork and carvings.
Visual art
A broad category of artistic disciplines, encompassing the fine arts, some of the applied arts and certain modern art forms.
Watercolour Painting
Uses a water-soluble painting medium. Watercolours are usually applied with brushes, but several other tools may also employed. The most common painting techniques are known as wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet, plus the dry brush techniques dry-on-dry and dry-on-wet. Watercolours can be removed while still wet, by blotting. When watercolour are made thicker, opaque and mixed with white, it is generally referred to as gouache. Thomas Girtin and JMW Turner were two great pioneers of the art form.
Print produced from a design on a wooden block. See also Woodcut prints.
Wood Carving
Reached its apogee in Late Gothic Germany, at the hands of master wood-carvers like Veit Stoss (1450-1533) and Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531).
Word Art
Includes any text-based word painting, sculpture or graphic art. Exponents include Barbara Kruger (b.1945), Christopher Wool (b.1955) and On Kawara (1932-2014).
Early form of wood engraving, first seen in China in the 1st century CE. Xylography is the oldest known engraving technique.
the School of Japanese painting from the 10th to the 15th century that preserved the native traditions.
Yellow Book
influential quarterly magazine published from 1894, of which Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98) was art editor.
ancient Babylonian and Assyrian pyramid-shaped construction. See: Assyrian Art (c.1500-612 BCE).
motifs based on animal forms.

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More Art Glossaries

• For oils, watercolours, acrylics and other picture-making materials, see: Painting Glossary.
• For camera terms, including digital jargon, see: Art Photography Glossary.
• For architectural terms, see: Architecture Glossary.
• For engraving, etching, lithography and woodcut, see: Printmaking Glossary.
• For art colours, pigments and lakes, see: Colour in Art Glossary.
• For styles, schools and periods of painting, sculpture and architecture, see: Art Movements Glossary.

• For more information about decorative and fine arts, see: Homepage.

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