Art Questions and Answers
On Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking and Applied Arts.

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Art Questions on Fine Arts and Crafts

Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton:
"Pinkie" (1794) Huntington Institute, CA.
By Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)
One of the great English portraitists.

Bookmark this page for answers to all your queries about types of visual art. More questions and answers are added on a regular basis. See also: Questions About History of Art or Questions About Famous Artists or Questions About Irish Art.

General Questions

What is art?
Where can I find a glossary of art terms?
How to appreciate art?
Where can I find a list of different types of art?
When does "modern art" begin?
What is "contemporary art"?
What is avant-garde art?
What is the most valuable art in the world?
Where can I find a list of important dates in the history of art?
Where can I find a timeline for the history of prehistoric art?
Where can I find the latest news about the art world?
Where can I find a list of the world's top art museums?
Where can I find a list of the best art schools, colleges and design courses?
Where can I find a list of the world's greatest art collectors?
Where can I find a list of the world's greatest paintings?
Where can I find a list of the top 100 greatest sculptures?
Where can I find a list of the world's greatest sculptors?
Where can I find a list of the greatest nude paintings and sculptures?
Where can I find a list of the best drawings and greatest sketches?
Where can I find information about early skyscraper architecture?
Who are the world's top 10 best artists of all time?
Who are the best history painters?
Who are the greatest portrait artists?
Who are the finest still life painters?
Who are the 10 top landscape artists?
Who are the best genre-painters?

Questions About Types of Art

What is the meaning of "aesthetics"?
What is fine art?
What is visual art?
What is "plastic art"?
What is decorative art?
What is applied art?
What are the liberal arts?
What is folk art?
What is junk art?
What is naive art?
What is primitive art?
What is Tribal Art?
What is Oceanic Art?
What is Renaissance art?
What is religious art?
What is Islamic art?
Where can I find information about Celtic art?
What are Celtic spirals?
What exactly is "representational art"?
What is "street art"?


What is Art Nouveau?
What is Art Deco?
What was the Bauhaus?
What is Art Brut?
What is Outsider Art?
What is Art Informel?

Questions About Art Forms

What's the difference between arts and crafts?
What are "Fabergé Easter Eggs"?
What is the Bayeux Tapestry?
What is "animation"?
What are the main styles of architecture?
What is "assemblage"?
What is "calligraphy"?
What's the difference between ceramics and pottery?
What is "collage"?
What is the meaning of "conceptual art"?
What are the main types of drawing media? Which artists were best at sketching?
What is figure drawing?
What is figurative painting?
What does "disegno" mean?
What is "graphic art"?
In contemporary art, what is a "happening"?
What is "installation"?
What is "environmental or land art"?
What is mosaic art?
Is photography considered to be an art?
Who are the best art photographers?
What is "printmaking"?
What are Giclee Prints?
What is "public art"?
What are the main types of sculpture?
What is the difference between "freestanding sculpture" and "reliefs"?
How is stained glass made?
What is "video art"?
Where can I find out-of-print art books?

Questions About Painting

What is "encaustic painting"?
What is "fresco painting"?
What is "ink and wash painting"?
What is "panel painting"?
What is tempera painting?
What are the advantages of using oil paints?
What are the benefits of using watercolours?
What sort of painting method is gouache?
What is "acrylic paint"?
Where can I find a list of artist pigments?
What is "plein-air painting"?
In painting, what is perspective?
What is Quadratura?

The Painting Genres

What are genres?
What is meant by the "Hierarchy of the Genres"?
What type of picture is a genre-painting?
What's the difference between landscape and genre paintings?
What is portraiture?
What are still-life paintings?
What is a history painting? Must it depict a historical scene?

More Questions and Answers

Questions About the History of Art
Questions About Famous Artists
Questions About Irish Art

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Q. What is art?
There is no accepted definition or meaning of the term "art". It involves concepts of beauty and aesthetics that are highly subjective - both to individuals and different cultures. For a basic classification of the different art forms, plus a discussion of the main issues, including the importance of the Renaissance, aesthetics, the use of jargon in art-reviews, and questions about abstract and traditional forms, see: Definition and Meaning of Art.

Q. Where can I find a glossary of art terms?
For a list of terminology in fine arts, see: Art Glossary. For a list of terms used in oils, watercolours and acrylics, see: Painting Glossary. For pigments, see: Colour Glossary.

Q. How to appreciate/evaluate art?
For an educational article written for students and teachers see Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art.

Q. Where can I find a list of different types of art?
For all the different categories and forms of creative expression, see: Types of Art.

Q. When does "modern art" begin?
There is no exact meaning or definition of the term "Modern Art." Traditionally, it denotes the period between approximately 1860 and the mid-to-late 1960s, during which artists rejected past Renaissance-based traditions, in favour of new forms of artistic expression. For a more comprehensive explanation, see: Modern Art: Types & History.

Q. What is "contemporary art"?
Although there is no universal definition of the term "contemporary art", most art historians and critics use it to describe works produced after the mid-to-late 1960s, although some disagreement persists as to the exact cut-off date. Museums and auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's use the term to denote art produced after 1945. For more, see: Contemporary Art: Types & History. For a list of the world's top postmodernist arts fairs, see: Best Contempoary Art Festivals.

Q. What is "avant-garde" art?
Avant-garde art means highly modernistic contemporary art. Derived from the French word meaning "vanguard", the term originally expressed the notion that innovation by progessive artists was beneficial for mainstream art (which evolves more slowly). Very quickly, however, it was seen as a means of undermining the arts establishment - a role it performs to this day. See also: Postmodernist Art.

Q. What is the most valuable art in the world?
In general, the most valuable artworks are owned by the major museums and galleries, such as the Louvre (Paris), the Musee d'Orsay (Paris), the Uffizi Gallery (Florence), the Hermitage (St Petersburg), the Tate Gallery (London) and the Pinakothek museums in Munich, to name but a few. For a list of the most valuable paintings sold at auction or by private treaty, see: Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings

Q. Where can I find a Timeline listing important dates in the history of art?
For a comprehensive listing of all major events in the evolution and development of Western visual art, see: History of Art Timeline.

Q. Where can I find a Timeline for the history of prehistoric art?
For a chronological list of dates of art and culture during the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age eras of the Stone Age, see: Prehistoric Art Timeline.

Q. Where can I find the latest news about the art world?
For the latest sales auctions at Christie's/Sotheby's, plus new stories, events, and the latest blockbuster museum exhibitions, see: Art News Headlines.

Q. Where can I find a list of the world's top art museums?
For a review of the most famous public galleries and museums in Europe, USA, South America and Australia, covering antiquities, Old Master works, modern, contemporary and avant-garde art, see: Art Museums.

Q. Where can I find a list of the best art schools, colleges and design courses?
For a selection of the leading art colleges in America and Britain, see: Best Art Schools.

Q. Where can I find a list of the world's greatest art collectors?
For a guide to the most influential dealers and patrons of fine art, see: Art Collectors: Greatest.

Q. Where can I find a list of the world's best paintings?
For our list of the top 300 canvases in oils, watercolours, acrylics and mixed media, by the best painters, from 1300 to the 21st century, see: Greatest Paintings Ever.

Q. Where can I find a list of the world's best sculptures?
For our list of the top 100 figurines, statuettes, statues and reliefs, in stone, marble, bronze, wood, steel and contemporary media, by the best 3-D artists, see: Greatest Sculptures Ever.

Q. Where can I find a list of the world's greatest sculptors?
For the top marble/stone sculptors, wood carvers and bronze artists, see: Greatest Sculptors.

Q. Where can I find a list of the greatest nude paintings and sculptures?
For examples dating from Classical Antiquity up to present day, as found in many of the world's great museums, see: Female Nudes in Art History, and Male Nudes in Art History.

Q. Where can I find a list of the best drawings and greatest sketches?
For the finest metalpoint and pen-and-ink drawing, the best sketches in chalk, charcoal, and silverpoint, see: Best Drawings of the Renaissance.

Q. Where can I find information about early skyscraper architecture?
For a brief introduction, see 19th-Century Architecture (1800-1900); for details, see: Skyscraper Architecture (1850-present).

Q. Who are the world's best artists of all time?
For a list of the Top 10 world's greatest artists, including the greatest painter and sculptor ever, please see: Best Artists of All Time: Top 10.

Q. Who are the best history painters?
For the great figures in narrative "istoria" painting, including historical, allegorical, and mythological works, see: Best History Painters: Top 10.

Q. Who are the greatest portrait artists?
For a list of the finest exponents of portraiture, see: Best Portrait Artists: Top 10.

Q. Who are the finest still life painters?
For the ten greatest exponents of this type of painting, see: Best Still Life Painters: Top 10.

Q. Who are the 10 top landscape artists?
For a list of the greatest landscapes, see: Best Landscape Artists: Top 10.

Q. Who are the best genre-painters?
For the ten top artists, see: Best Genre Painters: Top 10.

Q. What is the meaning of "aesthetics"?
Aesthetics (or esthetics) - a term derived from the Greek word aisthesis, meaning "perception" - is the branch of philosophy devoted to the study of art and beauty. It seeks to provide answers to questions such as: "what is art?", "what is the value of painting or sculpture?", "how to assess a work of art?", "what is the purpose of art (if any)?" and so on.

Q. What are the fine arts?
Traditionally, fine art includes drawing, painting, sculpture and architecture. The term stems from the 18th century, when it was first employed to distinguish between these 'higher' forms and the 'lower' forms of applied or decorative arts.

Q. What is visual art?
The category of visual art is a modern umbrella term embracing fine art, some applied art ans some contemporary forms.

Q. What is "plastic" art?
The term "plastic art" describes artforms involving materials that can be "plasticised" (shaped or moulded), notable sculpture and pottery.

Q. What is decorative art?
The traditional category of decorative art includes artforms (eg. tapestry, metalwork) which have never been considered fine arts, and most crafts.

Q. What is applied art?
Emerging during the Industrial Age of the 19th century, the term "applied art" essentially refers to commercial designwork, such as industrial design or fashion design.

Q. What are the liberal arts?
This term derives from Renaissance times (and ultimately Classical Antiquity), when a distinction was drawn between "art which was worthy of a free man" ("homo liber" means free man in Latin), and other "vulgar" arts ("vulga" means common people in Latin). The first visual art disciplines to be deemed liberal arts (around 1500), after much persuasion by Leonardo Da Vinci and others, were painting and sculpture.

Q. What is folk art?
The term folk art essentially denotes "art made by the people", as distinguished from elite or professional works which typically comprise the main type of art in developed societies. It includes crafts, decorative artworks, fabric designs, sculpture (commonly wood-based), wood block prints, painting (though not usually fine art products), furniture, toys, dolls and metalwork, to name but a few areas. For more, see: Folk Art.

Q. What is junk art?
The term junk art is usually used to describe sculpture, assemblage or installations made from urban rubbish, or any other type of banal, everyday material. Exemplified by Duchamp's readymades, Picasso's cubist collages and Schwitters' "Merzbau" constructions, junk art coalesced into a movement during the 1950s, led by Robert Rauschenberg. For more, see: Junk Art.

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Q. What is naive art?
The term naive art is commonly used by critics and historians to describe paintings produced by societies (or individual artists) lacking in conventional representational skills. For instance, landscape paintings by the elderly Tory Island painter James Dixon (1887-1970), jungle scenes and the famous "Sleeping Gypsy" by Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) and marine works by Alfred Wallis (1855-1942) have been labelled as naive art. In contradistinction, the terms "pseudo naïve", or "faux naif" mean contrived naivity - as in works by sophisticated artists that deliberately use primitive methods of composition and representation.

Q. What is primitive art?
This term is sometimes used misleadingly as a synonym for naive art. More accurately, primitive art denotes works produced in less civilized societies - such as cave paintings from the Stone Age, wooden sculpture from Native-American Indians, Aboriginal engravings, tribal African art, and so on. See also: Ancient Art.

Q. What is Tribal Art?
Tribal Art is a rather vague term which generally refers to traditional arts and crafts created by indigenous natives belonging to tribal societies of ancient origins. It commonly denotes tribal arts from the continent of Africa, the South Pacific Island, Indonesia, Australia, the Americas and Alaska. It is also known as Primitive Native Art. for more, see: Tribal art.

Q. What is Oceanic Art?
This term describes traditional arts and crafts created by indigenous tribes or differing ethnic groups who live on islands in the Pacific Ocean. Ethnologists typically separate Oceania into three different zones: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Oceanic art has strong associations with the native cultures of South-East Asia. For more, see: Oceanic art.

Q. What is Renaissance Art?
The term Renaissance art commonly encompasses all art produced during the period of the Italian and Northern Renaissance: in Italy, roughly 1400-1530; in Northern Europe, roughly 1450-1580. Some art historians include 14th century Italian art - like the paintings produced by Giotto (1270-1337) - others don't. For a comprehensive guide, see: Renaissance Art.

Q. What is religious art?
This is a vague popular term which refers to any architecture, painting, sculpture, ceramics, stained glass, or illuminated texts (to name but a few forms), with a religious content. Movements with a particularly high percentage of religious art, include: Gothic Art (associated with the post-Dark Ages religious revival), Renaissance Art (the Church of Rome), and Baroque Art (Catholic Counter-Reformation). See also: History of Art.

Q. What is Islamic art?
This is a general term for artworks created in regions that follow the religion of Islam, usually by Muslim artists. Two of the greatest Moslem art forms are: architecture and Qur'anic calligraphy. For more details, see: Islamic Art. For a list of the world's greatest library and museum collections, see: Museums of Islamic Art.

Q. Where can I find information about Celtic art?
For the origins, history and artworks by the Ancient Celts, see: Celtic Art.

Q. What are Celtic spirals?
They are a traditional design motif invented in Paleolithic times and later adopted by artists among the Ancient Celts. For details, see: Celtic Designs.

Q. What exactly is "representational art"?
In sculpture or painting, the term "representational art" describes pictures that are clearly recognizable, such as a human figure, a banana, a car, a donkey and so on. These pictures need not be true to life - a banana may be painted red, or a car might have 10-feet high wheels - but they must be clearly recognizable as bananas or cars. In contrast, "non-representational" or "abstract art" refers to images that have no clear identity, and must therefore be "interpreted" by the spectator. For more, see: Representational Art.

Q. What is "street art"?
The term street art commonly refers to forms of 20th and 21st century contemporary art produced, staged or performed in public places, such as streets, parks or other similar urban spaces. Typically, it denotes unofficial, even illicit, events or creations. Seen mainly in the United States, popular forms include: wheatpasting and street poster art, stencil graffiti, flash mobbing and street installations.

Q. What is Art Nouveau?
Rooted in the 19th century Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, Art Nouveau was an elaborate design style in the decorative and applied arts, as well as painting, drawing and illustration. It started in the 1890s, reached its peak in 1905-6 and declined with the advent of World War I. For more, see: Art Nouveau.

Q. What is Art Deco?
The term Art Deco refers to a fashionable style of design and interior decoration during the 1920s and 1930s, influenced by the garish colours of Fauvism, the geometry of Cubism and the machine-like forms of Constructivism. The actual name wasn't coined until the 1960s. For more, see: Art Deco.

Q. What was the Bauhaus?
The Bauhaus was an avant-garde German art school founded in Weimar by the architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969). For details, see: Bauhaus Design School.

Q. What is Art Brut?
The term Art Brut was invented by the wine-merchant-turned-painter Jean Dubuffet (1901-85), to refer to amateur works of art - created by psychotics and other marginalised individuals - of which he was an avid collector.

Q. What is Outsider Art?
This term was invented by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English translation of Art Brut. However, Dubuffet's term is more specific, referring only to artworks created by institutionalised patients, whereas Outsider Art (also known as "Visionary" or Intuitive" art) also includes works by self-taught artists with highly unconventional ideas, or complex fantasy worlds, unconnected with the general art world. Very often, Outsider artists remain "undiscovered" until they die.

Q. What is Art Informel?
A French term meaning "formless art", which was invented by the critic Michel Tapie in his 1952 book "An Autre Art", when referring to the European equivalent of the American style of painting known as Abstract Expressionism. For more, see: Art Informel.

Q. What's the difference between arts and crafts?
Craft is traditionally distinguished from art on account of the fact that (supposedly) a craftsman can predict what he is going to create, whereas an artist can't. Although this might be true for certain crafts (eg. candle-making, chair-making, felt-making etc.), it is quite untrue for others (eg. ceramics). For a discussion of this issue, plus lots more information about craftwork in general, see: Crafts: History & Types.

Q. What are Fabergé Easter Eggs?
They were masterpieces of artistic jewellery (truly a form of visual art) - made out of gold, silver and gemstones - which were commissioned by Tsar Alexander III and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia's Romanov dynasty from the House of Fabergé, as gifts for their family and members of the Royal Court. For more details, see: Fabergé Easter Eggs.

Q. What is the Bayeux Tapestry?
This was an Anglo-Saxon embroidery depicting the events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England. For more details, see: Bayeux Tapestry.

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Q. What is "animation"?
Animation (derived from the Latin word, "animare", to breathe life into) is the art of making a film from a series of still drawings. For more, see: Animation Art.

Q. What are the main styles of architecture?
Early civilizations - like Egyptian, Sumerian, Minoan, Greek, Roman and Byzantine - had their own unique styles of architecture. Thereafter, the main architectural styles usually include Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical. In the 19th century, we see a number of repeats of old styles, including: The Greek Revival and the Gothic Revival, as well as a Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Romanesque Revival, plus the Second Empire style (1850-80) in France. In the 20th Century, the principal architectural schools and movements include: 1900-1920 Art Nouveau; 1900-1925 Early Modernism; 1900-1925 Continental Avant-Garde (De Stijl, Neue Sachlichkeit); 1900-2000 Steel-frame Skyscraper Architecture; 1919-1933 Bauhaus (Walter Gropius); 1925-1940 Modernism and Art Deco; 1928-1940 Totalitarian Architecture (Germany, USSR); 1945-1970 Late Modernism; 1945-2000 High Tech Corporate Design Architecture; 1960-2000 Postmodernism; 1970-2000 Minimalism; 1980-2000 Deconstructivism; 1990-2000 Blobitecture. For more, see: Architecture History, Movements and Styles.

Q. What is "assemblage"?
Assemblage is a type of 3-D art composed from everyday objects which are typically 'found' by the artist (objets trouvés). For more, see: Assemblage Art.

Q. What is "calligraphy"?
Originating in China, calligraphy is the art of stylized writing, requiring the correct formation of characters, the ordering of the various parts, and general harmony of proportions. The two leading forms of calligraphy derive from the Arabic and Oriental languages. For more, see: Calligraphy: Styles and History.

Q. What's the difference between ceramics and pottery?
In art, there is no difference between ceramics and pottery. Both involve shaping, firing and glazing/decorating clay bodies. Pioneered by craftsmen in China and ancient Greece, ceramic art is one of the most difficult artforms to master. For a full explanation, see: Ceramic Art. For details of classical ceramics, see: Greek Pottery; for more about clay sculpture in China, see: Chinese Pottery.

Q. What is "collage"?
The word "collage" denotes a composition of assorted materials - usually things like newspaper clippings, photographs, pieces of textile or fabric, and perhaps solid objects - affixed to a sheet of paper or board or canvas. First used by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso during their synthetic Cubism phase. For more, see: Collage Art.

Q. What is the meaning of "conceptual art"?
Conceptualism is a modern form of contemporary art which accords greater priority to an idea presented by visual means, than the actual work itself. Originating with Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), the term was first used by Edward Kienholz, in the late 1950s. For more, see: Conceptual Art: Meaning and History.

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Q. What are the main types of drawing media? Which artists were best at sketching?
In ancient Greece, artists used a metal stylus to draw on papyrus. During the Renaissance period, the stylus was used with a variety of different metallic alloys to create other dry media like metalpoint and silverpoint. Apprentice artists typically used an empty stylus to practice sketching by making easily removable indentations on wax tablets. Nowadays, draughtsmen use charcoal, chalks, pastels, and pen and ink. Other alternatives are wax or conte crayons, markers, graphite sticks, and various types of inked pens. The world's best sketchers include such masters as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, Edgar Degas, Egon Schiele, and David Hockney. For more, see: Drawing Guide.

Q. What is figure drawing?
The term "figure drawing" commonly refers to the Life class taught in most academies and schools of fine art, during which students draw a live model sitting in front of them. This classical instructional method is seen as the best way to acquire the skill of drawing the human body and mastering its line, shape and depth. Perhaps the single greatest example of figurative drawing is the series of pictures created by Michelangelo for the ceiling and wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. For more, see: Figure Drawing.

Q. What is Figurative Painting?
This term is commonly used to describe a general category of paintings in which the human form is a dominant feature. The category includes: portraiture, subject-paintings, "conversation pieces", and genre-pictures. For a historical guide to figuration in England, see: English School of Figurative Painting: 18th/19th Century.

Q. What does "disegno" mean?
Derived from the Italian for fine art drawing, "disegno" also includes the notion of "design". Very simply, it refers to the entire intellectual process of composing and executing the drawing or painting. In contrast, "colorito" refers to the less important art of "colouring" or "painting".

Q. What is "graphic art"?
The term 'graphic art' (from the German "Graphik", originating from graphikos, the Greek for drawing) refers to those forms of visual expression that depend for their effect on line and tone, rather than colour. For more about graphics, see: Graphic Art.

Q. In contemporary art, what is a "happening"?
A happening is a type of "performance art", usually a carefully planned entertainment during which the artist performs (or manages) a theatrical artistic event. The difference between performance art, happenings and theatre, is sometimes quite unclear, and can depend entirely on context. For more, see: Performance and Happenings.

Q. What is "installation"?
Installations are a new genre of contemporary art. Typically, they incorporate a range of 2-D and 3-D materials arranged so as to influence the way we experience or perceive a particular space, and to provoke questions about our attitude to aspects of life. For more, see: Installation Art.

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Q. What is "environmental or land art"?
Sometimes called "earthworks", this is a contemporary art form which appeared in America during the 1960s, when a number of artists (like Robert Smithson [1938-73]) - determined to heighten public awareness of the natural world by intervening in the landscape. It was also seen as a way to evade the commercialism of galleries and dealers. For more, see: Land/Environmental Art.

Q. What is Mosaic Art?
Mosaics are a form of surface decoration - typically applied to walls or floors - made from stone, glass or ceramic tesserae (small pieces). For details, see: Mosaic Art.

Q. Is photography considered to be an art?
Yes, photography is now regarded as a form of visual art, in which images are captured on photographic film as an alternative to the traditional 2-D media of canvas, paper or board. Although it achieved this status thanks to pioneering work by creative photographers including Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Man Ray, the medium is often employed as part of mixed-media compositions in the area of assemblage, collage, and installation. For more, please see: Fine Art Photography. See also: Is Photography Art?

Q. Who are the best art photographers?
For a selected list of the finest camera artists, see: Greatest Photographers (1880-present).

Q. What is "printmaking"?
The term "printmaking" refers to the replication of images onto paper, parchment, fabric or other supports. The resulting prints, though not 'original' in the sense of a fine art painting or drawing, are considered nevertheless to be works of art in their own right. Forms of printmaking include: woodcuts, engraving, etching, mezzotint, aquatint, drypoint, lithography, screen-printing, digital prints and foil imaging. For more, see: Printmaking: History, Types.

What are Giclee Prints?
These are digital prints produced by ink-jet printers. For details, see: Giclee Prints.

Q. What is "public art"?
In effect, the term 'Public Art' describes all works of art purchased with public funds, irrespective of where it is situated in the community, or who sees it. Usually, however, the artwork is site-specific and is commissioned by municipal authorities for public display. Examples include "The Spike" in Dublin, designed by Ian Ritchie. Recently, a number of European countries have introduced public art funding regulations such as the Percent for Art Scheme. For more, see: Public Art Guide.

Q. What are the main types of sculpture?
Pre-dated only by cave painting, sculptures traditionally have been carved or chiseled from a variety of natural materials, including animal bones, clay, stone, wood, and precious metal. New tools and technology enabled sculptors in China and ancient Greece to begin casting in bronze. Today, contemporary artists use a huge range of materials, including: car-parts, stainless steel, plastics, stained glass, foam rubber, concrete, sand and ice. For more about the different sculptural media, plus details of famous sculptors, see: Sculpture Guide.

Q. What's the difference between freestanding sculpture and reliefs?
A freestanding sculpture, as the name suggests, stands by itself - so viewers can walk around it and see it from a variety of angles. By contrast, relief sculpture is part of the background surface to which it is attached. For a detailed explanation, see: Relief Sculpture.

Q. How is stained glass made?
Coloured/stained glass is made by adding certain chemicals (eg. metallic oxides) to the regular glass mixture of sand, limestone and sodium carbonate. For example, the addition of copper gives blue and/or green, while lead produces pale yellow. For details, see: Stained Glass Materials and Methods. Stained glass reached its apogee during the Gothic era of architecture, in French Cathedrals like Chartres and Notre Dame de Paris. For more, see: Stained Glass Art.

Q. What is "video art"?
Like installation, with which it is often associated, this genre is another new form of contemporary art, pioneered by the likes of Wolf Vostell, Andy Warhol and Nam June Paik (1932-2006). Typically the video artist creates and edits film sequences in order to convey social messages. For more, see: Video Art and Artists.

Q. Where can I find out-of-print art books?
For a selected compilation of the top publishers, see: Rare Secondhand Art Books.

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Q. What is "encaustic painting"?
A common painting method of the ancient world, used by painters in Egypt, Greece, Rome and Byzantium, encaustic paint contains hot beeswax as a binding medium to hold coloured pigments and to facilitate their application to a surface, usually wood panels or walls. For more, see: Encaustic Painting.

What is "fresco"?
The word Fresco (Italian for 'fresh') describes a form of painting in which pigments are mixed solely with water (no binding agent used) and then applied directly onto freshly laid lime-plaster ground (surface) - usually a plastered ceiling or wall or ceiling. The liquid paint is absorbed by the plaster and as the plaster dries the pigments are retained in the wall. Frescoes were common throughout Classical Antiquity, especially in Greece - although few remain - and in Southern Europe up to and including the Renaissance. However, due to the damper climate of Northern Europe, fresco art never gained the same popularity among Dutch or German artists. Fot more, see: Fresco Painting.

What is "ink and wash" painting?
The term ink and wash painting describes an Oriental painting method, also called "brush painting," which employs black ink, commonly applied with long-haired brushes onto paper or silk. The work is then usually mounted on scrolls, which are hung or rolled up. For more, see: Ink and Wash Painting.

Q. What is "panel painting"?
The term "panel painting" usually denotes a picture painted on a single wooden panel (or a diptych [two panels] or triptych [three panels]). It was the most popular type of portable painting media until superceded by canvas in the fifteenth century. For more, please see: Panel-Paintings.

Q. What is tempera painting?
Tempera (sometimes known as egg tempera) superceded the encaustic method, and was itself superceded by oil paints. Derived from the Latin word temperare, meaning 'to mix in proportion', tempera contains a binding agent composed of a mixture of water, egg yolks or whole eggs. For more, see: Tempera Painting.

Q. What are the advantages of using oil paints?
Oil paint (typically a mixture of pigments and vegetable oils like linseed, walnut, poppyseed) is used mainly for its flexibility and depth of colour. It can be applied in many different ways, from thin glazes to thick impasto, and being very slow to dry, artists can continue working oils for much longer than other types of paint. Oils also produce greater richness and tonal variety of colour. For more, see: Oil Painting: History & Artists.

Q. What are the benefits of using watercolours?
Watercolours are cheaper, easier (historically) to obtain, dry faster and are easier to use than oils. Modern watercolour painting began with Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and reached its apogee under Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). Unfortunately, watercolour paint tends to fade with time. For more, see: Watercolour Painting.

Q. What sort of painting method is gouache?
Gouache refers to a type of paint consisting of pigment combined (like watercolour paints) with gum arabic. Unlike watercolours, however, gouache contains chalk to make it opaque and more reflective. For more, see: Gouache Painting.

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Q. What is "acrylic paint"?
Acrylic paints emerged during the 1940s and have since been adopted by many modern artists, in all painting genres. Unlike oils, acrylic paint doesn't crack and it dries very quickly. And unlike watercolours it doesn't fade. Furthermore, improvements in the quality and range of acrylic pigments have improved the colour quality. Even so, oils remain superior in both gloss and tonality. For more, see: Acrylic Painting.

Q. Where can I find a list of artist pigments, including lakes and glazes?
For a list of natural and synthetic artist-palette colours, see: Colour Pigments, Types, History.

Q. What is "plein-air painting"?
En plein air is a French term meaning "in the open air", so plein air painting means working outdoors directly from nature. The tradition started with the Romantics in the late 18th, early 19th century: an early pioneer was John Constable (1776-1837). The genre was developed by French artists at Barbizon, Grez-sur-Loing, Pont-Aven, Louveciennes, St. Malo and Concarneau, and by Impressionists like Claude Monet, Pierre Renoir and Camille Pissarro. For more, see: Plein-air Painting.

Q. In painting, what is perspective?
Perspective is a method of depicting three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface, as in drawing or painting: viz, the process of creating "depth" or background. Benefiting from the medieval study of optics, Renaissance artists like Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) and Piero della Francesca (1420-92) initiated a number of rules of perspective governing recession and diminution in a picture. Most types of linear perspective are based on the illusion of parallel lines at right angles to the picture plane meeting at a "vanishing point" in the distance.

What is Quadratura?
This is a trome l'oeil painting technique which helps to create the illusion of extra architectural space. Usually seen in ceiling frescoes, it was pioneered by artists like Andrea Mantegna and Correggio, but taken to extraordinary heights by Andrea Pozzo and Pietro da Cortona during the High Baroque in Italy. For details, see: Quadratura.

Q. What are genres?
The term "genres" is a fancy name for "types/subjects of paintings". The main genres are: history painting, portraiture, everyday scenes (confusingly called genre-paintings), landscape and still life. For more, see: Painting Genres.

Q. What is meant by the "Hierarchy of the Genres"?
This term refers to the ranking-system (based on traditions of Greek and Roman art) adopted by the great European Academies, such as the Academy of Art in Rome, the Academy of Art in Florence, the French Académie des Beaux-Arts, and the Royal Academy in London. Devised in 1669, by the art-expert Andre Felibien, Secretary to the French Academy, it ranked the genres in the following order: (1) History Painting; (2) Portraits; (3) Genre Painting; (4) Landscapes; (5) Still Life. For more information and examples, see: Hierarchy of the Genres.

Q. What type of picture is a genre-painting?
Genre-paintings are smaller-scale pictures depicting scenes from everyday life: a street scene, a tea party, a wedding feast, people going about their normal business, and so on. A genre work must include people, thus a street scene without people would be an urban landscape. For more, see Genre-Painting.

Q. What's the difference between a landscape and a genre painting?
Some landscapes containing people are almost impossible to distinguish from genre paintings. As a rule of thumb, if people are included in a scenic view merely as "staffage" (accessories), and are in no way integral to the picture, the work is a landscape. For more, see: Landscape Painting.

Q. What is portraiture?
Portraiture describes portrait paintings or drawings of people: commonly executed as full-length, threequarter-length, head and shoulders, or head and neck. Portraits were an important source of patronage for artists, at least until the advent of photography. For more, see: Portrait Art.

Q. What are still-life paintings?
The term still-life commonly refers to a picture portraying an arrangement of objects (usually flowers or kitchen utensils, but almost any object may be included) laid out on a table. It derives from the Dutch word Stilleven, employed from the mid-17th century onward, to describe paintings previously called simply 'Fruit' or 'Flower Pieces', or 'Breakfast Pieces', Bancket (banquet) or Pronkstilleven pieces, or, if with religious overtones - Vanitas. For more, see: Still Life Painting.

Q. What is a history painting? Must it depict a historical scene?
The term "history painting" is rather misleading, as it does not necessarily mean the painting of 'historical situations'. It actually comes from the Italian word "istoria", meaning narrative - one which typically involves several figures in action and emotionally engaged. Thus any such scene from mythology, or literature, qualifies as a history work. For more, see: History Painting.

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