Glossary of Art Terms
Abstract – Abstract painting, sometimes called non-figurative painting, generally relies on colors, lines, and shapes instead of recognizable images or symbols for its compositional elements.
Abstract Expressionism – A school of painting that flourished after World War II until the early 1960s, characterized by the view that art is nonrepresentational and chiefly improvisational.
Academic Art – Art governed by rules, especially art sanctioned by an official institution, academy, or school. Originally applied to art that conformed to standards established by the French Academy regarding composition, drawing, and color usage, the term has come to mean conservative and lacking in originality.
Acrylic – A painting process involving fast-drying paints comprised of pigments suspended within an acrylic polymer emulsion. Acrylic paintings can resemble watercolor or oil paintings depending on the methods and additives used during the painting process.
Americana – Sometimes referred to as American Folk Art, Americana artworks depict patriotic subjects like famous Americans, historical landscapes, and slices of American life typically executed in a primitive or folk manner.
Analogous Colors – Closely related hues, especially those in which you can see a common hue; hues that are neighbors on the color wheel, such as blue, blue-green, and green.
Archival Matting – Matting used to better preserve a work of art. Acid free and often 100% cotton.
Art Deco – An eclectic form of stylish modernism based on mathematical geometric shapes. Art Deco was a popular international design movement from 1925 until 1939.
Art Nouveau – Characterized by organic floral and plant-inspired designs, as well as stylized, flowing meandering forms. The flat-perspective and strong colors of Japanese woodcuts was a major influence on this movement.
Arts & Crafts – The Arts and Crafts Movement shares a timeline between the last years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. Idealized the craftsman taking pride in his or her personal creations.
Balance – The way the elements of art are arranged to create a feeling of stability in a work.
Baroque – An art movement of the Counter-Reformation in the seventeenth century, mostly in Catholic countries, in which painters, sculptors, and architects sought emotion, movement, and variety in their works.
Black and White Photography – Monochromatic process involving the making of a photographic image recorded in neutral tones of gray ranging from white to black. Also referred to as grayscale photography.
Charcoal – Historically used in painting to sketch in the composition prior to painting, charcoal is also used to accomplish complete drawings. Charcoal is available in vine, compressed, and powdered forms.
Color Photography – Photography featuring colors that are produced chemically during the processing phase.Commercial Art– Art made for commerce purposes (advertising, etc.).
Complementary Colors – Two hues directly opposite one another on a standard color wheel which, when mixed placed together make the other appear brighter. The complementary color of a primary color (red, blue, or yellow) is the color you get by mixing the other two primary colors. So the complementary color of red is green, of blue is orange, and of yellow is purple.
Composition – The combining of parts or elements to form a whole; the structure, organization or total form of a work of art.
Content – The meaning, significance, or aesthetic value of an art form.
Cool Colors – Colors whose relative visual temperature makes them seem cool. May include green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, and violet.
Conceptual Art – An art form in which the artist’s intent is to convey a concept rather than to create an art object.
Constructivism – A modern art movement beginning in Russia that aimed to create abstract sculpture for an industrialized society. The movement utilized technology and building materials such as glass, plastic, steel and chrome. Vladimir Tatlin is credited as the first artist to develop this type of art.
Contemporary Art – Art produced since World War II. Includes art being produced today.
English Art – Although many different styles and themes have been explored within English art over the years some recurring topics include English landscape painting as well as coastal and sea paintings.
Expressionism – An art movement of the early 20th century in which traditional adherence to realism and proportion was replaced by the artist’s emotional connection to the subject.
Folk Art – Art typically created by people who have little or no formal artistic training who use techniques and styles that represent a particular region or culture. However, there is an emerging trend among trained artists to work in this style.
Form – The fundamental shape or structure of an object – such as sphere or cube.
Fresco – Wall-painting on plaster with a water-based medium. True fresco (buon fresco) is one of the most permanent forms of wall decoration because the pigment is applied while the plaster is still damp.
Gold Leaf (also Silver leaf) – Gold (or silver) beaten into extremely thin sheets; used for gilding.
Gothic-Medieval Art – Medieval art covers over 1000 years of art history in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. It includes some major art movements and periods such as Early Christian art, Migration Period art, Celtic art, Byzantine art, Islamic art, Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque art, and Gothic art.
Gouache – A type of painting similar to watercolor but more opaque and reflective in nature due to the presence of white chalk in the paint.
Gray Scale – A term used to describe an image containing shades of gray as well as black and white.
Impressionism – The name of the movement comes from the title of a work by Claude Monet called “Impression, Sunrise.” Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement distinguished by visible brush strokes, open composition, and an emphasis on light as it changes and evolves throughout the day.
Metaphysical Art – An Italian art movement, characterized by dream-like paintings of brightly lit, idealized Italian cities together with classical statues, trains, and mannequins. Giorgio de Chirico is a key figure in this movement.
Mixed Media – Any work of art created by employing any combination of mediums.
Mixed Media Photography – Photography that uses a variety of techniques and processes including hand colored photographs.
Modernism – Ushered into Western society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Modernism in the visual arts rejected the old standards of how art should be made, viewed, and what it should mean. Modernist artists affirmed the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology, or practical experimentation.
Monochromatic – Based on a single hue.
Neo Classical – A European movement began after A.D. 1765, Neo Classical artists favored strong, clean colors with contrasting lights and darks. As a reaction against Baroque and Rococo styles, they sought to return to the perceived purity of the arts of Rome.
Neutral Colors – Colors that blend or combine with all other colors to alter their value or intensity. Black, white, gray and variations of brown are considered neutral colors.
Pastel – A combination of pure pigment and binder forming permanent-colored sticks. When the ground is completely covered with pigment, the work is considered a pastel painting; leaving much of the ground exposed produces a pastel sketch.
Pen and Ink – A drawing using black ink.
Photography – The process, activity, and art of creating a still picture on a sensitive medium such as film. During the printing process additional modifications can be made.
Photorealism – Photorealism evolved from the Pop Art movement and was a response to the flowing brush strokes and explosion of paint that was Abstract Expressionism. Photo realists relied extensively on photographic reference to compose and execute their works.
Plein Air – Referring to landscapes painted out of doors with the intention of catching the impression of the open air.
Pointillism – The concept behind Pointillism involves painting small dots of primary colors on the painting surface which are visually mixed by the eye when viewing from a distance creating secondary <secondary colors> and intermediate colors <intermediate colors>. George Seurat is the most famous artist who practiced Pointillism.
Pop Art – This 20th century art movement emphasized images of popular culture as opposed to elitist tastes in art by calling attention to the ordinary or tacky elements usually through the use of irony. Probably the best known Pop Artist is Andy Warhol.
Post Modernism – Postmodern art, or art that emerged after Modernism in the late 20th century, envelops many sub-movements including Installation Art, Conceptual Art, Intermedia, Multi-Media, and Performance Art.
Pre-Raphaelite – An influential group of mid-nineteenth-century avante garde English painters devoted to nature as central to the purpose of art. Pre-Raphaelites rejected conventional methods of composition and favored hyperrealism in their art.
Primary Colors – The three basic colors: red, blue and yellow. They can be mixed to form all other colors.
Realism – Realists favored commonplace themes to depict their subjects. Everyday locations and mundane objects were painted as they appeared without embellishment or interpretation. The introduction of photography was a large influence on this style movement that began in France in the 1850s.
Repetition – The use of the same visual element or visual effect a number of times in the same composition. Can be used to increase unity in a composition, produce a rhythmic movement, or emphasize the importance of a visual idea.
Romanticism – An art style which emphasizes the personal, emotional and dramatic through the use of exotic, literary or historical subject matter.
Sepia Photography – Black and white photographs that have been bleached and dropped into a sepia bath resulting in a monotone photograph in shades of warm browns. Because this photographic technique was used extensively in the past it often evokes a vintage feel.
Subject – The person, object, event, or idea on which an artwork is based.
Surrealism – Beginning in 1920s, the Surrealist art movement embraced the element of surprise and unexpected compositions. Working from a Manifesto, the Surrealist artists explored the philosophy of revolution.
Texture – Texture in a painting is the feel of the canvas. It can be based on the paint and its application or the addition of materials such as ribbon, metal, wood, lace, leather, sand, etc.
Warm Colors – Colors whose relative visual temperature makes them seem warm. Includes red-violet, red, red-orange, yellow-orange, and yellow.