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Fine Art Glossary

14 Feb 2010, by

Art Glossary

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Abstract Art
An abstract work of art; artistic content depends on internal form rather than pictorial representation. In its pure form, it can be interpreted as any art in which the depiction of real objects has been entirely discarded and its aesthetic content expressed in a formal pattern or structure of shapes, lines and colors. When the representation of real objects is completely absent, such art may be called non-objective. Abstract Art
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. Abstract Expressionism
Acrylic Paint
A pigment in a plastic binder medium that is water based and adheres to most surfaces. Acrylic paint is used to mimic the look of oil paint; less toxic than oil, and is quick to dry. Acrylic Paint
American Genre Painting
Usually paintings of the rural Midwest and west during the 1920s and 30s.
Aquatint
An intaglio method in which areas of color are made by dusting powdered resin on a metal plate and then allowing acid to etch or scratch the plate surface away from around it.
Art Deco
A decorative and architectural style of the period 1925-1940, characterized by geometric designs, bold colors, and the use of plastic and glass. Art Deco
Art Nouveau
A style of decoration and architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, characterized particularly by the depiction of leaves and flowers in flowing, sinuous lines.
Ashcan School
A group of U.S. painters of the early 20th century who painted realistic scenes of everyday urban life. The work depicted such subjects as the streets and inhabitants of big cities with a vigorous sense of realism.
Avant Garde
A group active in the invention and application of new techniques in a given field, especially in the arts. Avant Garde
B
Barbizon School
French landscape artists who worked near Barbizon, France between 1835 and 1870.
Bas-relief
Sculptural relief in which the projection from the surrounding surface is slight and no part of the modeled form is undercut. Bas Relief
Bauhaus
Of, relating to, or characteristic of a 20th-century school of design, the aesthetic of which was influenced by and derived from techniques and materials employed especially in industrial fabrication and manufacture. Artists include Klee, Kandinsky, and Feininger.
Beaux-arts
Fine Art; a school of fine arts located in Paris which stressed the necessity of academic painting.
Bronze
Any of various alloys of copper and tin in various proportions, sometimes with traces of other metals; Any of various alloys of copper, with or without tin, and antimony, phosphorus, or other components. Bronze
C
Carving
To make or form by or as if by cutting; to decorate by cutting and shaping carefully. Carving
Casting
Reproducing in plaster, bronze, or plastic, an original piece of sculpture made of clay, wax, or similar material. Casting
Ceramic
An object made of clay and then fired. Ceramic
Chiaroscuro
The technique of using light and shade in pictorial representation; the arrangement of light and dark elements in a pictorial work of art; a woodcut technique in which several blocks are used to print different shades of a color; a woodcut print made by this technique. Chiaroscuro
Collage
An artistic composition of materials and objects pasted over a surface, often with unifying lines and color. Collage
Contemporary Art
The art of the late 20th century and early 21st century, both an outgrowth and a rejection of modern art. As the force and vigor of abstract expressionism diminished, new artistic movements and styles arose during the 1960s and 70s to challenge and displace modernism in painting, sculpture, and other media. Contemporary Art
Contrapposto
The position of a figure in painting or sculpture in which the hips and legs are turned in a different direction from that of the shoulders and head; the twisting of a figure on its own vertical axis.
Cubism
A nonobjective school of painting and sculpture developed in Paris in the early 20th century, characterized by the reduction and fragmentation of natural forms into abstract, often geometric structures usually rendered as a set of discrete planes. Practiced by many, including the Russian culture. Leading figures were Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.
D
Dry point
An intaglio technique like engraving in which the image is drawn on a metal plate with a needle, raising a ridge which prints a soft line.
E
Embossed Print
Un-inked relief print in which dampened paper is pressed into recessed areas of a plate to produce a three-dimensional impression.
Encaustic
A paint consisting of pigment mixed with beeswax and fixed with heat after its application; the art of painting with this substance; a painting produced with the use of this substance.
Engraving
An intaglio process in which lines are cut into a metal plate and then filled with ink to transfer the image onto paper.
Etching
An intaglio process in which an image is scratched through an acid-resistant coating on a metal plate. The plate is then dipped in acid that etches into the exposed surface.
Expressionism
A movement in the arts during the early part of the 20th century that emphasized subjective expression of the artist’s inner experiences.
F
Figurative Art
Art in which recognizable figures or objects are portrayed.
Frottage
A method of making a design by placing a piece of paper on top of an object and then rubbing over it, as with a pencil, charcoal, or crayon, a design so made.
Folk Art (aka Naïve or Primitive)
Traditional representations, usually bound by conventions in both form and content, of a folkloric character and usually made by persons without institutionalized training.
G
Genre
A category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content. A form of realistic painting of people that depicts ordinary events. These paintings are not religious, historical, abstract or mythological.
Gesso
A preparation of plaster of Paris and glue used as a base for low relief or as a surface for painting.
Giclée (zhee-klay)
The French word “giclée” is a feminine noun that means a spray or a spurt of liquid. The word may have been derived from the French verb “gicler” meaning “to squirt”. The term “giclee print” is printmaking technology. Images are generated from high resolution digital scans and printed with archival quality inks onto various substrates including canvas, fine art, and photo-base paper. The giclee printing process provides better color accuracy than other means of reproduction. These prints are produced by using professional ink-jet printers. Among the manufacturers of these printers are vanguards such as Epson, MacDermid Colorspan, & Hewlett-Packard. These modern technology printers are capable of producing incredibly detailed prints for both the fine art and photographic markets. Giclee prints are not the same as Iris prints, which are a 4-Color ink-jet process from a printer pioneered in the late 1970s by Iris Graphics. The two should never be confused.
Gouache
An opaque pigment used when painting in this way. A painting executed in this manner.
Graphic
Any work printed directly on paper from a plate or block.
H
I
Impasto
The application of thick layers of pigment to a canvas or other surface in painting.
Impressionism
A theory or style of painting originating and developed in France during the 1870s, characterized by concentration on the immediate visual impression produced by a scene and by the use of unmixed primary colors and small strokes to simulate actual reflected light.
Intaglio (Ital. “Incision”; pron. in TAHL-yo)
Any technique in which an image is incised below the surface of the plate, including dry point, etching, aquatint, en graving, and mezzotini.
J
K
L
Linocut
A process in which an image is cut in relief on a linoleum block.
Lithograph
A planographic process in which images are drawn with crayon or a greasy ink on stone or metal and then transferred to paper.
Lost Wax
A process used in metal casting that consists of making a wax model, coating it with a refractory to form a mold, heating until the wax melts and runs out of the mold, and then pouring metal into the vacant mold.
M
Mezzotint
An intaglio process in which the plate surface is roughened and then an image is created by smoothing the areas to be printed.
Monotype
A unique print made from an inked, painted glass or metal plate.
Mural
A very large image, such as a painting or enlarged photograph, applied directly to a wall or ceiling.
N
Non-Objective Art
Artworks having no recognizable subject matter (not recognizable as such things as houses, trees, people, etc.) Also known as non-representational art.
O
Oil Paint
A powdered pigment that is held together with oil, usually linseed oil.
Outsider Art
The term Outsider Art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for Art Brut (which literally translates as “Raw Art” or “Rough Art”), a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by insane asylum inmates. 

Outside Art has also been described as works by those outside of mainstream society. In the United States, outsider art broadly includes folk art and ethnic art as well as works by incarcerated individuals, the mentally ill and others neither trained in art. In Europe, outsider art is more narrowly interpreted as art by the mentally disturbed. The term naive was once applied to this work, but is no longer considered current.

P
Pentimento
An underlying image in a painting, as an earlier painting, part of a painting, or original draft, that shows through, usually when the top layer of paint has become transparent with age.
Planography
Any process of printing from a surface level with the plate, as lithography.
Pop Art
A form of art that depicts objects or scenes from everyday life and employs techniques of commercial art and popular illustration. A style derived and characterized by larger than life replicas of items from mass culture. This style evolved in the late 1950s and was characterized in the 1960s by such artists as Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Claus Oldenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Rivers, Robert Rauschenberg, George Segal, and Robert Indiana.
Print/Reproduction Terminology
There has often been confusion surrounding prints—usually telling the difference between and “original” print or a mechanical reproduction or copy of an original print. If you are unable to tell whether you have an original print or a reproduction or copy of a print, you should have a professional look at it, or simply magnify an area on the piece and look for a dotted or pixel-like pattern. If you find a dotted and/or a pixel pattern, you can safely assume it is a mechanical reproduction. An “original” print is always made from the original block, stone, plate, or screen that the artist himself has created. There are several kinds of printing types that artists will use, such as lithography or lithograph, etching, engraving, pochoir, intaglio, photogravure, and so on. Some of these processes are identified below.
Q
R
Realism
In the arts, the accurate, detailed, unembellished depiction of nature or of contemporary life. Realism rejects imaginative idealization in favor of a close observation of outward appearances.
Relief
A technique in which the portions of a plate intended to print is raised above the Surface, as woodcut, linocut, etc.
S
Serigraphy (screen printing, silkscreen)
A stenciling method in which the image is transferred to paper by forcing ink through a fine mesh in which the background has been blocked.
Surrealism
A 20th-century literary and artistic movement that attempts to express the workings of the subconscious by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter.
T
Tempera
A painting medium in which pigment is mixed with water-soluble glutinous materials such as size or egg yolk. Also called poster color, poster paint.
U
V
W
Watercolor
A paint composed of a water-soluble pigment.
Woodcut
A process in which an image is cut in relief on a wood block.

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