Art Definitions


Aquatint: A print produced by the same technique as an etching, except that the areas between the etched lines are covered with a powdered resin that protects the surface from the biting process of the acid bath. The granular appearance that results in the print aims at approximating the effects and gray tonalities of a watercolor drawing.

Artist's Proof: also designated as (AP or A/P): One of a small group of prints set aside from an edition for an artist's use; a number of printer's proofs are sometimes also done for a printer's use. An artist's proof is typically one of the first proofs from a limited edition of prints, for the artist's own copyright use, and marked as an A.P.  Artist's proofs generally draw a higher price than other impressions.  The equivalent in French is épreuve d'artiste, abbreviated E.A.

An Artist's Proof is one outside the regular edition, but printed at the same time that the regular edition is printed and from the same printing plates.  By custom, the artist retains the A/Ps for his personal use or sale.  Typically, 10% of the edition total is designated as A/P, or in the case of a small edition, five graphics are usually so designated." This means that it is the same image but numbered as a smaller edition size and is more desirable because of two factors. 1. Because it is a smaller (Quantity of Reproductions) and is numbered as such as it's own separate edition of this image.  The second factor 2. Because the artist hand picked this part of the prints being run as the best representative of his original work.  The Artist Proof Edition goes way back to when an artist would tag those prints coming off the presses that were up to color that the artist was pleased with while the presses were printing out the art.  These tagged prints are thoses that the artist felt were the closest to the quality and color of the artist original work and would and be set aside for the artist and designated to be the "Artist Proof" and later becoming known as the "Artist Proof Edition".

Both the "Regular Signed & Numbered" edition and the "Artist Proof" edition are beautiful representations of the original painting and with today's technology reproductions are even better. However, even with all the advancement made in printing industry ever so slight color shifts still occur and the artist's eye can catch these and color shifts and correct them on the press while they are running.

Atelier: French term for "printer's workshop."

Avant-Garde: A group active in the invention and application of new ideas and techniques in an original or experimental way. A group of practitioners and/or advocates of a new art form may also be called avant-garde. Some avant-garde works are intended to shock those who are accustomed to traditional, established styles.

Acid Free: A characteristic of inert materials; especially said of papers with a 7 pH, or very close to 7 pH. Below 6.5 pH or above 8.5 pH is not considered acid-free. Acid free materials are more permanent, less likely to experience acid migration — to discolor, or to deteriorate materials they are placed with over time. Works on paper, and the mats, mounts, etc. with which they are framed, are best acid free. This term is sometimes used incorrectly as a synonym for "alkaline" or "buffered." Such materials may be produced from virtually any cellulose fiber source (cotton and wood, among others), if measures are taken during manufacture to eliminate active acid from the pulp. However free of acid a paper or board may be immediately after its manufacture, over time the presence of residual chlorine from bleaching, aluminum sulfate from sizing, or pollutants in the atmosphere may lead to the formation of acid unless the paper or board has been buffered with an alkaline substance. The presence of alpha cellulose in paper or board is an indication of its stability or longevity. Non-cellulosic components of wood are believed to contribute to the degradation of paper and board.

Acquisitions: In museums, objects acquired for the museum through gift, bequest, field expedition, or purchase..

Applied Arts: The arts concerned with making objects with functional purposes, but for which aesthetic concerns are significant. The applied arts may include architecture, interior design, the design of manufactured items, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, textile, glass, furniture, graphics, clocks and watches, toys, leather, arms and armor, musical instruments, etc. Commercial art may be considered a branch of applied art. The applied arts are usually contrasted with the fine arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, fine printmaking, etc.), which are seen as serving no purpose other than providing an aesthetic experience. Most of the applied arts might also be described as design. The distinction between the applied and the fine arts did not emerge strongly until the time of the Industrial Revolution (about 1775-1875), and accompanied a growing secularization of art and the emergence of a need felt by some artists to replace dying spiritual values with purely aesthetic values, setting art apart from the rest of life. Nevertheless, some have emphasized the importance of craft and regard the distinction between the fine and the applied arts as false and undesirable. Even to those who see it as important to make this distinction, many objects make it very difficult because their purposes are so dominated by their aesthetic ones.

Appraisal: A type of analysis and evaluation, especially in an official or professional capacity. In appraising works of art, for instance, an art appraiser studies their various qualities, and ultimately estimates their monetary worth, typically for insurance or taxation reasons, or in establishing a price.

Appreciate, Appreciation, and Appreciable: To perceive the quality, significance, monetary worth, etc. of a person or thing. To be fully aware of or sensitive to. Like appraisal it comes from the Latin verb "appretiare" — "to set a price on." It belongs to a family of "perception" synonyms: acknowledge, apprehend, detect, discern, discover, identify, know, note, notice, observe, pick out, realize, recognize, and sense.

Apprentice: A person who is learning an art, a craft or occupation from one or more masters of that work. This was the prevailing means of entering many professions in Europe from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century.

Apprenticeship: A specified amount of time in which a person, called an apprentice, becomes bound by legal agreement to work for another, his master, in return for instruction in an art, a craft, or a business. Once an apprentice completes his term of apprenticeship he would be called a journeyman. He would become a master in his turn only when recognized masters judge an example of his work as worthy to have been made by a master — a masterpiece. The apprenticeship system was common across Europe when guilds were strong in the Middle Ages until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution (about 1775-1875). Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519), for example, was apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio (Italian, 1435-1488), in whose work art historians believe they see young Leonardo's work appear and mature. This system has been replaced almost completely by formal schooling and the free-market's gallery system.

Archival Image: An image meant to have lasting utility. An archival digital image is generally an image kept off-line in a safe place, and it's often of higher quality than the digital image delivered to the user.

Art: For numerous reasons, the most difficult word to define without starting endless argument! Many definitions have been proposed. At least art involves a degree of human involvement — through manual skills or thought — as with the word "artificial," meaning made by humans instead of by nature. Definitions vary in how they divide all that is artificial into what is and isn't art. The most common means is to rely upon the estimations of art experts and institutions. More useful may be to see definitions of aesthetics, the arts, beaux-arts, craft, high art, and low art. Quotations about art, including others' definitions of art.

Art Buyer: The person who is a link between an agency and freelance artists; buys work for the agency.

Art Conservator: In art conservation, a person who applies science to the technical study, preservation and treatment of art objects. A professional art conservator should be consulted about the display, storage, and preservation of special objects; about the preservation of public art and historic buildings and sites; about disaster planning for area prone to earthquakes, fires, or floods; when the surface of an object is either flaking, fading or discoloring; when an object is infested with insects or mold; before taking a textile or work on paper from its frame; and before doing an amateur cleaning or restoration.

Art Critic: Among those in art careers, a person who describes, analyzes, interprets, evaluates, and expresses judgments of the merits, faults and value of artworks. One who produces art criticism.

Art Criticism: The description, analysis, evaluation, interpretation, and judgment of works of art. It is a common assumption that criticism is necessarily negative, when actually it can vary in degrees of positive as well as negative remarks. Critical methods vary considerably in their approaches to considering the forms, contents, and contexts of works of art.

Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA): The Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) is a non-profit membership organization of the nation's leading galleries in the fine arts. Founded in 1962, the ADAA seeks to promote "the highest standards of connoisseurship, scholarship and ethical practice within the profession." The ADAA members deal primarily in paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and photographs from the Renaissance to the present day. The ADAA has 160 member galleries in more than 25 U.S. cities.

Art Movement: An artistic style or tendency seen in the intentions or works of a number of artists, because there is a striking similarity among the techniques, philosophy or goals they have embraced, or in the attitudes which they espouse in a (more or less) organized effort. Art movements have each thrived for a limited time — measured in a few months, years or decades. Postmodernism has produced a dearth of movements because its adherents practice such a divergence of styles.

Art Restoration: The work of repairing damage to artworks, bringing them back to their original condition. Unlike art conservation, this can admit the addition of elements which were not actually pieces of the original, but which are known to look just like them. Inpainting a portion of a painting that is damaged or missing, for instance.

The Arts: Visual art, music, theater, and dance.

Arts Education Partnership (AEP): The Arts Education Partnership (formerly the Goals 2000 Arts Education Partnership) is an American national coalition of arts, education, business, philanthropic and government organizations that demonstrates and promotes the essential role of the arts in the learning and development of every child and in the improvement of America's schools. The Partnership includes over 140 organizations that are national in scope and impact. It also includes state and local partnerships focused on influencing education policies and practices to promote quality arts education. Partnership organizations affirm the central role of imagination, creativity and the arts in culture and society; the power of the arts to enliven and transform education and schools; and collective action through partnerships as the means to place the arts at the center of learning.

Art Therapy: The therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.

Artwork: A general term referring to any artistic production. Sometimes, like oeuvre, it can also signify an entire body of works. Related terms include artifact, commodity, object, piece. 

Art World or Artworld: Members of an art-centered group of people. Characteristic of artworlds are its people, places, activities, ideas, and times in history. The artworld that speakers first acknowledged includes everyone involved in art. Although this set of art-centered people continues to be referred to this way, another set that is frequently acknowledged is the one called "mainstream," generally referring to the contemporary network of art specialists who are most influential. An artworld might also be as broadly focused as the European artworld, or the twentieth century artworld. But others can be much more narrowly focused, as in the current ice-sculpting artworld in Chicago, the art world of Romanian art conservators, or the traditional pottery-making artworld of the Cotswolds.

Bon a Tirer (B.A.T.): When the artist is satisfied with the graphic from the finished plate, he works with his printer to pull one perfect graphic and it is marked "Bon a Tirer," meaning "good to pull." The printer then compares each graphic in the edition with the BAT before submitting the graphic to the artist for approval and signature. There is typically one BAT which becomes the property of the printer or workshop printing the edition.

Bronze: An alloy of copper and tin, sometimes containing small proportions of other elements such as zinc or phosphorus. It is stronger, harder, and more durable than brass, and has been used most extensively since antiquity for cast sculpture. Bronze alloys vary in color from a silvery hue to a rich, coppery red. U.S. standard bronze is composed of 90% copper, 7% tin, and 3% zinc.

Ceramics: The art making of objects of clay and firing them in a kiln. Wares of earthenware and porcelain, as well as sculpture are made by ceramists. Enamel is also a ceramic technique. Ceramic materials may be decorated with slip, engobe, or glaze, applied by a number of techniques, including resist, mishima, and sanggam. Pots made be made by the coil, slab, or some other manual technique, or on a potter's wheel.

Certificate of Authenticity: Certifies the authenticity of an individual piece in an edition and states the authenticity of the work of art by the artist and or publisher.

Chiaroscuro (Ke-ära-skooro): In drawing, painting, and the graphic arts, the rendering of forms through a balanced contrast between light and dark areas. The technique which was introduced during the Renaissance, is effective in creating an illusion of depth and space around the principal figures in a composition. Leonardo Da Vinci and Rembrandt were painters who excelled in the use of this technique.

Copyright: The exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.

Etching: The technique of reproducing a design by coating a metal plate with wax and drawing with a sharp instrument called a stylus through the wax down down to the metal. The plate is put in an acid bath, which eats away the incised lines; it is then heated to dissolve the wax and finally inked and printed on paper. The resulting print is called the etching.

Expressionism: An art movement dominant in Germany from 1905-1925, especially Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter, which are usually referred to as German Expressionism, anticipated by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828), Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903) and others.

Exquisite: Showing intricate and beautiful design or execution, and so beautiful or delicate as to arouse delight. Also, acutely perceptive or discriminating. Sometimes used to refer to a person who is excessively fastidious in appearance, manners, or taste.

Fake: Having a deliberately false or misleading appearance; forgery, counterfeit; not authentic, not genuine. Or, to intentionally forge, counterfeit. Also see ersatz, original, and paint-by-number.

Finish: Something that concludes, completes, or perfects, especially the last coating or treatment of a surface, or the surface texture resulting from such a coating or treatment. A finish in this sense might be described as matt, semi-gloss, or glossy, lustrous, luminous 

Firing: A process of applying heat to make hard pottery in either an oven or an oven like enclosure called a kiln. Also the means of fixing colors to ceramic surfaces. Also see glaze, polymer clay, pyrometric cones, and temperature.

First Amendment Rights: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedoms of religion, speech, and the press, the right of peaceable assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag in public to protest government policies is a right protected by the First Amendment. Similarly, one contemporary artist's work in which the flag was placed on a floor, and another's in which it was placed in a toilet have been guaranteed protection under this law's guarantee of freedom of speech.

Fixative - Fixatives: A thin varnish, natural or synthetic, that is sprayed over charcoal, pastel, oil pastel, oil crayon, pencil, and other drawing mediums, as well as photographs, maps, signs, and unfired ceramics, to protect them from smearing, finger prints, and detaching from a supporting surface (paper, etc.) All or some fixatives will alter the original colors slightly. The best are colorless, non-yellowing, and flexible. Some fixatives permit a medium to remain workable, while others lock it into its position. Some permit the choice of a glossy or a matte finish. Manufactured fixatives are most often available in aerosol cans. Common hairsprays work well as student-grade fixatives.

Foam Core or Foam Board: A strong, stiff, resilient, and lightweight board of polystyrene laminated with paper on both of its sides. It may be any of several thicknesses, in any of a variety of colors. It is often employed as a surface on which to mount two-dimensional work, and as a material with which to construct three-dimensional work (such as architectural models). Although more expensive than some other cardboards, it is preferred to them for many qualities, including the ease with which it can be cut. Make straight cuts by using an extremely sharp razor knife on top of a mat or other surface that will not be damaged. Draw the knife toward you along the edge of a metal ruler (with finger tips away from that path). Cuts at each of three successive depths will produce a neat edge to the board. Also see adhesives, bristol board, carding, card stock, corrugated cardboard, matboard, oaktag, and packaging.

Forgery: Making counterfeits — fraudulent copies of something valuable. Or, a counterfeit. Because fraud is involved, forgery is not to be confused with appropriation.

Freehand: Drawn by hand, without the use of any mechanical device — without the aid of a straight-edge, compass, protractor, French curves, computer equipment, etc. — and also without tracing. Freehand is the opposite of mechanical drawing.

Gallerist: A professional artists' representative, who may or may not also be an art dealer — someone involved in the buying and selling of art. This term might have been derived from the French galeriste, long used by top gallery workers in France to distinguish themselves from the mere marchand de tableaux, or picture merchant. Alternatively, perhaps it came from Germany, where galerist or galeristin denotes, respectively, a male or female gallery owner.

Giclee:  (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 connotes an elevation in 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. The quality of the giclee print rivals traditional silver-halide and gelatin printing processes and is commonly found in museums, art galleries, and photographic galleries. 

Gesso: Plaster or a fine plaster-like material made of gypsum, which is also called whiting, used for sculptures. An especially versatile medium in reliefs, gesso can be either a material cast in a mold or a material of a mold, a material to be modeled, or carved, or attached to something else. When used for molds into which molten metal is poured, it must be hardened with sand as a grog. Gesso may also refer to such a gypsum material mixed with an animal-hide glue and used as a ground for painting. For this latter use, it is important to WEAR A DUST MASK! usually applied to the surface of a wood panel or sculpture to become the surface on which an artist paints. It was used by Gothic and Renaissance panel painters, and is still used today. Oxgall (or another wetting agent) can be employed MEDICAL ALERT! to eliminate pin-holes in gesso surfaces by mixing it into the gesso before the gesso is applied. Like all other dusts, airborne gesso is hazardous to breathe — every user should wear an appropriate dust mask. Also see slip and stucco.

Giclée: French for "sprayed ink." A sophisticated printmaking process, today typically produced on an IRIS ink-jet printer, capable of producing millions of colors using continuous-tone technology. Also a print resulting from this process, also called an Iris print. Giclées are often made from photographic images of paintings in order to produce high quality, permanent reproductions of them. The extra-fine image resolution possible in this printing process permits retention of a high degree of fine detail from the original image, rendering deeply saturated colors having a broad range of tonal values. A giclée should be printed either on a fine fabric or archival quality white paper using bio-degradable water-soluble inks. After the process of printing it, a giclee specialist should examine the painting with special materials to make any necessary corrections, and apply a final, thin, transparent coating for maximum permanence.

Gild and Gilding: Applying gold leaf. See fire gilding (ormolu), oil gilding (mordant gilding), and water gilding. 

Gouache: The technique of applying opaque watercolor to paper; also a work of art so produced. The usual gouache painting displays a light-reflecting brilliance quite different from the luminosity of transparent watercolors.

Graphite: A soft black mineral substance, a form of carbon, available in powder, stick, and other forms. It has a metallic luster and a greasy feel. Compressed with fine clay, it is used in lead pencils (though contemporary lead pencils contain no lead), lubricants, paints, and coatings, among other products. Also called black lead and plumbago. 

Ground: A surface to which paint is applied, or the material used to create that surface. A painting's ground is usually specially prepared on its support. Traditionally, for oil paint on canvas use a ground of oil and white pigment, and on wood surfaces either an oil ground or gesso.

Gypsum: Calcium sulfate dihydrate, found in a variety of forms as natural deposits (such as alabaster), which when heated and deprived of its moisture forms the substance known as plaster of Paris. Gypsum rates an index of 2 on Mohs Scale of Hardness.

High Art: Fine art, also known as beaux-arts, art that is of universal transcendence, having withstood the test of time and representing the epitome of artistic achievement, as opposed to low art, which is also known as mass culture. Until recently, a distinction was typically made between high and low art. Traditionally, high art consists of the meticulous expression in fine materials of refined or noble sentiment, appreciation of the former depending on such things as intelligence, social standing, educated taste, and a willingness to be challenged. Low art is the shoddy manufacturing in inferior materials of superficial kitsch, simply catering to popular taste, unreflective acceptance of realism, and a certain "couch potato" mentality. Although many earlier artists took inspiration from popular and folk art, the most systematic approaches towards blurring the differences between high and low art were taken by Cubism, Dada and Surrealism. Pop Art further weakened the distinction, and artists as various as Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960-1988), Jeff Koons (American, 1955-) and the Guerrilla Girls (American), influenced strongly by the different branches of postmodern thought, have dealt it the further blows. It is not surprising, given for example that the song O Superman by performance artist Laurie Anderson (American, 1947-) reached the top ten of the pop charts in the U.S. and England, that video and camera artist William Wegman (American, contemporary) has appeared on television's The Tonight Show to promote a book of photographs, and that both have done segments on Saturday Night Live. In spite of this, one still wonders if the distinction still exists, albeit in a slightly different form. Few would seriously argue that the droves who follow televised wrestling matches and afternoon soap operas have any genuine interest in contemporary art. It is even less likely that the millions who read supermarket tabloids or romance novels would ever choose to read advanced art criticism.

Hors Commerce (H.C.): Hors Commerce (Not for Trade) traditionally were the graphics pulled with the regular edition, but were marked by the artist for business use only. These graphics were used for entering exhibitions and competitions, but today, these graphics generally are allowed into distribution through regular channels.

Illustrate: To create designs and pictures for books, magazines, or other print or electronic media to make clear or explain the text or show what happens in a story.

 Illustration board: A bristol board made with a close weave. Illustration board is a strong, heavy paper or card appropriate as a support for pencil, pen, watercolor, collage, etc. It is more archival if it is acid-free. Also see oaktag.

Image: A picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images.

Impression: In general, an effect, a feeling, an image, a percept, or a (usually vague) memory. In printmaking, a single print made from a block, plate, or stone; or the act of impressing — the contact between the printing surface and the surface on which the print is made. Sometimes refers more loosely to a mark left on a surface by pressing something against it, or to a single or initial coat of color.

 Incident Light: The light hitting an object's surface, not that reflected or scattered from it. The wavelength of incident light is usually more varied than that reflected from a surface, determining the colors perceived in the object. It undergoes selective absorption of some wavelengths as it is reflected. The law of reflection is a principle that when light is reflected from a smooth surface, the angle of incidence — the angle at which the light hits a surface — is equal to the angle of reflection, and the incident ray, the reflected ray, and the normal to the surface all lie in the same plane. Also see additive, mirror, optical mixing, primary colors, and subtractive.

 India Ink or Indian Ink: The name in the United States for black ink, the pigment made from carbon — traditionally lampblack (derived from non-electric lamps). This ink is also used in solid forms, mixed with a binding agent and molded into cakes or sticks. Such solid forms are often called Chinese ink, Japanese ink, or sumi ink.

Indirect Casting: Lost-wax metal casting in which the model that is "lost" is not the original model, but a wax cast from a piece mold taken from the original model. This second wax model is sometimes called an indirect casting, or an intermodel. If the indirect casting is hollow, a core is poured into it. The ancient Greeks developed this method of casting.

Inspiration: Somebody or something that stimulates a person to a high level of feeling, to creative thought, or to achieve the making of art. Inspiration may be the condition or quality of being stimulated to creative thought or activity. A sudden brilliant idea. To those who are religious, inspiration may be divine guidance and influence on human beings. To inspire someone is to fill that person with confidence and motivation; an inspired person feels that he or she can achieve something difficult or special.

 Investment: A thick jacket of refractory material built around a wax model which forms the mold in lost-wax casting. It can be made of plaster or clay mixed with grog, applied in layers, with the finest and softest layers painted or gently worked over the wax model, and the outer layers reinforced with wire. 

Impasto: Paint applied in outstanding heavy layers or strokes; also, any thickness or roughness of paint or deep brush marks, as distinguished from a flat, smooth surface.

Lithography: In the graphic arts, a method of printing from a prepared flat stone, metal or plastic plate, invented in the late eighteenth century. A drawing is made on the stone or plate with a greasy crayon or tusche, and then washed with water. When ink is applied it sticks to the greasy drawing but runs off (or is resisted by) the wet surface allowing a print - a lithograph - to be made of the drawing. The artist, or other print maker under the artist's supervision, then covers the plate with a sheet of paper and runs both through a press under light pressure. For color lithography separate drawings are made for each color.

Manifesto: In art, a public declaration or exposition in print of the theories and directions of a movement. The manifestos issued by various individual artists or groups of artists, in the first half of the twentieth century served to reveal their motivations and raisons d'etre and stimulated support for or reactions against them

Master, Old Master, and Master's Degree: In the arts, a master is a person whose teachings or doctrines are accepted by followers. In the old apprenticeship system, a master was an artist of great and exemplary skill, whose followers might be called apprentices or disciples.

Masterpiece or Masterwork: A work done with extraordinary skill; especially a work of art, craft or intellect which is an exceptionally great achievement. To some, this means the best piece of work by a particular artist or craftsperson. Historically, a piece of work presented to a medieval guild as evidence of an apprentice's qualification to attain the rank of master. Also called masterwork. First known in English in the early 17th century, this word was derived from the Dutch meesterstuk or from the German Meisterstück. The French equivalent is chef-d'oeuvre. Synonyms might include: classic, jewel, magnum opus (Latin for "great work"), ne plus ultra (Latin for "nothing is higher"), nonpareil (French for "without equal"), tour de force (French for "feat of strength"), pièce de résistance (French for "piece with staying power"), summit, prize, treasure, masterstroke, and crowning achievement.

Mat, Matt, or Matte: A decorative border placed around a picture, often under glass, also called matboard. It serves as a frame or provides contrast between the picture and the frame. Or, to put a mat around a picture. Also, a thin, flat sheet of glass fiber material used to reinforce laminating resin, hollow cast ciment fondu, and modeled concrete sculpture. Surface mat is quite fine, chopped strand mat is coarse, loosely woven fabric. Also, having a dull, flat, non-reflective, sometimes roughly textured finish, perhaps of paint, metal, paper or glass; the opposite of glossy.

Matboard: A mat that is typically cut from a heavy cardboard. Matboard serves two very important functions in the overall framing of a picture. First and foremost it protects the artwork and second it showcases and enhances the subject being framed. It is important to protect works of art on paper, photographs, and other framed objects from direct contact with glass. Matboard provides a barrier from the airborne pollutants, moisture, acids and other damaging impurities that can impact the life of the framed piece. Matboard when used correctly also leads your eye into the artwork, enhancing the overall effect. Whenever a work's presentation or storage environment should be of archival quality, be sure to use acid-free matboard. It is more expensive, but is much less likely to discolor artworks over time.

Material: The substance or substances out of which something is or can be made. Examples include: clays, fibers, glass, papers, plastics, metals, pigments, stones, woods, etc. In body art the material might be the artist's body. In conceptual art there might be no material at all. 

Maquette: In sculpture, a small model in wax or clay, made as a preliminary sketch, presented to a client for his approval of the proposed work, or entered in a competition for a prize or scholarship. The Italian equivalent of the term is bozzetto, meaning small sketch.

Montage: A picture made up of various proportions of existing pictures, such as photographs or prints, arranged so they join, overlap, or blend with one another.

Monotype: A one-of-a-kind print made by painting on a sheet or slab of glass and transferring the still-wet painting to a sheet of paper held firmly on the glass by rubbing the back of the paper with a smooth implement, such as a large hardwood spoon. The painting may also be done on a polished plate, in which case it may be either printed by hand or transferred to paper by running the plate and paper through an etching press.

Museum: A building, place or institution devoted to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition and educational interpretation of objects having scientific, historical or artistic value. The word Museum is derived from the Latin muses, meaning "a source of inspiration," or "to be absorbed in one's thoughts."

Neo-Expressionism: Broadly used, this may refer to all expressionist art since the original movement known as Expressionism arose in Germany between 1905 and 1925. Abstract Expressionism is an example of a movement which may be referred to as neo-expressionist. Neo-expressionist art stems from Wassily Kandinsky (Russian-German, 1866-1944), its antithesis from the Neo-Plasticism of Piet Mondrian (Dutch, 1872-1944). Used more narrowly, this term sometimes refers specifically to the primarily German and Italian expressionist art revival of the 1970s and early 1980s. Rejecting both conceptual and minimalist modes, these neo-expressionists returned to gestural, figurative painting. Often steeped in the German history, paintings by A.R.Penck (1939-) and Anselm Kiefer (1945-) are full of symbolism referring to issues repressed by Germans

 Numbered: Refers to labeling on a print of its place in the order of its production, when it is part of an edition of a limited quantity of impression. Also see limited edition and multiple. Also see sequence.

Offset Printing: The printing process in which an inked image on a metal or paper plate is transferred to a smooth rubber cylinder and then to the paper.

Oil Paint: Slow drying paint made when pigments are mixed with an oil, linseed oil being most traditional. The oil dries with a hard film, and the brightness of the colors is protected. Oil paints are usually opaque and traditionally used on canvas. They can have a matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finish. To look at examples of works in oil paints, see the articles under the names of every period from the Renaissance onward.

Old Master: Traditionally, a distinguished maker of pictures or sculptures who was active before 1700 — during the Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque periods, especially Italian, Dutch and Flemish artists. Today the term is also being used to refer to recognized masters of the eighteenth century. Also see canon, Dutch art, and master.

 Opacity: The quality of being opaque. In painting, the power of a pigment to cover or obscure the surface to which it is applied. When opacity is not complete, it can be described as translucence, or as opaque from 99% down to 1%. The equivalent of 0% opacity is transparency.

Opaque: Something that cannot be seen through; the opposite of transparent, although something through which some light passes would be described as translucent.

Open Edition: A set of prints made in an unspecified or unlimited number of impressions. The opposite of open edition is a limited edition.

 Original: Any work considered to be an authentic example of the works of an artist, rather than a reproduction or imitation. The term excludes works produced "in the studio of" an artist, because that usually means that it was made by others, even if under the artist's influence or at his direction. This attribution must be qualified further, however, for workshop paintings in which there is evidence of the master's hand. Although they are less valued for various reasons, copies and reproductions have had tremendous impact on our experience, reaching greater audience than originals ever could, and they act as a tonic to commodification. Original may also mean the first, preceding all others. In that sense, it may refer to a prototype, a model after which other works are made, each bears great similarity to the first.

Palette Knife: A knife with a spatulate flexible blade, for applying or scraping off a plastic material. There are a variety of types, but the most common are pictured below. The first two on the left have "straight" handles, and the rest have "offset" handles.

Pastel: A colored crayon or stick of chalk that consists of pigment mixed with just enough of a aqueous binder to hold it together; a work of art produced by pastel crayons; the technique itself. Pastels vary according to the volume of chalk contained...the deepest in tone are pure pigment. Pastel is the simplest and purest method of painting, since pure color is used without a fluid medium and the crayons are applied directly to the pastel paper. Pastels are called paintings rather than drawings, for although no paint is used, the colors are applied in masses rather than in lines.

Patina: A sheen or coloration on any surface, either unintended and produced by age or intended and produced by simulation or stimulation, which signifies the object's age; also called aerugo, aes ustum, and verdigris. Typically a photo of a patina in greens and browns thin layer of greens (sometimes reds or blues), usually basic copper sulfate, that forms on copper or copper alloys, such as bronze, as a result of oxidation and corrosion. Metal objects have naturally acquired patinas when long buried in soil or immersed in water. Such naturally formed patinas have come to be greatly prized. There are many formulae for the pickles and chemical treatments of metals which may be employed to encourage the formation of patinas.

 Permanent Collection: Those objects that are owned by a museum. Also see accession, catalogue, collection, deaccession, and donation. 

Perspective: The representation of three-dimensional objects on a flat surface so as to produce the same impression of distance and relative size as that received by the human eye. In one-point linear perspective, developed during the fifteenth century, all parallel lines in a given visual field converge at a single vanishing point on the horizon. In aerial or atmospheric perspective, the relative distance of objects is indicated by gradations of tone and color and by variations in the clarity of outlines.

Plein Air: A French word, literally translates as 'open air', and is defined as painting or drawing done outside, in the open air. The equivalent term in Italian would be alfresco. These works were taken directly from nature, and infused with a feeling of the open air. A relatively recent practice, painting outdoors became an important dimension of the landscape work of the Impressionists and painters of the Barbizon school. Although plein air painting should not be considered as synonymous with Impressionism or quick sketching, it became central to Impressionism.

Pochoir: A stencil and stencil-brush process for making multi colored prints, and for tinting black-and-white prints, and for coloring reproductions and book illustrations, especially fine and limited editions. Pochoir, which is the French word for stencil, is sometimes called hand-coloring or hand-illustration. Pochoir, as distinguished from ordinary stencil work, is a highly refined technique, skillfully executed in a specialized workshop.

Pointillism: A branch of French Impressionism in which the principle of optical mixture or broken color was carried to the extreme of applying color in tiny dots or small, isolated strokes. Forms are visible in a pointillist painting only from a distance, when the viewer's eye blends the colors to create visual masses and outlines. The inventor and chief exponent of pointillism was George Seurat (1859-1891); the other leading figure was Paul Signac (1863-1935).

Proof: In graphic arts, a preliminary print that is examined for quality control before final printing is done.

Rabbit Skin: The source for glue size traditionally used in preparing a ground for oil painting.

 Remarque: A current practice of some artists is the addition of a small personalized drawing or symbol near his pencil signature in the lower margin. The practice is borrowed from Whistler's famous "butterfly" which was added to personalize many of his graphics.

Repoussoir: From the French verb meaning to push back. A means of achieving perspective or spatial contrasts by the use of illusionistic devices such as the placement of a large figure or object in the immediate foreground of a painting to increase the illusion of depth in the rest of the picture.

Sable: An animal whose hair is used for making fine soft brushes.

Salon: A large room, such as a drawing room, used for receiving and entertaining guests. A hall or gallery for the exhibition of works of art. A periodic gathering of people of artistic or social distinction. Or, a commercial establishment offering a product or service related to fashion, such as a couturier or a beauty salon.

Salon or Paris Salon or Salon d'Apollon: The annual art exhibition of painting and sculpture by the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, later known as the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Although from the seventeenth century informal exhibitions were held in the Salon d'Apollon, in the Louvre, not until the nineteenth century did the Salon assume its paramount importance. Exhibits were selected by a jury and acceptance generally secured an artist's sales and reputation, while further prestige attached to the medals awarded for painting, sculpture and printmaking. As the century progressed, the academic and increasingly conservative jury rejected many innovative artists until in 1863 Napoleon III established a Salon des Refusés in response to the protest against the number of works rejected by the official Salon that year. By 1870 the Salon had become synonymous with conventional art and had declined in importance.

 Salon d'Automne: A Parisian exhibition that has been held every year since its inception in 1903 as a reaction to the conservative policies of the official Salon. The Salon d'Automne displayed the paintings of Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954) and Paul Cézanne (French, 1839-1906) in its early days, gaining acceptance for their work.

Salon des Indépendants: An annual art exhibition held in Paris by the Société des Artistes Indépendents — a group of painters, including Georges Seurat (French, 1859-1891), Paul Signac (French, 1863-1935), and Odilon Redon (French, 1840-1916). Seurat and Signac were the principal founders of the society, which was formed in 1884 following the rejection of their work by the selection committee at the official Salon held by the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Their Salon had no selection committee and the rules allowed any artist to enter a painting on payment of a fee. The society lasted until the beginning of World War I. Also see Neo-Impressionism.

Salon des Refusés: An art exhibition held in Paris in 1863, set up by the government at the urging of the artists involved, as an exhibition of paintings that had been refused by the official annual Salon of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The show's major sensations were two paintings by Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883), each considered scandalous — Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe), for portraying nude and clothed figures together in a scene of everyday life, and Olympia, for portraying a nude prostitute, whose form was not typical of those considered ideal. Other exhibitors were Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), Camille Pissarro (French, 1830-1903), and James A. M. Whistler (American, 1834-1903).

 Serigraph: Serigraphy (also referred to as 'silk screen' or 'screenprint') is a color stencil printing process in which a special paint is forced through a fine screen onto the paper beneath. Areas which do not print are blocked with photo sensitive emulsion that has been exposed with high intensity arc lights. A squeegee is pulled from back to front, producing a direct transfer of the image from screen to paper. A separate stencil is required for each color and one hundred colors or more may be necessary to achieve the desired effect. A serigraph differs from other graphics in that its color is made up of paint films rather than printing ink stains. This technique is extremely versatile, and can create effects similar to oil color, transparent washes as well as gouache and pastel.

Screenprint: See silkscreen and prints and printmaking. 

Soapstone: Steatite; a soft metamorphic rock composed mostly of the mineral talc. Soapstone is used in China for small figurative sculpture similar to work in jade, and in Byzantium it was used for sculpture similar to work in ivory. In India whole temples with highly ornate carving have been carved of soapstone.

Trademark: a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product.

Trompe L´oeil (Tromp´- loy): A french term meaning "deception of the eye." It is applied to painting so photographically realistic that it may fool the viewer into thinking that the objects or scene represented are real rather than painted.

Varnish: A protective transparent finish applied in a liquid state to a surface. One example is glair — a varnish for tempera paint. Many are available with a matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finish.

Vellum: Fine parchment, originally calf-skin, used traditionally for manuscripts.

Virtuosity: The seemingly effortless skill or style employed by a virtuoso, or master. Also see craftsmanship, inspiration, masterpiece, talent, and technique.

Virtuoso: Someone skilled in or having a taste for the fine arts, or someone who excels in the technique of an art (most commonly a highly skilled musician); a master. Also, a person who has great skill at some endeavor. English speakers borrowed "virtuoso" from Italian in the 17th century. In Italian, it can either be a noun or an adjective, the latter meaning both "virtuous" and "skilled." In English, the first virtuosos were men of substantial knowledge and learning. The word was then transferred to those skilled in the arts, and by the 18th century it had acquired its specific sense applied to musical performers. In the 20th century, English speakers broadened "virtuoso" again to apply to a person skilled in any pursuit. English speakers pluralize it as either "virtuosos" or "virtuosi." (pr. ver-choo-oh'-so or ver-choo-oh'-zoh) Also see craftsmanship, talent, and virtuosity.

 Viscosity: The relative resistance of a liquid to stirring or movement, and its stickiness. The thicker it is the greater is its viscosity; the thinner it is the lesser is its viscosity. Also see aqueous, caustic, clean up, consistency, hazardous, hot glue, solvent, vehicle, volatile, water-soluble, and wetting agent.

Watermark: In the making of paper, a translucent design impressed on it when still moist by a metal pattern, and visible when the paper is held before light (back-lit). In digital imaging, bits altered within an image to create a pattern which indicates proof of ownership; so that unauthorized use of a watermarked image can then be traced.

Wash: Used in watercolor painting, brush drawing, and occasionally in oil painting to describe a broad thin layer of diluted pigment or ink. Also refers to a drawing made in this technique.

Art Movements


Abstract Expressionism: Movement in painting, originating in New York City in the 1940s. It emphasized spontaneous personal expression, freedom from accepted artistic values, surface qualities of paint, and the act of painting itself. Pollock, de Kooning, Motherwell, and Kline, are important abstract expressionists.

Abstract: A 20th century style of painting in which nonrepresentational lines, colors, shapes, and forms replace accurate visual depiction of objects, landscape, and figures. The subjects often stylized, blurred, repeated or broken down into basic forms so that it becomes unrecognizable. Intangible subjects such as thoughts, emotions, and time are often expressed in abstract art form.

Antique: Anything that is pre-1900.

Baroque: A movement in European painting in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, characterized by violent movement, strong emotion, and dramatic lighting and coloring. Bernini, Caravaggio and Rubens were among important baroque artists.

Classicism: Referring to the principles of Greek and Roman art of antiquity with the emphasis on harmony, proportion, balance, and simplicity. In a general sense, it refers to art based on accepted standards of beauty.

Contemporary: Anything made within the last 30 years approximately.

Cubism: An art style developed in 1908 by Picasso and Braque whereby the artist breaks down the natural forms of the subjects into geometric shapes and creates a new kind of pictorial space. In contrast to traditional painting styles where the perspective of subjects is fixed and complete, cubist work can portray the subject from multiple perspectives.

Dadaism: An art style founded by Hans Arp in Zurich after WW1 which challenged the established canons of art, thoughts and morality etc. Disgusted with the war and society in general, Dadaist expressed their feelings by creating "non-art." The term Dada, nonsense or baby-talk term, symbolizes the loss of meaning in the European culture. Dada art is difficult to interpret since there is no common foundation.

Deco: Design style prevalent during the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by a sleek use of straight lines and slender form.

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. These paintings are often abstract, the subject matter distorted in color and form to emphasize and express the intense emotion of the artist.

Fauvism: From the French word fauve , meaning "wild beast ." A style adopted by artists associated with Matisse, c. 1905-08. They painted in a spontaneous manner, using bold colors.

Figurative Art
Art in which recognizable figures or objects are portrayed.

Folk Art: Traditional representations, usually bound by conventions in both form and content, of a folkloric character and usually made by persons without institutionalized training.

Gothic: A European movement beginning in France. Gothic sculpture emerged c. 1200, Gothic painting later in the thirteenth century. The artwork are characterized by a linear, graceful, elegant style more naturalistic than that which had existed previously in Europe.

Impressionism: An art movement founded in France in the last third of the 19th century. Impressionist artists sought to break up light into its component colors and render its ephemeral play on various objects. The artist's vision was intensely centered on light and the ways it transforms the visible world. This style of painting is characterized by short brush strokes of bright colors used to recreate visual impressions of the subject and to capture the light, climate and atmosphere of the subject at a specific moment in time. The chosen colors represent light which is broken down into its spectrum components and recombined by the eyes into another color when viewed at a distance (an optical mixture). The term was first used in 1874 by a journalist ridiculing a landscape by Monet called Impression - Sunrise.

Modern: Anything that is from the period between 1900 to 1949. Examples: Picasso, Salvador Dali.

Naïve Art: Artwork, usually paintings, characterized by a simplified style, nonscientific perspective, and bold colors. The artists are generally not professionally trained. Henri Rousseau and Grandma Moses worked in this style. Also called Outsider Art. Naïve artwork are characteristically bright, colorful, with abundant space and generally depict a non-naturalistic vision of the artist’s imagination. Important artists include: Rousseau, Hirschfield, and Cook.

Neoclassicism: A European style of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Its elegant, balanced works revived the order and harmony of ancient Greek and Roman art. David and Canova are examples of neoclassicists.

Nouveau: A decorative art movement that emerged in the late nineteenth century. Characterized by dense asymmetrical ornamentation in sinuous forms, it is often symbolic and of an erotic nature. Gustav Klimt worked in an art nouveau/symbolist style.

Photorealism: A figurative movement that emerged in the United States and Britain in the late 1960s and 1970s. The subject matter, usually everyday scenes, is portrayed in an extremely detailed, exacting style. It is also called superrealism, especially when referring to sculpture.

Pop Art: A style of art which seeks its inspiration from commercial art and items of mass culture (such as comic strips, popular foods and brand name packaging). Pop art was first developed in New York City in the 1950's and soon became the dominant avant-garde art form in the United States.

Realism: A style of painting which depicts subject matter (form, color, space) as it appears in actuality or ordinary visual experience without distortion or stylization. In a general sense, refers to objective representation. More specifically, a nineteenth century movement, especially in France, that rejected idealized academic styles in favor of everyday subjects. Daumier, Millet, and Courbet were realists.

Renaissance: Meaning "rebirth" in French. Refers to Europe c. 1400-1600. Renaissance art which began in Italy, stressed the forms of classical antiquity, a realistic representation of space based on scientific perspective, and secular subjects. The works of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael exemplify the balance and harmony of the High Renaissance (c. 1495-1520).

Representational: Artwork that purports to represent what is seen; also called objective art.

Rococo: An eighteenth-century European style, originating in France. In reaction to the grandeur and massiveness of the baroque, rococo employed refined, elegant, highly decorative forms. Fragonard worked in this style.

Romanticism: An art style which emphasizes the personal, emotional and dramatic through the use of exotic, literary or historical subject matter. A European movement of the late eighteenth to mid nineteenth century. In reaction to neoclassicism, it focused on emotion over reason, and on spontaneous expression. The subject matter was invested with drama and usually painted energetically in brilliant colors. Delacroix, Gericault, Turner, and Blake were Romantic artists.

Surrealism: An art style developed in Europe in the 1920's, characterized by using the subconscious as a source of creativity to liberate pictorial subjects and ideas. Surrealist paintings often depict unexpected or irrational objects in an atmosphere of fantasy, creating a dreamlike scenario.

Symbolism: An art style developed in the late 19th century characterized by the incorporation of symbols and ideas, usually spiritual or mystical in nature, which represent the inner life of people. Traditional modeled, pictorial depictions are replaced or contrasted by flat mosiac-like surfaces decoratively embellished with figures and design elements. Gustav Klimt worked in an art nouveau/symbolist style


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