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Glossary of Art Terms
Welcome to USBlackart.Com Glossary of common Art Terms. Here we hope to give you a brief definition of various art terms which might be unfamiliar to you. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas please e-mail us.
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Abbozzo - In painting, blocking in: the first sketching done on the canvas, and also the first under painting. In sculpture a mass of material that has been carved or manipulated into a rough form of the ultimate work. In Italian, means "sketch."Return to top
Abrasive - A substance which wears down a surface by the friction of rubbing against it. Sandpaper, for instance, has an abrasive surface used to smooth rough surfaces. To wear down by rubbing is to abrade. As a technique of shaping solid forms, this is called abrasion. Return to top
Absorbent Ground - A ground or coating on a surface that can absorb the liquid from paint applied to it. Return to top
Absorption - Refers to the light absorbing behavior of some surfaces-- various characteristics determine the degree to which surfaces absorb certain colors. The light which is absorbed is converted to heat, while light not absorbed is either transmitted (by transparency or translucent surfaces) or reflected (by opaque surfaces).Return to top
Abstract:- The emphasis of a derived, essential character that has only a stylized or symbolic visual reference to objects in nature. Return to top
Abstract Art::- A trend in painting and sculpture in the twentieth century. Abstract art seeks to break away from traditional representation of physical objects. It explores the relationships of forms and colors, whereas more traditional art represents the world in recognizable images Return to top
Abstraction-Creation Group : - An international school of painters and sculptors of the 1930s, who typically employed geometric shapes and forms. Piet Mondrian was the most prominent figure in the Abstract-Creation Group. Return to top
Absurd: Ridiculously incongruous or unreasonable, because of a flaw in logic. Also, pertaining to the view that there is no order or value in human life or in the universe-- a condition in which human beings exist in a meaningless, irrational world in which people's lives have no purpose or meaning.Return to top
Absorbent Ground: - A chalk ground which absorbs oil and is used in oil painting to achieve a matt effect and to speed up drying. Return to top dimensionally drawn or painted figure of a nude model, about half-size, typically used for instruction and not considered a work of art at the time it was made. Such life studies have been standard exercises in art schools (academies) since the sixteenth century. Return to top

Accelerator - A substance which speeds up a chemical change. An accelerator is added to oil paints to speed drying (also called a "drier"), and to polyester resin to promote curing. Alum is added to plaster as an accelerator to quicken its setting. Return to top
Accent:- In design, a distinctive feature or quality, such as a feature that accentuates or complements a decorative style. In line drawing, accenting lines is the gradual increase or decrease in the weight or thickness of lines as produced by a pencil or similar medium by the amount of pressure exerted on it while drawing. Return to top
Accenting should not be confused with shading-- the filling in of areas to represent shadow. Accenting refers only to lines used for the contours or outlines in the drawing of a subject. Generally, lines representing the nearest parts of a subject are accented most boldly. Also see value and gradation.Return to top
Accidental Color - Color obtained by mixing on a painting's surface without conscious preliminary planning during the process of painting. Return to top
Acculturation - Borrowing between cultures, or, the modifying of one person's or group's culture by contact with a different culture. The process, by which, people acquire knowledge of the cultures, in which they live. Return to top
Academy Figure - Sometimes simply called an academy. Return to top
Achromatic - Color having no Chromo -- black, white and grays made by mixing black and white. All other colors employ chromatic pigments Return to top
- A type of "Gestural Abstractionism," practiced by Jackson Pollock, in which the emphasis was on the heroic aspects of the artist's gesture in making art. Pollock stood on his canvases, pouring liquid paint in linear webs, and, in effect, incorporated his own physical nature into the components of the picture. Return to top
Acrylic Emulsion:- A water dispersion of polymers or co-polymers of acrylic acid, Methacrylic acid, or Acrylonitrile. Acrylic emulsions dry by evaporation of the water and film coalescence. Return to top
Accent: A detail, brushstroke, or area of color placed in a painting for emphasis. Return to top
Acrylic: Paint made from pigments and a synthetic plastic binder, water-soluble when wet, insoluble when dry. Developed commercially in the 30s and 40s and perfected in the 50s through 70s, this popular alternative to oil paint can also duplicate many of watercolor's unique characteristics when used in a fluid manner. Return to top
Acrylic Solution: A solution of acrylic resin in a volatile solvent. Paints made with an acrylic solution binder resemble oil paints more than those made with acrylic emulsion binders. Return to top
Acid Free: Acid free refers to papers without acid (pH) in the pulp when manufactured. High acidity papers degrade quickly. Return to top
Adsorption - When a thin layer of a substance adheres strongly to another, holding to it on a molecular level as if it were glued to it. This situation is more likely to occur with substances in a gelatinous state and with the receiving surface absolutely clean. Often a truly adsorbed layer becomes so firmly attached to the receiving surface that it can be removed only by vigorous abrasion. One example of adsorption occurs in lithography, with the crayon or touché on the stone or plate so that an adsorbed layer of fatty acid is in position to receive the printing ink. Return to top
Additive Color:- color that results from the mixture of two or more colored lights, the visual blending of separate spots of transmitted colored light. Return to top

Alla Prima: Italian phrase meaning "first time” Painting directly in one session with no under-drawing or painting. Usually refers to oil or acrylic painting. Return to top
Aesthetic Experience Or Æsthetic Experience - Experience of intrinsic features of things or events traditionally recognized as worthy of attention and reflection, such as literal, visual, and expressive qualities, which are studied during the art criticism process. Return to top
Aesthetic value or æsthetic value - The value (worth) a thing or event has due to its capacity to evoke pleasure that is recognized as arising from features in the object traditionally considered worthy of attention Return to top
African American Art: African American prints, African American posters, all meaning , art prints and posters depicting African American culture, history and values. Return to top
African Art: - Art work mostly in prints and posters depicting the art work of the region called Africa. Mostly tribal and wild life scenes from Africa, includes such items as wooden masks and article made of ebony wood that can be framed. Return to top
Alkyd:-Synthetic resin used in paints and mediums. As a medium Liquin from Winsor and Newton works as a binder that encapsulates the pigment and speeds the drying time. In Paints W&N Griffith paints are good example of alkyd paints. Return to top
À La Poupée - In intaglio, a means of printing several colors at one time by applying each color to the plate separately with a felt pad. A French word. Return to top
Alchemy - The ancient and medieval chemical practice especially concerned with the attempt to convert base metals into gold. Return to top
Alla Prima:- A painting technique in which pigments are laid on in one application, with little or no drawing or under painting. Return to top
Altarpiece- A panel, painted or sculpted, situated above and behind an altar. Return to top
Altered Proportion - A technique used by an artist to change the size relationship of shapes in an artwork. Return to top
Alla Prima:-Technique in which the final surface of a painting is completed in one sitting, Without Under Painting. Italian For "At The First Return to top
Analogous Colors: A grouping of related colors next to each other on the color wheel. Example: Yellow, Yellow Green, and Green Return to top
Anhydrous:-Free from water. Return to top
Ambivalence - Mixed feelings. The sort of conflicting attitudes, such as love and hate one, can feel toward a person, a thing, or an idea. Return to top
American Gothic - A realistic, yet hard-edged style of painting associated with the works of Grant Wood (American, 1892-1942). A famous painting by, Grant Wood. Return to top
Amorphous - An anomalous, shapeless form, without crystalline structure. Amorphous materials have no sharply defined melting point, and surfaces of pieces that break have undulating surfaces like those of lumps of broken glass or of resin, both of which are examples of amorphous materials. Return to top
Analogous Colors - Color that are next to each other on the color wheel and are closely related. For example, blue, blue-green, and green all have the color blue in common. Families of analogous colors include the warm colors (red, orange and yellow) and the cool colors (green, blue and violet). Analogous colors are sometimes referred to as adjacent colors. Return to top
Analytic Cubism- An art movement developed jointly by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in which the artists analyzed form from ever possible vantage point to combine the various views into one pictorial whole. Return to top
Anemographic Image:- An image that must be viewed by some special means, such as a mirror, to be recognized. Return to top
Anamorphous - An image that appears distorted unless it is viewed from a special angle, or with a mirror, or with some other device. A famous example of such an anamorphic image is that of a skull in the painting The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein (German, 1497/8-1543). In photography, an anamorphic lens is capable of compressing a wide angle of view onto a standard frame of film. A similar projection system can be used to reform such an image onto a wide screen. Return to top
Aniconic:- Non-image representation. Return to top
Anima:- The inner self of a person. In Jungian psychology, a person's unconscious or true inner self-- the feminine inner personality in the unconscious of the male, in contrast to the animus, which represents male characteristics within a female personality. Return to top
Anti-Art - Art, either Dada or in its tradition, which rejects conventional theories and forms-- techniques, materials, and means of display. Marcel Duchamp (French-American, 1887-1968) is credited with introducing the term c. 1914, and its spirit is summed up in his attempt to exhibit a urinal, Fountain of 1917, as well as in the reproduction of the Mona Lisa on which he drew a mustache in 1919. Return to top
Anti-Intellectualism - Any point of view which opposes, fears, mistrusts, or shuns reason-- logical, rational thought, intelligence, good judgment, sound sense-- or intellectuals, or intellectual views. Return to top
Antique Posters:- also meaning vintage or Artwork that has antique value as collectors, usually artwork printed on paper prior to the 60s Return to top
Art::- the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art; an art collection. Return to top
Art Brut: - [ah(r) broo] A term coined by French painter Jean Dubuffet for the art of untrained people, especially mental patients, prisoners, and socially dispossessed persons generally. Dubuffet built up a collection of about 5000 such items, presented in 1972 to the city of Lausanne. Return to top
Art Collection: This can be held by a museum or can be a privately held collection of art work which can span across styles, mediums and artists. Return to top
Art Exhibitions: - A large-scale public showing, as of art objects, which can be of one artist or several artists, who bring their work and exhibit in a public forum. Return to top

Art Gallery:- a room or series of rooms where works of art are exhibited. Return to top
Artists :- One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts. Return to top

Art Auction: -Art work that is offered for sale to the highest bidder Return to top

Art Brut:- A term coined by Jean Dubuffet, to characterize art that is genuine, untaught, coarse, even brutish. Return to top
Art Drawings: - In its broadest sense it includes every use of the delineated line and is thus basic to the arts of painting, architecture, sculpture, calligraphy, and geometry. The word drawing is commonly used to denote works in pen, pencil, crayon, chalk, charcoal, or similar media in which form rather than color is emphasized. For centuries drawings have been made either as preparatory studies (see cartoon) or as finished works of art. Return to top

Art Images: - A reproduction of the form of art or object, especially a sculptured likeness, which depicts the likeness to the original work of art that it represents Return to top
Artists Proof: A numbered print which are not part of the limited edition. Usually these prints are signed "Artist Proof" or "AP" with the generally accepted edition size not to exceed ten percent of the regular limited edition size. With modern printing, Artists proofs are not better quality prints than the regular edition; however they are desirable to many serious collectors in that there are fewer signed in this way. Many artist proofs are remarqued to make them even more valuable. Return to top

Art Pictures: - Means the printed images of works of art, framed and unframed. Return to top

Art Prints:-when art is reproduced on generally, on paper, with a printing or mechanical process. Return to top
Art Posters :- A large, usually printed placard, bill, or announcement, often illustrated, that is posted to advertise or publicize something. An artistic work, often a reproduction of an original painting or photograph, printed on a large sheet of paper. Return to top
Art Paintings:- The process, art, or occupation of coating surfaces with paint for a utilitarian or artistic effect. A picture or design in paint usually done on paper or canvas. Return to top
Art Reproductions: - Art works produced in the likeness of the original work. Usually refers to artists painting the old masters works that are in the public domain. Return to top

Art Store: - location where works of art are displayed and sold, also material for artist’s supplies are sold such as canvas paints brushes and paints and painting supplies. Return to top

Art Work :-A finished work of art, painting, montage, watercolor painting that has been completed by an artist. Return to top
Art Works: - A compilation of the finished works of art, usually by a single artist. Return to top
Arte Povera: - Italian for "poor art," it was mostly sculptural work made from everyday materials including soil, cement, twigs, newspapers, instead of traditional materials like stone and bronze. This largely Italian movement, named by the critic Germano Celant in 1967, endured through the 1970s, concerned with metaphorical treatments to do with nature, culture, history, and contemporary life. Artists associated with Arte Povera include Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, and Michelangelo Pistoletto. Return to top
Archival: - Refers to materials that meet certain criteria for permanence such as lignin-free, pH neutral, alkaline-buffered, stable in light, etc. Return to top

Archival Paper: Archival watercolor paper is any pure 100% rag cotton or linen watercolor paper of neutral or slightly low ph, alkaline (base) vs. acidic and pure ingredients. Some synthetic papers are archival in nature but have unique working. Return to top

Assemblage- A three-dimensional composition made of various materials such as found objects, paper, wood, and cloth. Return to top

Ascii Art: - ASCII art graphics (Or "character graphics", "ASCII graphics") The fine art of drawing diagrams using the ASCII character set (mainly "|-/\+"). Return to top
Asian art: - Southeast Asian art and architecture includes works from the geographical area including the modern countries of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The area is also known as Indochina. The art of this region draws from three major sources: indigenous traditions, China, and India. Return to top

Asymmetry, Asymmetrical Balance - The parts of a design organized so that one side differs from the other without destroying the overall harmony. Return to top
Attention - Concentration of thought upon a subject. Paying close and carefully listening to a subject in question. Observant attention. When demanded by a teacher, attention means "Stop, Look and Listen." Stop working, talking, moving, and put things down. Look toward the teacher or the student who's been called upon. Listen means: think about what's being said and speak only when called upon. When a student needs to let a teacher know he needs attention, the appropriate means is to raise a hand when the speaker has stopped. Raising a hand does not guarantee that a student will be called upon, although teachers should try to share time as much as possible and appropriate. Return to top

Automatism:- The process of yielding oneself to instinctive motions of the hands after establishing a set of conditions within which a work is to be carried out. Return to top

Avant-garde:- Artists who work in the most advanced stylistic expression. Return to top

Aquarelle: The French term for the process and product of painting in transparent watercolor. Return to top

Atmospheric perspective: Suggesting perspective in a painting with changes in tone and color between foreground and background. The background is usually blurred and hues are less intense. Return to top