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The following terms are defined according to their usage in the visual arts. A term in italics has its own listing in the glossary.

abstract art Art that departs significantly from natural appearances. Forms are modified or changed to varying degrees in order to emphasize certain qualities or content. Recognizable references to original appearances may be slight. The term is also used to describe art that is nonrepresentational. 

Abstract Expressionism An art movement, primarily in painting, that originated in the United States in the 1940s and remained strong through the 1950s. Artists working in many different styles emphasized spontaneous personal expression in large paintings that are abstract or nonrepresentational. One type of Abstract Expressionism is called action painting. See also expressionism.

Abstract Surrealism See Surrealism.

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.

academy An institution of artists and scholars, originally formed during the Renaissance to free artists from control by guilds and to elevate them from artisan to professional status. In an academy, art is taught as a humanist discipline along with other disciplines of the liberal arts.

achromatic Having no color or hue; without identifiable hue. Most blacks, whites, grays, and browns are achromatic.

acrylic (acrylic resin) A clear plastic used as a binder in paint and as a casting material in sculpture.

action painting A style of nonrepresentational painting that relies on the physical movement of the artist in using such gestural techniques as vigorous brushwork, dripping, and pouring. Dynamism is often created through the interlaced directions of the paint. A subcategory of Abstract Expressionism.

additive color mixture When light colors are combined (as with overlapping spotlights), the result becomes successively lighter. Light primaries, when combined, create white light. See also subtractive color mixture.

additive sculpture Sculptural form produced by combining or building up material from a core or armature. Modeling in clay and welding steel are additive processes.

aerial perspective See perspective.

aesthetic Relating to the sense of the beautiful and to heightened sensory perception in general.

aesthetics The study and philosophy of the quality and nature of sensory responses related to, but not limited by, the concept of beauty.

afterimage The visual impression that remains after the initial stimulus is removed. Staring at a single intense hue may cause the cones, or color receptors, of the eye to become so fatigued that they perceive only the complement of the original hue when it has been removed.

airbrush A small-scale paint sprayer that allows the artist to control a fine mist of paint.

analogous colors or analogous hues Closely related hues, especially those in which we can see a common hue; hues that are neighbors on the color wheel, such as blue, blue-green, and green.

Analytical Cubism See Cubism.

aperture In photography, the camera lens opening and its relative diameter. Measured in f-stops, such as f/8, f/ I 1, etc. As the number increases, the size of the aperture decreases, thereby reducing the amount of light passing through the lens and striking the film.

applied art Art in which aesthetic values are used in the design or decoration of utilitarian objects.

aquatint An intaglio printmaking process in which value areas rather than lines are etched on the printing plate. Powdered resin is sprinkled on the plate and heated until it adheres. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath. The acid bites around the resin particles, creating a rough surface that holds ink. Also, a print made using this process.

arabesque Ornament or surface decoration with intricate curves and flowing lines based on plant forms.

arcade A series of arches supported by columns or piers. Also, a covered passageway between two series of arches or between a series of arches and a wall.

arch A curved structure designed to span an opening, usually made of stone or other masonry. Roman arches are semicircular; Islamic and Gothic arches come to a point at the top.

armature A rigid framework serving as a supporting inner core for clay or other soft sculpting material.

Art Nouveau A style that originated in the late 1880s, based on the sinuous curves of plant forms, used primarily in architectural detailing and the applied arts.

assemblage Sculpture using preexisting, sometimes "found" objects that may or may not contribute their original identities to the total content of the work.

asymmetrical Without symmetry.

atmospheric perspective See perspective.

automatism Automatic or unconscious action. Employed by Surrealist writers and artists to allow unconscious ideas and feelings to be expressed.

avant-garde French for advance guard" or "vanguard." Those considered the leaders (and often regarded as radicals) in the invention and application of new concepts in a given field.

axis An implied straight line in the center of a form along its dominant direction.

balance An arrangement of parts achieving a state of equilibrium between opposing forces or influences. Major types are symmetrical and asymmetrical. See symmetry.

Baroque The seventeenth-century period in Europe characterized in the visual arts by dramatic light and shade, turbulent composition, and exaggerated emotional expression.

barrel vault See vault.

bas-relief See relief sculpture.

Bauhaus German art school in existence from 1919 to 1933, best known for its influence on design, leadership in art education, and a radically innovative philosophy of applying design principles to machine technology and mass production.

curvilinear Formed or characterized by curving lines or edges.

beam The horizontal stone or timber placed across an architectural space to take the weight of the roof or wall above; also called a lintel.

binder The material used in paint that causes pigment particles to adhere to one another and to the support; for example, linseed oil or acrylic polymer.

buttress A support, usually exterior, for a wall, arch, or vault, that opposes the lateral forces of these structures. A flying buttress consists of a strut or segment of an arch carrying the thrust of a vault to a vertical pier positioned away from the main portion of the building. An important element in Gothic cathedrals.

Byzantine art Styles of painting, design, and architecture developed from the fifth century A.D. in the Byzantine Empire of eastern Europe. Characterized in architecture by round arches, large domes, and extensive use of mosaic; characterized in painting by formal design, frontal and stylized figures, and a rich use of color, especially gold, in generally religious subject matter.

calligraphy The art of beautiful writing. Broadly, a flowing use of line, often varying from thick to thin.

camera obscura A dark room (or box) with a small hole in one side, through which an inverted image of the view outside is projected onto the opposite wall, screen, or mirror. The image is then traced. This forerunner of the modern camera was a tool for recording an optically accurate image.

cantilever A beam or slab projecting a substantial distance beyond its supporting post or wall; a projection supported at only one end.

capital In architecture, the top part, capstone, or head of a column or pillar.

caricature A representation in which the subject's distinctive features are exaggerated.

cartoon 1. A humorous or satirical drawing. 2. A drawing completed as a full-scale working drawing, usually for a fresco painting, mural, or tapestry.

carving A subtractive process in which a sculpture is formed by removing material from a block or mass of wood, stone, or other material, using sharpened tools.

casein A white, tasteless, odorless milk protein used in making paint as well as plastics, adhesives, and foods.

casting A process that involves pouring liquid material such as molten metal, clay, wax, or plaster into a mold. When the liquid hardens, the mold is removed, leaving a form in the shape of the mold.

ceramic Objects made of clay hardened into a relatively permanent material by firing. Also, the process of making such objects.

chiaroscuro Italian for "light-dark." The gradations of light and dark values in two-dimensional imagery; especially the illusion of rounded, three-dimensional form created through gradations of light and shade rather than line. Highly developed by Renaissance painters.

chroma See intensity.cinematography The art and technique of making motion pictures, especially the work done by motion picture camera operators.

classical 1. The art of ancient Greece and Rome. More specifically, Classical refers to the style of Greek art that flourished during the fifth century B.C. 2. Any art based on a clear, rational, and regular structure, emphasizing horizontal and vertical directions, and organizing its parts with special emphasis on balance and proportion. The term classic is also used to indicate recognized excellence.

closed form A self-contained or explicitly limited form; having a resolved balance of tensions, a sense of calm completeness implying a totality within itself.

cluster houses Residential units laced close together in order to maximize the usable exterior space of the surrounding area, within the concept of single-family dwellings.

coffer In architecture, a decorative sunken panel on the underside of a ceiling.

collage From the French coller, to glue. A work made by gluing materials such as paper scraps, photographs, and cloth on to a flat surface.

colonnade A row of columns usually spanned or connected by beams (lintels).

color field painting A movement that grew out of Abstract Expressionism, in which large stained or painted areas or "fields of color evoke aesthetic and emotional responses.

color wheel A circular arrangement of contiguous spectral hues used in some color systems. Also called a color circle.

complementary colors Two hues directly opposite one another on a color wheel which, when mixed together in proper proportions, produce a neutral gray. The true complement of a color can be seen in its afterimage.

composition The bringing together of parts or elements to form a whole; the structure, organization, or total form of a work of art. See also design.

Conceptual art An art form in which the originating idea and the process by which it is presented take precedence over a tangible product. Conceptual works are sometimes produced in visible form, but they often exist only as descriptions of mental concepts or ideas. This trend developed in the late 1960s, in part as a way to avoid the commercialization of art.

content Meaning or message contained and communicated by a work of art, including its emotional, intellectual, symbolic, thematic, and narrative connotations.

contour The edge or apparent line that separates one area or mass from another; a line following a surface drawn to suggest volume.

contrapposto Italian for "counterpoise." The counterpositioning of parts of the human figure about a central vertical axis, as when the weight is placed on one foot, causing the hip and shoulder lines to counterbalance each other, often in a graceful S-curve.

cool colors Colors whose relative visual temperatures make them seem cool. Cool colors generally include green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, and violet. The quality of warmness or coolness is relative to adjacent hues. See also warm colors.

cross-hatching See hatching.

Cubism The most influential style of the twentieth century, developed in Paris by Picasso and Braque, beginning in 1907. The early mature phase of the style, called Analytical Cubism, lasted from 1909 through 1911. Cubism is based on the simultaneous presentation of multiple views, disintegration, and the geometric reconstruction of objects in flattened, ambiguous pictorial so space; figure and ground merge into one interwoven surface of shifting planes. Color is limited to neutrals. By 1912 the more decorative phase called Synthetic (or Collage) Cubism, began to appear; it was characterized by fewer, more solid forms, conceptual rather than observed subject matter, and richer color and texture.

curtain wall A non-load-bearing wall.

Dada A movement in art and literature, founded in Switzerland in the early twentieth century, which ridiculed contemporary culture and conventional art. The Dadaists shared an antimilitaristic and antiaesthetic attitude, generated in part by the horrors of World War I and in part by a rejection of accepted canons of morality and taste. The anarchic spirit of Dada can be seen in the works of Duchamp, Man Ray, Hoch, Miro, and Picasso. Many Dadaists later explored Surrealism.

depth of field The area of sharp focus in a photograph. Depth of field becomes greater as the f-stop number is increased.

design Both the process and the result of structuring the elements of visual form; composition.

De Stijl Dutch for "the style," a purist art movement begun in the Netherlands during World War I by Mondrian and others. It involved painters, sculptors, designers, and architects whose works and ideas were expressed in De Stijl magazine. De Stijl was aimed at creating a universal language of form that would be independent of individual emotion. Visual form was pared down to primary colors, plus black and white, and rectangular shapes. The movement was influential primarily in architecture.

divisionism See pointillism.

dome A generally hemispherical roof or vault. Theoretically, an arch rotated 360 degrees on its vertical axis.

drypoint An intaglio printmaking process in which lines are scratched directly into a metal plate with a steel needle. Also, the resulting print.

earth art; earthworks Sculptural forms of earth, rocks, or sometimes plants, often on a vast scale and in remote locations. Some are deliberately impermanent.

eclecticism The practice of selecting or borrowing from earlier styles and combining the borrowed elements.

edition In printmaking, the total number of prints made and approved by an artist, usually numbered consecutively. Also, a limited number of multiple originals of a single design in any medium.

elevation In architecture, a scale drawing of any vertical side of a given structure.

encaustic A painting medium in which pigment is suspended in a binder of hot wax.

engraving An intaglio printmaking process in which grooves are cut into a metal or wood surface with a sharp cutting tool called a burin or graver. Also, the resulting print.

entasis In classical architecture, the slight swelling or bulge in the center of a column, which corrects the illusion of concave tapering produced by parallel straight lines.

etching An intaglio printmaking process in which a metal plate is first coated with acid-resistant wax, then scratched to expose the metal to the bite of nitric acid where lines are desired. Also, the resulting print.

expressionism The broad term that describes emotional art, most often boldly executed and making free use of distortion and symbolic or invented color. More specifically, Expressionism refers to individual and group styles originating in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. See also Abstract Expressionism.

eye level The height of the viewer's eyes above the ground plane.

facade In architecture, a term used to refer to the front exterior of a building. Also, other exterior sides when they are emphasized.

Fauvism A style of painting introduced in Paris in the early twentieth century, characterized by areas of bright, contrasting color and simplified shapes. The name les fauves is French for "the wild beasts."

figure Separate shape(s) distinguishable from a background or ground.

fine art Art created for purely aesthetic expression, communication, or contemplation. Painting and sculpture are the best known of the fine arts.

flamboyant Any design dominated by flamelike, curvilinear rhythms. In architecture, having complex, flamelike forms characteristic of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Gothic style.

flying buttress See buttress.

folk art Art of people who have had no formal, academic training, but whose works are part of an established tradition of style and craftsmanship.

foreshortening The representation of forms on a two-dimensional surface by presenting the length in such a way that the long axis appears to project toward or recede away from the viewer.

form In the broadest sense, the total physical characteristics of an object, event, or situation.

formalist Having an emphasis on highly structured visual relationships rather than on subject matter or nonvisual content.

format The shape or proportions of a picture plane.

fresco A painting technique in which pigments suspended in water are applied to a damp lime-plaster surface. The pigments dry to become part of the plaster wall or surface.

frontal An adjective describing an object that faces the viewer directly, rather than being set at an angle or foreshortened.

Futurism A group movement that originated in Italy in 1909. One of several movements to grow out of Cubism. Futurists added implied motion to the shifting planes and multiple observation points of the Cubists; they celebrated natural as well as mechanical motion and speed. Their glorification of danger, war, and the machine age was in keeping with the martial spirit developing in Italy at the time.

geodesic A geometric form basic to structures using short sections of lightweight material joined into interlocking polygons. Also a structural system developed by R. Buckminster Fuller to create domes using the above principle.

gesso A mixture of glue and either chalk or plaster of Paris applied as a ground or coating to surfaces in order to give them the correct properties to receive paint. Gesso can also be built up or molded into relief designs, or carved.

glaze In ceramics, a vitreous or glassy coating applied to seal and decorate surfaces. Glaze may be colored, transparent, or opaque. In oil painting, a thin transparent or translucent layer brushed over another layer of paint, allowing the first layer to show through but altering its color slightly.

Gothic Primarily an architectural style that prevailed in western Europe from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, characterized by pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses, that made it possible to create stone buildings that reached great heights.

gouache An opaque, water-soluble paint. Watercolor to which opaque white has been added.

green belt A strip of planned or protected open space, consisting of recreational parks, farm land, or uncultivated land, often used to define and limit the boundaries of a community and prevent urban sprawl.

ground The background in two-dimensional works-the area around and between figures. Also, the surface onto which paint is applied.

Happening An event conceived by artists and performed by artists and others, usually unrehearsed and without a specific script or stage.

hard-edge A term first used in the 1950s to distinguish styles of painting in which shapes are precisely defined by sharp edges, in contrast to the usually blurred or soft edges in Abstract Expressionist paintings.

hatching A technique used in drawing and linear forms of printmaking, in which lines are placed in parallel series to darken the value of an area. Cross-hatching is drawing one set of hatchings over another in a different direction so that the lines cross.

Hellenistic Style of the last of three phases of ancient Greek art (300-100 B.C.), characterized by emotion, drama, and the interaction of sculptural forms with the surrounding space.

hierarchic proportion Use of unnatural proportion to show the relative importance of figures.

high key Exclusive use of pale or light values within a given area or surface.

horizon line In linear perspective, the implied or actual line or edge placed on a two- dimensional surface to represent the place in nature where the sky meets the horizontal land or water plane. The horizon line matches the eye level on a two-dimensional surface. Lines or edges parallel to the ground plane and moving away from the viewer appear to converge at vanishing points on the horizon line.

hue That property of a color identifying a specific, named wavelength of light such as green, red, violet, and so on.

humanism A cultural and intellectual movement during the Renaissance, following the rediscovery of the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. A philosophy or attitude concerned with the interests, achievements, and capabilities of human beings rather than with the abstract concepts and problems of theology or science.

icon An image or symbolic representation often with sacred significance.

iconography The symbolic meanings of subjects and signs used to convey ideas important to particular cultures or religions, and the conventions governing the use of such forms.

impasto In painting, thick paint applied to a surface in a heavy manner, having the appearance and consistency of buttery paste.

Impressionism A style of painting that originated in France about 1870. Paintings of casual subjects, executed outdoors, using divided brush strokes to capture the mood of a particular moment as defined by the transitory effects of light and color. The first Impressionist exhibit was held in 1874.

intaglio Any printmaking technique in which lines and areas to be inked and transferred to paper are recessed below the surface of the printing plate. Etching, engraving, drypoint, and aquatint are all intaglio processes. See also print.

intensity The relative purity or saturation of a hue (color), on a scale from bright (pure) to dull (mixed with another hue or a neutral. Also called chroma.

intermediate color A hue between a primary and a secondary on the color wheel, such as yellow-green, a mixture of yellow and green.

International Style An architectural style that emerged in several European countries between 1910 and 1920. Related to purism and De Stijl in painting, it joined structure and exterior design into a noneclectic form based on rectangular geometry and growing out of the basic function and structure of the building.

kiln An oven in which pottery or ceramic ware is fired.

kinetic art Art that incorporates actual movement as part of the design.

kore Greek for "maiden." An Archaic Greek statue of a standing clothed young woman.

kouros Greek for "youth." An Archaic Greek statue of a standing nude young male.

lens The part of a camera that concentrates light and focuses the image.

linear perspective See perspective.

lintel See beam.

lithography A planographic printmaking technique based on the antipathy of oil and water. The image is drawn with a grease crayon or painted with tusche on a stone or grained aluminum plate. The surface is then chemically treated and dampened so that it will accept ink only where the crayon or tusche has been used.

local color The actual color as distinguished from the apparent color of objects and surfaces; true color, without shadows or reflections.

logo Short for "logotype." Sign, name, or trademark of an institution, firm, or publication, consisting of letter forms borne on one printing plate or piece of type.

loom A device for producing cloth by interweaving fibers at right angles.

low key Consistent use of dark values within a given area or surface.

lumina The use of actual light as an art medium.

Mannerism A style that developed in the sixteenth century as a reaction to the classical rationality and balanced harmony of the High Renaissance; characterized by the dramatic use of space and light, exaggerated color, elongation of figures, and distortions of perspective, scale, and proportion.

mass Three-dimensional form having physical bulk. Also, the illusion of such a form on a two-dimensional surface.

mat Border of cardboard or similar material placed around a picture as a neutral area between the frame and the picture.

matte A dull finish or surface, especially in painting, photography, and ceramics.

medium (pl. media or mediums) 1. A particular material along with its accompanying technique; a specific type of artistic technique or means of expression determined by the use of particular materials. 2. In paint, the fluid in which pigment is suspended, allowing it to spread and adhere to the surface.

Minimalism A nonrepresentational style of sculpture and painting, usually severely restricted in the use of visual elements and often consisting of simple geometric shapes or masses. The style came to prominence in the late 1960s.

mixed media Works of art made with more than one medium.

mobile A type of sculpture in which parts move, often activated by air currents. See also kinetic art.

modeling 1. Working pliable material such as clay or wax into three-dimensional forms. 2. In drawing or painting, the effect of light falling on a three-dimensional object so that the illusion of its mass is created and defined by value gradations.

modernism Theory and practice in late nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, which holds that each new generation must build on past styles in new ways or break with the past in order to make the next major historical contribution. Characterized by idealism; seen as "high art," as differentiated from popular art. In painting, most clearly seen in the work of the Post-Impressionists, beginning in 1885; in architecture, most evident in the work of Bauhaus and International Style architects, beginning about 1920.

module A standard unit of measure in architecture. The part of a structure used as a standard by which the rest is proportioned.

monochromatic A color scheme limited to variations of one hue, a hue with its tints and/or shades.

montage 1. A composition made up of pictures or parts of pictures previously drawn, painted, or photographed. 2. In motion pictures, the combining of separate bits of film to portray the character of a single event through multiple views.
mosaic An art medium in which small pieces of colored glass, stone, or ceramic tile called tessera are embedded in a background material such as plaster or mortar. Also, works made using this technique.

mural A large wall painting, often executed in fresco.

naturalism Representational art in which the artist presents a subjective interpretation of visual reality while retaining something of the natural appearance or look of the objects depicted. Naturalism varies greatly from artist to artist, depending on the degree and kind of subjective interpretation.

naive art Art made by people with no formal art training.

nave The tall central space of a church or cathedral, usually flanked by side aisles.

negative shape A background or ground shape seen in relation to foreground or figure shapes.

Neoclassicism New classicism. A revival of classical Greek and Roman forms in art, music, and literature, particularly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe and America. It was part of a reaction to the excesses of Baroque and Rococo art.

neutrals Not associated with any single hue. Blacks, whites, grays, and dull gray-browns. A neutral can be made by mixing complementary hues.

nonobjective See nonrepresentational and abstract art.

nonrepresentational Art without reference to anything outside itself-without representation. Also called nonobjective-without recognizable objects.

offset printing Planographic printing by indirect image-transfer from photomechanical plates. The plate transfers ink to a rubber-covered cylinder, which "offsets" the ink to the paper. Also called photo-offset and offset lithography.

oil paint Paint in which the pigment is held together with a binder of oil, usually linseed oil.

opaque Impenetrable by light; not transparent or translucent.

open form A form whose contour is irregular or broken, having a sense of growth, change, or unresolved tension; form in a state of becoming.

optical color mixture Apparent rather than actual color mixture, produced by interspersing brush strokes or dots of color instead of physically mixing them. The implied mixing occurs in the eye of the viewer and produces a lively color sensation.

painterly Painting characterized by openness of form, in which shapes are defined by loose brushwork in light and dark color areas rather than by outline or contour.

pastels 1. Sticks of powdered pigment held together with a gum binding agent. 2. Pale colors or tints.

performance art Dramatic presentation by visual artists (as distinguished from theater artists such as actors and dancers) before an audience, usually apart from a formal theatrical setting.

perspective A system for creating an illusion of depth or three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. Usually refers to linear perspective, which is based on the fact that parallel lines or edges appear to converge and objects appear smaller as the distance between them and the viewer increases. Atmospheric perspective (aerial perspective) creates the illusion of distance by reducing color saturation, value contrast, and detail in order to imply the hazy effect of atmosphere between the viewer and distant objects. Isometric perspective is not a visual or optical interpretation, but a mechanical means to show space and volume in rectangular forms. Parallel lines remain parallel; there is no convergence.

perspective rendering A view of an architectural structure drawn in linear perspective, usually from a three-quarter view or similar vantage point that shows two sides of the proposed building.

photorealism A style of painting that became prominent in the 1970s, based on the cool objectivity of photographs as records of subjects.

pictorial space In a painting or other two-dimensional art, illusionary space which appears to recede backward into depth from the picture plane.

picture plane The two-dimensional picture surface.

pigment Any coloring agent, made from natural or synthetic substances, used in paints or drawing materials.

plan In architecture, a scale drawing in diagrammatic form showing the basic layout of the interior and exterior spaces of a structure, as if seen in a cutaway view from above.

plastic 1. Pliable; capable of being shaped. Pertaining to the process of shaping or modeling (i.e., the plastic arts). 2. Synthetic polymer substances, such as acrylic.

pointillism A system of painting using tiny dots or "points" of color, developed by French artist Georges Seurat in the 1880s. Seurat systematized the divided brushwork and optical color mixture of the Impressionists and called this technique divisionism.

polychromatic Having many colors; random or intuitive use of color combinations as opposed to color selection based on a specific color scheme.

Pop Art A style of painting and sculpture that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in Britain and the United States; based on the visual clich¾ s, subject matter, and impersonal style of popular mass-media imagery.

positive shape A figure or foreground shape, as opposed to a negative ground or background shape.

post-and-beam system (post and lintel) In architecture, a structural system that uses two or more uprights or posts to support a horizontal beam (or lintel) which spans the space between them.

Post-Impressionism A general term applied to various personal styles of painting by French artists (or artists living in France) that developed from about 1885 to 1900 in reaction to what these artists saw as the somewhat formless and aloof quality of Impressionist painting. Post-Impressionist painters were concerned with the significance of form, symbols, expressiveness, and psychological intensity. They can be broadly separated into two groups, expressionists, such as Gauguin and Van Gogh, and formalists, such as C¾ zanne and Seurat.

Post-Modern An attitude or trend of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, in which artists and architects accept all that modernism rejects. In architecture, the movement away from or beyond what had become boring adaptations of the International Style, in favor of an imaginative, eclectic approach. In the other visual arts, Post-Modern is characterized by an acceptance of all periods and styles, including modernism, and a willingness to combine elements of all styles and periods. Although modernism makes distinctions between high art and popular taste, Post-Modernism makes no such value judgments.

prehistoric art Art created before written history. Often the only record of early cultures.

primary colors Those hues that cannot be produced by mixing other hues. Pigment primaries are red, yellow, and blue; light primaries are red, green, and blue. Theoretically, pigment primaries can be mixed together to form all the other hues in the spectrum.

prime In painting, a first layer of paint or sizing applied to a surface that is to be painted.

print (artist's print) A multiple-original impression made from a plate, stone, wood block, or screen by an artist or made under the artist's supervision. Prints are usually made in editions, with each print numbered and signed by the artist.

proportion The size relationship of parts to a whole and to one another.

realism 1. A type of representational art in which the artist depicts as closely as possible what the eye sees. 2. Realism. The mid-nineteenth-century style of Courbet and others, based on the idea that ordinary people and everyday activities are worthy subjects for art.

registration In color printmaking or machine printing, the process of aligning the impressions of blocks or plates on the same sheet of paper.

reinforced concrete (ferroconcrete) Concrete with steel mesh or bars embedded in it to increase its tensile strength.

relief printing A printing technique in which the parts of the printing surface that carry ink are left raised, while the remaining areas are cut away. Woodcuts and linoleum prints (linocuts) are relief prints.

relief sculpture Sculpture in which three-dimensional forms project from a flat background of which they are a part. The degree of projection can vary and is described by the terms high relief and low relief (bas-relief.)

Renaissance Period in Europe from the late fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, characterized by a renewed interest in human-centered classical art, literature, and learning. See also humanism.

representational art Art in which it is the artist's intention to present again or represent a particular subject; especially pertaining to realistic portrayal of subject matter.

reproduction A mechanically produced copy of an original work of art; not to be confused with an original print or art print.

rhythm The regular or ordered repetition of dominant and subordinate elements or units within a design.

ribbed vault See vault.

Rococo From the French rocaille meaning "rock work." This late Baroque (c. 1715-1775) style used in interior decoration and painting was characteristically playful, pretty, romantic, and visually loose or soft; it used small scale and ornate decoration, pastel colors, and asymmetrical arrangement of curves. Rococo was popular in France and southern Germany in the 18th century.

Romanesque A style of European architecture prevalent from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, with round arches and barrel vaults influenced by Roman architecture and characterized by heavy stone construction.

Romanticism 1. A literary and artistic movement of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, aimed at asserting the validity of subjective experience as a countermovement to the often cold formulas of Neoclassicism; characterized by intense emotional excitement and depictions of powerful forces in nature, exotic lifestyles, danger, suffering, and nostalgia. 2. Art of any period based on spontaneity, intuition, and emotion rather than carefully organized rational approaches to form.

salon A general term for a group art exhibition in France.

saturation See intensity.

scale The size or apparent size of an object seen in relation to other objects, people, or its environment or format. Also used to refer to the quality or monumentality found in some objects regardless of their size. In architectural drawings, the ratio of the measurements in the drawing to the measurements in the building.

school of art A group of artists whose work demonstrates a common influence or unifying belief. Schools of art are often defined by geographic origin. When the term is applied to a particular artist, it may refer to work done by the artist's pupils or assistants or to work that imitates the artist's style.

screenprinting (serigraphy) A printmaking technique in which stencils are applied to fabric stretched across a frame. Paint or ink is forced with a squeegee through the unblocked portions of the screen onto paper or other surface beneath.

secondary colors Pigment secondaries are the hues orange, violet, and green, which may be produced in slightly dulled form by mixing two primaries.

section In architecture, a scale drawing of part of a building as seen along an imaginary plane that passes through a building vertically.

serigraphy See screenprinting.

setback The legal distance that a building must be from property lines. Early setback requirements often increased with the height of a building, resulting in steplike recessions in the rise of tall buildings.

shade A hue with black added.

shape A two-dimensional or implied two-dimensional area defined by line or changes in value and/or color.

shutter In photography, the part of the camera that controls the length of time the light is allowed to strike the photosensitive film.

silk screen See screenprinting.

simultaneous contrast An optical effect caused by the tendency of contrasting forms and colors to emphasize their difference when they are placed together.

site-specific art Any work made for a certain place, which cannot be separated or exhibited apart from its intended environment.

size Any of several substances made from glue, wax, or clay, used as a filler for porous material such as paper, canvas or other cloth, or wall surfaces. Used to protect the surface from the deteriorating effects of paint, particularly oil paint.

still life A painting or other two-dimensional work of art representing inanimate objects such as bottles, fruit, and flowers. Also, the arrangement of these objects from which a drawing, painting, or other work is made.

stupa The earliest form of Buddhist architecture, probably derived from Indian funeral mounds.

style A characteristic handling of media and elements of form that gives a work its identity as the product of a particular person, group, art movement, period, or culture.

stylized Simplified or exaggerated visual form which emphasizes particular or contrived design qualities.

subtractive color mixture Combining of colored pigments in the form of paints, inks, pastels, and so on. Called subtractive because reflected light is reduced as pigment colors are combined. See additive color mixture.

subtractive sculpture Sculpture made by removing material from a larger block or form.

support The physical material that provides the base for and sustains a two-dimensional work of art. Paper is the usual support for drawings and prints; canvas and panels are supports in painting.

Surrealism A movement in literature and the visual arts that developed in the mid1920s and remained strong until the mid1940s, growing out of Dada and automatism. Based upon revealing the unconscious mind in dream images, the irrational, and the fantastic, Surrealism took two directions: representational and abstract. Dali's and Magritte's paintings, with their uses of impossible combinations of objects depicted in realistic detail, typify representational Surrealism. MirÙ 's paintings, with their use of abstract and fantastic shapes and vaguely defined creatures, are typical of abstract Surrealism.

symbol A form or image implying or representing something beyond its obvious and immediate meaning.

symmetry A design (or composition) with identical or nearly identical form on opposite sides of a dividing line or central axis; formal balance.

synthetic Cubism See Cubism.

Tempera A water-based paint that uses egg, egg yolk, glue, or casein as a binder. Many commercially made paints identified as tempera are actually gouache.

tessera Bit of colored glass, ceramic tile, or stone used in a mosaic.

texture The tactile quality of a surface or the representation or invention of the appearance of such a surface quality.

three-dimensional Having height, width, and depth.

throwing The process of forming clay objects on a potter's wheel.

tint A hue with white added.

townhouse One of a row of houses connected by common side walls.

trompe l'oeil French for "fool the eye." A two-dimensional representation that is so naturalistic that it looks actual or real (three-dimensional.)

truss In architecture, a structural framework of wood or metal based on a triangular system, used to span, reinforce, or support walls, ceilings, piers, or beams.

tunnel vault (barrel vault) See vault.

tusche In lithography, a waxy liquid used to draw or paint images on a lithographic stone or plate.

two-dimensional Having the dimensions of height and width only.

typography The art and technique of composing printed materials from type.

unity The appearance of similarity, consistency, or oneness. Interrelational factors that cause various elements to appear as part of a single complete form.

value The lightness or darkness of tones or colors. White is the lightest value; black is the darkest. The value halfway between these extremes is called middle gray.

vanishing point In linear perspective, the point on the horizon line at which lines or edges that are parallel appear to converge.

vantage point The position from which the viewer looks at an object or visual field; also called observation point or viewpoint.

vault A masonry roof or ceiling constructed on the principle of the arch. A tunnel or barrel vault is a semicircular arch extended in depth: a continuous series of arches, one behind the other. A groin vault is formed when two barrel vaults intersect. A ribbed vault is a vault reinforced by masonry ribs.

vehicle Liquid emulsion used as a carrier or spreading agent in paints.

video Television. "Video" emphasizes the visual rather than the audio aspects of the television medium. The term is also used to distinguish television used as an art medium from general broadcast television.

visualize To form a mental image or vision; to imagine.

volume 1. Space enclosed or filled by a three-dimensional object or figure. 2. The implied space filled by a painted or drawn object or figure. Synonym: mass.

warm colors Colours whose relative visual temperature makes them seem warm. Warm colors or hues include red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, and yellow. See also cool colors.

war In weaving, the threads that run lengthwise in a fabric, crossed at right angles by the weft. Also, the process of arranging yarn or thread on a loom so as to form a warp.

wash A thin, transparent layer of paint or ink.

watercolor Paint that uses water-soluble gum as the binder and water as the vehicle. Characterized by transparency. Also, the resulting painting.

weft In weaving, the horizontal threads interlaced through the warp. Also called woof.

woodcut A type of relief print made from an image that is left raised on a block of wood.


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The Art Glossary is here to assist you with useful art terms that provide an oversight of aspects within the art world. many of the artistic movements over the centuries are included in the Glossary, such as: Impressionism; Cubism; Surrealism; International Style; Pop Art etc. There are also aspects of art techniques contained within the Glossary, such as: Oil painting; Watercolour painting; Lithograph etc.


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