Artstory Advisors | Art Terms
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Art Terms

ART TERMS GLOSSARY

Abbaye de Créteil

Established in 1906, a group of French writers, artists and composers who were inspired by the work of Renaissance writer François Rabelais

 

Abject art

Artworks which explore themes that transgress and threaten our sense of cleanliness and propriety particularly referencing the body and bodily functions

 

Abstract art

Artworks that do not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colors, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect

 

Abstract expressionism

Term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters in 1940s and 1950s, often characterized by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and the impression of spontaneity

 

Abstraction-Création

Association of abstract artists set up in Paris in 1931 with the aim of promoting abstract art through group exhibitions

 

Academic art

Art made according to the teachings of an art academy, often conservative in nature and resistant to innovation

 

Academy

Artist-run organizations whose aim was to improve the professional standing of artists as well as to provide teaching

 

Académie Colarossi

Art school in Paris, France, established in the nineteenth century as an alternative to the official and conservative Ecole des Beaux Arts

 

Académie Julian

The Académie Julian established in Paris in 1868, became a major alternative school to the official Ecole des Beaux Arts, especially for women who were not admitted to the Beaux Arts until 1897

 

Acrylic paint

Water-based fast-drying paint widely used by artists since the 1960s. Can be used thickly or thinly depending how much water is added

 

Action painters

Artists working from the 1940s until the early 1960s whose approach to painting (using drips, splashes and gestural brushstrokes) emphasized the act of painting as an essential part of the finished work

 

Actionism

English term for Vienna-based group Wiener Aktionismus founded in 1962 whose actions were deliberately shocking, often including self-torture

 

Activist art

Term used to describe art that is grounded in the act of ‘doing’ and addresses political or social issues

 

Aesthetic movement

The aesthetic movement championed pure beauty and ‘art for art’s sake’ emphasizing the visual and sensual qualities of art and design over practical, moral or narrative considerations

 

Aesthetics

A branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of beauty and taste

 

Afrapix

Photographer’s collective and agency founded in South Africa in 1982, which encouraged its members to use photography as activism

 

AfriCOBRA

A Chicago-based group of black artists who aimed to develop their own aesthetic in the visual arts in order to empower black communities

 

Afrofuturism

A cultural aesthetic that explores the African-American experience, and aims to connect those from the black diaspora with their forgotten African ancestry

 

Agit-prop

An enterprise set up by the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party in 1920 intended to control and promote the ideological conditioning of the masses

 

Airbrushing

Painting technique which uses an airbrush to give an even and consistent surface, often used to create a high level of realism

 

AkhRR

The Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia, founded in Moscow in 1922, depicted everyday life among the working people of Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution in a realistic, documentary manner

 

Alabaster

A fine-grained marble-like variety of gypsum, alabaster is a soft white or translucent stone

 

Albumen print

Invented in 1850, and commonly used in the late nineteenth century, the albumen print is a type of photographic print made from paper coated with albumen (egg white)

 

Allegory

Allegory in art is when the subject of the artwork, or the various elements that form the composition, is used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning

 

Altarpiece

Painting placed on or behind the altar of a Christian church as a focus for worship

 

Alter modern

Term coined by curator Nicolas Bourriaud in 2009, to describe art made as a reaction against standardization and commercialism, in the context of globalization

 

American Abstract Artists (AAA)

An organization founded in 1936 to promote the appreciation of abstract art in the United States

 

American social realist photography

Photographs documenting rural poverty during America’s Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s

 

Analytical cubism

The early phase of cubism, generally considered to run from 1908–12, characterized by a fragmentary appearance of multiple viewpoints and overlapping planes

 

The Ancients

Group of artists who formed around the visionary artist and poet William Blake in the last years before his death in 1827

 

Angry Penguins

A modernist literary and artistic movement that sought to shake up the entrenched cultural establishment of Australia in the 1940s

 

Animation

Animation is the rapid display of sequences of static imagery in such a way as to create the illusion of movement

 

Anthropophagia

Meaning cannibalism, as an art term it is associated with the 1960s Brazilian art movement Tropicália whose work, although being rooted in Brazil, took influences from Europe and America

 

Anti-art

Art that challenges the existing accepted definitions of art

 

Anti-form

Term associated with a group of artists working in the United States in the late 1960s who embraced chance and other organic processes in the creation of their minimal sculptures

 

Apartment art

Underground, usually experimental, art exhibited in private spaces (such as apartments)

 

Appropriation

The practice of artists using pre-existing objects or images in their art with little transformation of the original

 

Aquatint

Printmaking technique that produces tonal effects by using acid to eat into the printing plate creating sunken areas which hold the ink

 

Arab Image Foundation (AIF)

Nonprofit organization established in Beirut in 1997 to preserve, exhibit and study photographs from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab Diaspora

 

Archive

Traditionally an archive is a store of documents or artefacts of a purely documentary nature

 

Art & Language

A pioneering conceptual art group that questioned the critical assumptions of mainstream modern art practice and criticism

 

Art autre

Also known as art informel, the term was used to describe the dominant trend of abstract art in the 1940s and 1950s characterised by an improvisatory approach and highly gestural technique

 

Art brut

French term that translates as ‘raw art’, invented by the French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art such as graffiti or naïve art which is made outside the academic tradition of fine art

 

Art deco

Design style of 1920s and 1930s in furniture, decorative arts and architecture characterized by its geometric character

 

Art fairs

Trade exhibitions for commercial dealers and galleries to showcase specifically to collectors, but also to the public, the art and artists they represent

 

Art informel

French term describing a swathe of approaches to abstract painting in the 1940s and 1950s which had in common an improvisatory methodology and highly gestural technique

 

Art intervention

Art designed specifically to interact with an existing structure or situation, be it another artwork, the audience, an institution or in the public domain

 

Art nouveau

International style in architecture and design that emerged in the 1890s and is characterized by sinuous lines and flowing organic shapes based on plant forms

 

Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC)

Group of activists who came together in New York in 1969 to promote artists’ rights and to challenge the art establishment into implementing various reforms

 

Arte de los medios de comunicación de masas (art of the mass media)

Experimental arts group formed in Argentina in 1966 who used mass media as their medium (or art form) in order to question its role and power in society

 

Arte Madí

Artistic group formed in Buenos Aires in 1944 devoted to pure geometric abstraction

 

Arte nucleare

Artist group founded in Milan in 1951 whose aim was to make art in response to the nuclear age

 

Arte povera

Radical Italian art movement from the late 1960s to 1970s whose artists explored a range of unconventional processes and non-traditional ‘everyday’ materials

 

Artist-curator

The name given to a practicing artist who also curates shows or runs not-for-profit spaces from which they exhibit their art and that of other artists

 

Artist Placement Group

Group founded in 1966 with the aim of placing artists in government, commercial and industrial organizations

 

Artists International Association

An exhibiting society founded in London in 1933, which held exhibitions and events to promote and support various left-of centre political causes

 

Arts and Crafts

Design movement initiated by William Morris in 1861 which aimed to improve the quality of design and make it available to the widest possible audience

 

Ashcan School

Group of North American artists who used realist techniques to depict social deprivation and injustice in the American urban environment of the early twentieth century

 

Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención (Concrete-Invention Art Association)

One of two artistic groups formed in Buenos Aires in 1944 devoted to pure geometric abstraction

 

Asociación de Arte Constructivo (Association of Constructivist Art)

Art movement founded in Uruguay in 1935 by constructivist artist and writer Joaquín Torres-Garcia, with the aim of creating a truly Latin American art

 

Assemblage

Art made by assembling disparate elements often scavenged by the artist, sometimes bought specially

 

Atelier

French word which translates literally as studio or workshop and which is often used to denote a group of artists, designers or architects working collectively

 

Attribute

In art used as both a noun and a verb; (noun) is an object or animal associated with a particular personage; to attribute (verb) a work of art is to suggest it may be by a particular artist

 

Aura

A quality integral to an artwork that cannot be communicated through mechanical reproduction – such as photography

 

Authenticity

Used by philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin to describe the qualities of an original work of art as opposed to a reproduction

 

Auto-destructive art

Term invented by the artist Gustav Metzger in the early 1960s to describe radical artworks made by himself and others, in which destruction was part of the process of creating the work

 

Autograph ABP

An influential photography collective set up in 1988 to support photographers from racial minorities, and also to confront the lack of visual representation of marginalized groups in British society

 

Automatism

In art, automatism usually refers to the accessing of material from the subconscious or unconscious mind as part of the creative process – as seen in the art of the surrealist movement

 

Avant-garde

Art that is innovatory, introducing or exploring new forms or subject matter

Baghdad Modern Art Group
A highly influential post-war modern art group founded in 1951 with the intention of promoting an Iraqi form of modernism

 

The Baroda Group

Pioneering art collective formed in Baroda, India in 1956 by a group of artists who had taught or studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts at MSU Baroda

 

Baroque

The dominant style in art and architecture of the seventeenth century, characterized by self-confidence, dynamism and a realistic approach to depiction

 

Bauhaus

Revolutionary school of art, architecture and design established by the pioneer modern architect Walter Gropius at Weimar in Germany in 1919

 

Beauty

A combination of shape, color and form that pleases the eye

 

Beaux Arts Quartet

The name given to a group of four young realist painters whose work was exhibited at the Beaux Arts gallery, London in the early 1950s

 

Beijing East Village

Short-lived, politically motivated, Chinese arts collective that came to prominence in the early 1990s

 

Biennial

A large international art exhibition held every two years

 

Big Tail Elephant Group

An art collective formed in Guangzhou in China in the early 1990s in response to rapid urbanization

 

Bio art

Art that uses biotechnology as its medium and raises questions about the future of life, evolution, society and art

 

Biomorphic

Forms or images that while abstract nevertheless refer to, or evoke, living forms such as plants and the human body

 

Bitumen

A naturally-occurring, non-drying, tarry substance used in paint mixtures, especially to enrich the appearance of dark tones

 

The black aesthetic

A cultural ideology that developed in America alongside the civil rights movement in the 1960s that promoted black separatism in the arts

 

Black arts movement

An ideological movement that emerged in America the early 1960s when black artists and intellectuals came together to organize, study and think about what new black art and black politics might be

 

Black Atlantic

Term used by critic Paul Gilroy in 1993 to describe a fusion of black cultures with other cultures from around the Atlantic

 

Black Audio Film Collective

A pioneering arts initiative founded in 1982 whose ground-breaking experimental works engaged with black popular and political culture in Britain and cross-examined its new multicultural reality

 

Black box

Relating to performance art, the black box is the name for a square room painted black in which artists performed experimental work

 

Black Mountain College

Highly influential college founded at Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA, in 1933 where teaching was experimental and committed to an interdisciplinary approach

 

The Blk Art Group

Formed in Wolver Hampton, England, in 1979, The Blk Art Group was an association of young black artists who raised questions about what Black art was, its identity, and what and what it could be in the future

 

Bloomsbury

A circle of intellectuals and artists who lived in Bloomsbury, near central London, in the period 1904–40

 

Body art

Art in which the body, often that of the artist, is the principal medium and focus

 

Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group

A short-lived progressive art group founded in 1947 in Bombay by a group of artists who challenged India’s existing conservative art establishment

 

Bricolage

The construction or creation of an artwork from any materials that come to hand

 

Bristol school

Artists associated with Bristol in the early 1800s and inspired by local scenery especially the River Avon and Avon Gorge

 

British Black Arts Movement

A radical political art movement founded in 1982 which, inspired by anti-racist discourse and feminist critique, sought to highlight issues of race and gender and the politics of representation

 

British impressionism

Artists working in Britain in the late nineteenth-century who were influenced by the ideas of the French impressionists

 

British surrealism

Artists working in Britain who were inspired by the subconscious as explored by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud

 

Browser art

Art that uses the computer as its medium transforming the codes, the structure of the websites and the links between servers into visual material

 

Brücke

German expressionist group founded in Dresden in 1905 which developed a radical anti-traditional style

 

Brushwork

The characteristics of a paint surface applied with a brush

 

Brutalism

Architectural style of the 1950s and 1960s characterized by simple, block-like forms and raw concrete construction

C-print
A photographic print made from a color negative or slide

 

Cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse)

A collaborative drawing approach first used by surrealist artists to create bizarre and intuitive drawings

 

Camden Town Group

British post-impressionist group founded by Walter Sickert in London in 1911

 

Canvas

Strong, woven cloth traditionally used by artists as a support (surface on which to paint)

 

Capitalist realism

A movement formed in Berlin in Germany in 1963 to challenge the dominating influence of American pop art in the Western world

 

Caricature

A painting, or more usually drawing, of a person or thing in which the features and form have been distorted and exaggerated in order to mock or satirize the subject

 

Carving

Sculptural technique that involves using tools to shape a form by cutting or scraping away from a solid material such as stone or wood

 

Cast

A form created by pouring liquid material, such as plaster or molten metal, into a mold

 

Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square)

Artist group formed in Paris in 1929 which strongly supported new developments in abstract art and in particular promoted mystical tendencies within it

 

Chalk

Soft powdery white or off-white writing or drawing material in crayon form, generally used on a blackboard or other dark surface

 

Charcoal

Black crumbly drawing material made of carbon and often used for sketching and under-drawing for paintings, although can also be used to create more finished drawings

 

Chiaroscuro

Italian term which translates as light-dark, and refers to the balance and pattern of light and shade in a painting or drawing

 

Cinematic

Relating to the cinema or having qualities characteristic of film

 

Círculo y Cuadrado

Artist group formed in Paris in 1929 which strongly supported new developments in abstract art and in particular promoted mystical tendencies within it

 

Civil War and Commonwealth

The period from 1641 when the Civil War broke out to 1660 when the monarchy was restored

 

Classicism

Art that makes reference to ancient Greek or Roman style

 

The Clique

Informal society formed in around 1837 by a group of friends while they were students at the Royal Academy Schools in London

 

CoBrA

Group formed in 1948 by artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam whose painting style was highly expressionist and inspired by the art of children

 

Collaborative

A term meaning to work together, or in conjunction with another, to engage in united labor

 

Collage

Used to describe both the technique and the resulting work of art in which pieces of paper, photographs, fabric and other ephemera are arranged and stuck down to a supporting surface

 

Collective

A group of artists working together to achieve a common objective

 

Color field painting

Term used to describe the work of abstract painters working in the 1950s and 1960s characterized by large areas of a more or less flat single color

 

Comic strip art

Art that imitates the style, commercial printing techniques and subject matter of comic strips

 

Community art

Artistic activity based in a community setting, characterized by interaction or dialogue with the community and often involving a professional artist

 

Complementary colors

Complementary colors are pairs of colors that contrast with each other more than any other color, and when placed side-by-side make each other look brighter

 

Composition

The arrangement of elements within a work of art

 

Computer animation

Also known also as CGI animation, refers to the creation of moving graphics (animated images) using computer technology

 

Conceptual art

Term that came into use in the late 1960s to describe a wide range of types of art that elevated the concept or the idea behind the work over traditional aesthetic and material concerns

 

Conceptual photography

A type of photography that illustrates an idea

 

Concrete art

Abstract art that is entirely free of any basis in observed reality and that has no symbolic implications

 

Constructionism

An extension of constructivism in Britain from about 1950, with artists using naturally occurring proportional systems and rhythms to underpin their geometrical art

 

Constructivism

Particularly austere branch of abstract art founded by Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko in Russia around 1915

 

Contemporary art

Term loosely used to refer to art of the present day and of the relatively recent past, of an innovatory or avant-garde nature

 

Content

Content generally refers to the subject matter, meaning or significance of a work of art, as opposed to its form (size, shape, medium etc. affecting what it looks like)

 

Conversation piece

Informal group portrait, small in scale, showing people – often families, sometimes groups of friends – in domestic interior or garden settings

 

Court

Artists employed by royal courts to paint portraits of the royal family and their courtiers

 

Craft

Craft is a form of making which generally produces an object that has a function: such as something you can wear, or eat or drink from

 

Creolisation

Originally a Caribbean concept, creolisation describes the mixing together of different people and cultures to become one

 

Crypt Group

Splinter group of the St Ives Society of Artists made up of artists who worked in a modern abstract style that was very different from the traditional approach adopted by the majority of its members

 

Crystalist Group

Founded in Khartoum 1971, the Crystalist group were a conceptual art group who challenged the art establishment in Sudan and sought to challenge the dominating masculine vision of art in the country

 

Cubism

A revolutionary new approach to representing reality in art invented by artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in which the artists aimed to bring different views of their subjects together in the same

picture

Cultural democracy

A concept that emerged after the Second World War, which seeks to democratize culture in order to bring about an awareness and appreciation of art to as wide a section of society as possible

 

Cultural Revolution

A social-political movement inspired by communist ideology that took place in China between 1966 and 1976, which aimed to rid the country of the middle classes

 

Curator

A curator is someone employed by a museum or gallery to manage a collection of artworks or artefacts

 

Cynical realism

Term used to describe a group of Beijing artists who painted the psychological fallout felt by the population in response to China’s rapid growth and ambiguous political ideology

Dada
Art movement formed during the First World War in Zurich in negative reaction to the horrors and folly of the war often satirical and nonsensical in nature

 

Danseakhwa: The Korean monochrome movement

The Korean monochrome movement: A formidable movement formed in Korea in the 1950s in an effort to reconcile the influence of Western modernism on Korean artistic culture

 

798 Art Zone / Dashanzi Art District

An artistic community based in an old industrial area of North-East Beijing

 

Data visualisation

Term used to describe the visual representation of information, often statistical

 

De Stijl

Circle of Dutch abstract artists who promoted a style of art based on a strict geometry of horizontals and verticals

 

Decadence

Generally refers to an extreme manifestation of symbolism which emphasized the spiritual, the morbid and the erotic

 

Decalcomania

A blotting process whereby paint is squeezed between two surfaces to create a mirror image

 

Décollage

Generally associated with a process used by artists of the nouveau réalisme (new realism) movement that involved making art from posters ripped from walls

 

Decolonisation

In an art context, this term is often used to describe the process of reversing the dominance of western art and a move towards a truly global art world

 

Deconstruction

Form of criticism first used by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the 1970s which asserts that often there are many and conflicting meanings to be found in a work

 

Degenerate art

Label applied to art that the National Socialist (Nazi) party did not approve of, in an attempt to bring art under their control

 

Der Blaue Reiter

German expressionist group originating in Munich in 1909

 

Destruction

The act of destroying or mutilating a work of art

 

Diaspora

A term used to describe movements in population from one country to another

 

Diez Pintores Concretos

A radical group formed in Havana, Cuba in 1958, devoted to geometric abstraction

 

Digital art

Term for art that is made or presented using digital technology

 

Digital C-print

A digital C-print is the same as a C-print (a color photographic print), but instead of being made from a color negative or slide, the process is digital

 

Diptych

Artwork consisting of two painted or carved panels

 

Direct carving

An approach to making carved sculpture where the actual process of carving suggests the final form rather than a carefully worked out preliminary model

 

Disability arts movement

The disability arts movement emerged in the mid-1970s following the groundswell of political activity amongst disabled people in the west during the previous decade

 

Divisionism

Late nineteenth century painting technique that involved using tiny adjacent dabs of primary color to create the effect of light

 

Documenta

An exhibition of international contemporary art held in Kassel in Germany every five years and considered one of the world’s most important art exhibitions

 

Documentary art

Term associated with the artists who documented the harsh realities of British life during the Depression in the 1930s

 

Documentary photography

A style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events, and is often used in reportage

 

Doual’art

A community orientated organization founded in Douala, Cameroon in 1991 to promote a vision of art as catalyst for social change

 

Drawing

A technique in which images are depicted on a flat surface by making lines, though drawings can also contain tonal areas, washes and other non-linear marks

 

Drypoint

A printmaking process in which a design is drawn on a plate with a sharp, pointed needle-like instrument

 

Dumb Type

a Japanese multi-media performance art collective founded in 1984, and called Dumb Type because they do not use language in their work

 

Dusseldorf School of Photography

A group of students at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in the mid-1970s who studied under the influential photographers Bernd and Hiller Becher

 

Dye destruction print

A print made using a photographic printing process in which color dyes embedded in the paper are selectively bleached away (destroyed) to form a full-color image

Earth art
Also known as land art and part of the wider conceptual art movement of the 1960s and 1970s, refers to art made directly in the landscape

 

Ecole de Dakar

A period of intense creative activity in Senegal between 1960 and 1974

 

École des Beaux-Arts

French term meaning school of fine arts

 

Edition

A series of identical impressions or prints from the same printing surface

 

Educational turn

A theme that emerged in the mid-1990s, Educational turn refers to collaborative or research-based art where the impetus is on the process rather than an object-based artwork

 

Edwardian

Refers to the historical period between 1901 and 1910 when Edward VII was king of Britain

 

Electronic media

The most common examples of electronic media are video recordings, audio recordings, slide presentations, CD-ROM and online content

 

Elizabethan

Refers to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I from 1558 to 1603 which saw a flowering of the arts in Britain

 

Embossed

A raised or depressed surface created during printmaking processes

 

Emotional architecture

A style of modernist architecture conceived in the 1950s that embraced space, color and light, creating buildings that encouraged meditation and reflection

 

Emulation

The process of recreating a digital art work to ensure it continues to work as technology changes

 

Engraving

Printmaking technique that involves making incisions into a metal plate which retain the ink and form the printed image

 

Entropy

The inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society

 

Environmental art

Art that addresses social and political issues relating to the natural and urban environment

 

Environments

An alternative term for installation art; refers to mixed-media constructions or assemblages usually designed for a specific place and for a temporary period of time

 

Ephemeral art

A type of art that lasts for a short amount of time

 

Estridentismo

A Mexican avant-garde movement founded in 1921, which celebrated technology and modernity and attempted to transform everyday experiences through performance, pranks and absurdist events

 

Etching

Printmaking technique that uses chemical action to produce incised lines in a metal printing plate which then hold the applied ink and form the image

 

Visual ethnography

The study and interpretation of social organizations and cultures in everyday life conducted using photography, video or film

 

Euston Road School

British realist group formed in 1938 of artists who either taught or studied at the School of Painting and Drawing at 316 Euston Road in London

 

Expanded cinema

A film, video, multi-media performance or an immersive environment that pushes the boundaries of cinema and rejects the traditional one-way relationship between the audience and the screen

 

Experimental ethnography

An approach to studying and interpreting the cultures of everyday life that uses the techniques of experimental filmmaking, like montage, found footage and surrealism

 

Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.)

A collective formed in 1967 in New York to promote collaboration between the arts and new technology

 

Expressionism

Refers to art in which the image of reality is distorted in order to make it expressive of the artist’s inner feelings or ideas

Fairy painting
Particularly associated with the Victorian period, art that depicts fairies and other subjects from the supernatural

 

Fake

A fake or forgery is a copy of a work of art, or a work of art in the style of a particular artist, produced with the intention to deceive

 

Fancy picture

Eighteenth century paintings that depict scenes of everyday life but with elements of imagination, invention or storytelling

 

Fantastic realism

Group of painters working in the late 1950s in Vienna whose work combined the painterly precision of the old masters with an interest in modern art movements and psychoanalysis

 

Fauvism

Name given to the painting of Matisse, Derain and other artists from their circle from 1905 to about 1910 characterized by strong colors and fierce brushwork

 

Federal Art Project

An American government program to give work to unemployed artists during the Great Depression of the 1930s

 

Feminist art

Art by women artists made consciously in the light of developments in feminist art theory since about 1970

 

Festac (Second Festival of Black Arts and Culture)

An ambitious festival of arts, music, dance, literature and culture held in Lagos in 1977 which brought together artists from all over Africa and its Diaspora

 

Figurative art

Any form of modern art that retains strong references to the real world and particularly to the human figure

 

Filmaktion

A loose-knit group of experimental British filmmakers who worked and performed together in the early 1970s

 

Fin de Siècle

French phrase applied specifically as a historical term to the end of the nineteenth century and more specifically to decade of 1890s

 

Fluxus

An international avant-garde group or collective that was founded and flourished in the1960s but still continues today

 

Flâneur

French term meaning ‘stroller’ or ‘loafer’ used by nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire to identify an observer of modern urban life

 

Foreshortening

The treatment of an object or human body in a picture so as to produce an illusion of projection or extension in space

 

Forgery

Forgery is another word for a fake, and describes a copy of a work of art, or a work of art in the style of a particular artist, produced with the intention to deceive

 

Form

Can refer to the overall form taken by the work – its physical nature; or within a work of art it can refer to the element of shape among the various elements that make up a work

 

Formalism

The study of art based solely on an analysis of its form – the way it is made and what it looks like

 

Format

Format is traditionally used to describe the shape or proportions of the support, for example the canvas, of a painting or other essentially flat work of art such as a relief

 

Formlessness

A concept, first introduced by French writer-philosopher Georges Bataille, who argued that art should be brought ‘down in the world’ from its elevated status to its base materialism

 

Found object

A natural or man-made object (or fragment of an object) found (or sometimes bought) by an artist and kept because of some intrinsic interest the artist sees in it

 

Fresco

A mural painting technique that involves painting with water-based paint directly onto wet plaster so that the paint becomes an integral part of the plaster

 

Frottage

A surrealist and ‘automatic’ method of creative production that involves creating a rubbing of a textured surface using a pencil or other drawing material

 

Fumage

A technique in which an image is created by painting with smoke from a lighted candle into a ground of wet paint.

 

Futurism

Italian art movement of the early twentieth century that aimed to capture in art the dynamism, energy and movement of the modern world

Generative art
Art made by a predetermined system that often includes an element of chance – is usually applied to computer based art

 

Genre painting

Paintings of subjects from everyday life, usually small in scale

 

Genres

Genres are types of painting. These were codified in the seventeenth century as (in descending order of importance) history, portrait, genre, landscape and still life

 

Geometry of Fear

Term coined by the critic Herbert Read in 1952 to describe the work of a group of young British sculptors characterized by tortured, battered or blasted looking human, or sometimes animal figures

 

Georgian

Term applied to the styles prevalent through the reigns of the four King Georges in Britain from 1714 to 1830

 

German expressionism

German early twentieth century stylistic movement in which images of reality were distorted in order to make them expressive of the artist’s inner feelings or ideas

 

Gestural

Term used to describe the application of paint in free sweeping gestures with a brush

 

Glasgow School

Glasgow School usually refers to the circle of artists and designers working around Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow from the mid-1890s to about 1910

 

Globalisation

Globalisation in relation to art refers to both the unifying process that occurs when artists are exposed to the same influences, and the art made in response to this

 

Gouache

Water-soluble paint that, unlike watercolor, is opaque so the white of the paper surface does not show through

 

Graffiti art

Images or text painted usually onto buildings, using spray paint

 

Grand manner

English term for the highest style of art in academic theory based on an idealized, classical approach

 

Graphite

A metallic grey writing and drawing material most commonly used in pencil form – though graphite powder is also used by artists as a drawing material

 

Grattage

Surrealist painting technique that involves laying a canvas prepared with a layer of oil paint over a textured object and then scraping the paint off to create an interesting and unexpected surface

 

Group 1890

A short-lived movement founded in Bhavnagar India in 1962 of eleven artists who sought to create a modern Indian art aesthetic in the wake of Indian Independence.

 

Group f.64

group founded in the 1930s of eleven photographers, including Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, who were united by their desire to photograph life as it really is

 

Group X

Short lived British group formed by Wyndham Lewis in 1920 to provide a continuing focus for avant-garde art in Britain following the First World War

 

Grupo Frente

A 1950s Brazilian art movement formed by artists who rejected the figuration and nationalism of the predominant modernist Brazilian painting style

 

Grupo Ruptura

Group of Brazilian abstract artists formed in the early 1950s with the aim of breaking with the prevalent naturalist approach to painting in the country

 

Gruppo Origine

Short-lived Italian group (translates as origin group) formed in 1951 to promote a return to simple form and color in abstract art

 

Guerrilla Girls

A group of anonymous American female artists who seek to expose sexual and racial discrimination in the art world and the wider cultural arena

 

Gugulective

A contemporary art collective founded in 2006 in Gugulethu, a township near Cape Town, South Africa, who believe in art as an instrument for social change

 

Gutai

Japanese avant-garde group formed in 1954 whose radical ideas and approaches to making art anticipated later performance and conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s

Happening
Happenings were theatrical events created by artists, initially in America, in the late 1950s and early 1960s

 

Haptic

Derived from the Greek word (haptesthai) meaning ‘touch’ or ‘contact’, haptic relates to the way in which humans interact by touch with the world around them

 

Hard edge painting

An approach to abstract painting that became widespread in the 1960s and is characterized by areas of flat color with sharp, clear (or ‘hard’) edges

 

Harlem renaissance

The flowering of black art, literature and music in the United States and in particular, Harlem, New York, in the 1920s

 

Heidelberg School

Late nineteenth century art movement named after the village of Heidelberg in Australia where a small group of artists would go to paint en plein air (outdoors and on the spot)

 

Hi-Red Centre

A short-lived radical art collective that emerged in post-war Japan and was active between 1963 and 1964

 

History painting

Seventeenth century term describing paintings with subject matter drawn from classical history, mythology, and the Bible – also used in the eighteenth century to refer to more recent historical subjects

 

Hudson River school

Nineteenth century North American landscape painters who depicted scenes of natural beauty in areas that included the Hudson River Valley and the Catskill Mountains

 

Hurufiyya

A style pioneered in the late 1940s by the Syrian artist Madiha Omar in which Arabic words or single letters are transformed into pictures

 

Hyper-realism

Term that appeared in the early 1970s to describe a resurgence of particularly high fidelity realism in sculpture and painting at that time

Iconography
The iconography of an artwork is the imagery within it

 

Identity politics

An anti-authoritarian political and cultural movement that gained prominence in America and Europe the mid-1980s, asking questions about identity, repression, inequality and injustice

 

Il Novecento Italiano

Italian group formed in 1922 with the aim of reviving the tradition of large format history painting and sculpture in the classical manner

 

Illusionism

Painting that creates the illusion of a real object or scene, or a sculpture where the artist has depicted the figure in such a realistic way that they seem alive

 

Impasto

An area of thick paint, or texture, in a painting

 

Impressionism

Approach to painting scenes of everyday life developed in France in the nineteenth century and based on the practice of painting finished pictures out of doors and spontaneously ‘on the spot’

 

Improvisation

In art, improvisation refers to the act of creating a work of art without pre-planning

 

Independent Group

Radical group of young artists within the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London

 

Indigenism

A movement in art that originated in Latin America during the 1920s which saw artists fighting against the dominance of European art in favor of making art about their own culture which embraced pre-Columbian art

 

Industrial design

The design of mass-produced, machine-made goods

 

Ink

An ancient writing and drawing medium in liquid or paste form, traditionally black or brown in color – though it can also contain colored dyes or pigments

 

Installation art

Mixed-media constructions or assemblages usually designed for a specific place and for a temporary period of time

 

Institutional critique

The act of critiquing an institution as artistic practice, the institution usually being a museum or an art gallery

 

Intaglio

Any form of printmaking in which the image is produced by incising into the printing plate and where it is the incised line or area that holds the ink to create the image

 

Interactive art

Art that relies on the participation of a spectator

 

International style

Term first used in 1932 to describe architects associated with the modern movement whose designs shared similar visual qualities – being mostly rectilinear, undecorated, asymmetrical and white

 

Internet art

Art that is made on and for the internet

 

Intimism

French term applied to quiet domestic scenes

 

Art intervention

Art designed specifically to interact with an existing structure or situation, be it another artwork, the audience, an institution or in the public domain

Jacobean
Term used to describe the art and culture of the reign of James I (reigned 1603–25)

 

Japonisme

French term coined in the late nineteenth century to describe the craze for Japanese art and design in the West

 

Jikken Kobo (experimental workshop)

Founded in Tokyo in 1951, an interdisciplinary group of artists, musicians, choreographers and poets who were inspired by European and American avant-garde artists

Khartoum School
A modernist movement formed in Sudan in 1960 that sought to develop a new visual vocabulary to reflect the distinctive identity of the newly independent nation

 

Kinesthetic art

Art that deals with the body in movement

 

Kinetic art

Art that depends on motion for its effects

 

Kitchen Sink painters

A group of British artists working in the 1950s who painted ordinary people in scenes of everyday life

 

Kitsch

German word for trash, used in English to describe particularly cheap, vulgar and sentimental forms of popular and commercial culture

 

Kunsthalle

German term for a public art space that mounts temporary exhibitions

Laboratoire Agit’Art
Founded in Dakar in 1974, a revolutionary and subversive art collective that sought to combine traditional African performance and creativity with a modern aesthetic

 

Lacanian

Refers to the thinking and writing of Jacques Lacan (1901–1981), a prominent French psychoanalyst and theorist, whose ideas had a huge impact on critical theory in the twentieth century

 

Lahore Art Circle

Group founded in 1952 by young Pakistani artists and writers who aspired towards modernism and abstraction.

 

Land art

Land art is made directly in the landscape, sculpting it into earthworks or making structures using natural materials found in the landscape such as rocks or twigs

 

Landscape

One of the principal types or genres of subject for Western art

 

Lettrisme

French avant-garde movement founded in the 1940s which takes the form of visual poetry, with artists using calligraphic techniques to superimpose letters on various objects from furniture to film

 

Lightbox

A box with a translucent white surface fitted with an internal light source, commonly a fluorescent tube or small incandescent bulbs

 

Linocut

A relief print produced in a manner similar to a woodcut but that uses linoleum as the surface into which the design is cut and printed from

 

Lithography

A printing process that uses a flat stone or metal plate on which the image areas are worked using a greasy substance so that the ink will adhere to them by, while the non-image areas are made ink-repellent

 

Live art

Performance undertaken by an artist or a group of artists as a work of art, usually innovative and exploratory in nature

 

London Group

Exhibiting group founded in 1913 to organize modern art exhibitions in Britain

 

Luminism

Term meaning roughly, painting of light and applied specifically to the American landscape painters of the Hudson River School from about 1830–70

Magic realism
Term invented by German photographer, art historian and art critic Franz Roh in 1925 to describe modern realist paintings with fantasy or dream-like subjects

 

Magnum Photos

New York based photographic co-operative founded in 1947 that aimed to give photographers the freedom to record what they saw without having to work to the agendas of magazines and newspapers

 

Mail art

Art movement based on the principle of sending small scale works through the postal service

 

Manifesto invencionista

Manifesto published in Buenos Aires in 1946 which heralded the start of the abstract and concretist movement in Argentina

 

Mannerist

Sixteenth century style characterized by artificiality, elegance and sensuous distortion of the human figure

 

Maquette

A model for a larger piece of sculpture

 

Market Photo Workshop

Founded by the documentary photographer David Goldblatt in 1989, the workshop was originally set up to support black photographers in apartheid South Africa

 

Matter painting

The use of thick impasto paint into which other materials such as sand, mud, cement and shells have been added

 

Medium

Can refer to both to the type of art (painting, sculpture and printmaking) as well as the materials an artwork is made from

 

Memento mori

An artwork designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the shortness and fragility of human life

 

Merz

Nonsense word invented by the German dada artist Kurt Schwitters to describe his collage and assemblage works based on scavenged scrap materials

 

Metal

A solid, hard, opaque material that has been used by sculptors since ancient times

 

Metaphysical Art

Early twentieth century Italian art movement typified by dream-like views of eerie arcaded squares with unexpected juxtapositions of objects

 

Mexican muralism

Term describing the revival of large-scale mural painting in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s

 

Mezzotint

A form of engraving developed in the seventeenth century which allows for the creation of soft gradations of tone and rich and velvety blacks

 

Miniature

A small painting, usually a portrait

 

Minimalism

Extreme form of abstract art developed in the USA in the second half of the 1960s and typified by artworks made in very simple geometric shapes based on the square and the rectangle

 

Minjung art

South Korean socio-political art movement that emerged in 1980 after the Gwangju Massacre, in which some 200 peaceful demonstrators were killed by government troops

 

Mir Iskusstva

A Russian avant-garde artist group that ran from 1898 to 1905

 

Mixed media

A term used to describe artworks composed from a combination of different media or materials

 

Mobile

A type of sculpture that is formed of delicate components which are suspended in the air and move in response to air currents or motor power

 

Modern moral subject

A type of painting invented by English artist William Hogarth (1697–1764), which satirizes the manners and morals of the period in which he lived

 

Modern realism

Painting or sculpture created since the development of abstraction in modern art but which continues to represent things in a realistic manner

 

Modernism

Broad movement in Western art, architecture and design which self-consciously rejected the past as a model for the art of the present

 

Modernismo

Cultural movement founded in São Paulo in the 1920s, as an attempt to create a revolutionary new form of art that was modern and distinctly Brazilian

 

Modular

A term used in relation to minimalism, and refers to a work of art with constituent parts that can be moved, separated and recombined

 

Mono-ha

Pioneering art movement that emerged in Tokyo in the mid-1960s whose artists, instead of making traditional representational artworks, explored materials and their properties

 

Monochrome

Monochrome means one colour, so in relation to art, a monochrome artwork is one that includes only one colour

 

Monoprint

A form of printmaking where the image can only be made once, unlike most printmaking which allows for multiple originals

 

Monotype

A unique image printed from a polished plate, such as glass or metal, which has been painted with a design in ink

 

Montage

An assembly of images that relate to each other in some way to create a single work or part of a work of art

 

Mosaic

A picture made up of small parts which are traditionally tiny tiles made out of terracotta, pieces of glass, ceramics or marble and usually inlayed into floors and walls

 

Motif

A recurring fragment, theme or pattern that appears in a work of art

 

Multi-media

First used in the 1960s to describe mixed media works which included an electronic element

 

Multiple

A series of identical art objects, usually a signed limited edition made specifically for selling

Mural

A painting applied directly to a wall in a public space

Nabis
Les Nabis were a group of post-impressionist French painters active from 1888–1900 whose work is characterised by flat patches of colour, bold contours and simplified drawing

 

Naïve art

Art that is simple, unaffected and unsophisticated – usually specifically refers to art made by artists who have had no formal training in an art school or academy

 

Narrative

Narrative art is art that tells a story

 

Natural synthesis

An ideology formulated in Nigeria in the late 1950s, advocating a merging of the best of indigenous art traditions, forms and ideas with the useful Western ones to create a truly modern Nigerian art

 

Naturalism

A broad movement in the nineteenth century towards representing things closer to the way we see them

 

Nazarenes

Group of German artists founded 1809 whose aim was to regenerate German painting by returning to the purity of the early Renaissance

 

Négritude

An anti-colonial cultural and political movement founded by a group of African and Caribbean students in Paris in the 1930s who sought to reclaim the value of blackness and African culture

 

Neo-concrete

The neo-concrete movement was a splinter group of the 1950s Brazilian concrete art movement, calling for a greater sensuality, colour and poetic feeling in concrete art

 

Neo-dada

Term applied to the work of artists working in America the 1950s and 1960s which was reminiscent of the art of the early twentieth century Dada movement

 

Neo-expressionism

The international phenomenon of a major revival of painting in an expressionist manner in the 1980s

 

Neo-geo

The term came into use in the early 1980s in America to describe the work of artists whose work criticized the mechanisation and commercialism of the modern world

 

Neo-impressionism

The name given to the post-impressionist work of Georges Seurat, Paul Signac and their followers who painted using tiny adjacent dabs of primary colour to show light

 

Neo-plasticism

Term adopted by the Dutch pioneer of abstract art, Piet Mondrian, for his own type of abstract painting which used only horizontal and vertical lines and primary colours

 

Neo-romanticism

Term applied to the imaginative and often quite abstract landscape based painting of Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and others in the late 1930s and 1940s

 

Neoclassicism

A particularly pure form of classicism that emerged from about 1750

 

Net art

Art made on and for the internet

 

Neue Künstlervereinigung München (NKV)

An avant-garde exhibiting society founded in Munich in 1909

 

Neue Sachlichkeit

Usually translated as ‘New Objectivity’, Neue Sachlichkeit was a German modern realist movement of the 1920s

 

Neue Wilden

Term used in Germany for neo-expressionism, the re-emergence of expressive painting in the late 1970s and 1980s

 

New British sculpture

Term applied to the work of young British sculptors in the 1980s who, in reaction to minimal and conceptual art, adopted a more traditional approach to materials, techniques and imagery

 

New English Art Club

Founded in London in 1886 as an exhibiting society by artists influenced by impressionism and whose work was rejected by the conservative Royal Academy

 

New figuration

A blanket term referring to the revival of figurative art in Europe and America in the 1960s following a period dominated by abstraction

 

New generation sculpture

Sculpture produced by a group of young British sculptors working in the 1960s, who experimented with materials, forms and colors

 

New genre public art

Public art, often activist in nature, and created outside institutional structures in order to engage directly with an audience

 

New media

A term used to describe the sophisticated new technologies that have become available to artists since the late 1980s that can enable the digital production and distribution of art

 

New Objectivity

English translation of ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’, a German modern realist movement of the 1920s

 

New sculpture

Name applied to the sculptures produced by a group of artists working in the second half of the nineteenth century

 

New spirit painting

The resurgence of expressionist painting around 1980

 

New topographics

A term coined by William Jenkins in 1975 to describe a group of American photographers (Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz) whose mostly black and white prints of the urban landscape had a similar banal aesthetic

 

85 New Wave

Coined by the curator and critic Gao Minglu, 85 New Wave defined a nationwide avant-garde movement that emerged in China in the mid-1980s

 

New York Graphic Workshop

Experimental print workshop founded in 1965 in New York by a group of Latin American artists who aimed to redefine what printmaking could be

 

New York school

The radical art scene that emerged in New York after the Second World War

 

Newlyn school

Group of artists who settled in Newlyn and St Ives in the late nineteenth century and whose work is characterised by an impressionistic style and an exploration of rural scenes

 

Non-objective art

Defines a type of abstract art that is usually, but not always, geometric and aims to convey a sense of simplicity and purity

 

Norwich school

Important British early nineteenth regional school of landscape painting

 

Nouveau réalisme

French movement (meaning new realism) which can be seen as a European counterpart to pop art

 

Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK)

Pioneering artist collective formed in the 1980s in Slovenia which addressed the social and political history of the country

 

Nsukka Group

A revivalist movement that began at the University of Nigeria in 1970 which promoted the traditional painting in Nigeria in order to raise questions about ethnic identity

Objective abstraction
Non-geometric style of abstract art developed by a group of British artists in 1933

 

Offset lithography

A variation of printing technique lithography

 

Oil paint

A slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil that forms a tough, coloured film on exposure to air

 

Olympians

Term often used to describe certain Victorian artists whose work emphasized the classical in both style and subject matter

 

Omega Workshops

Founded in 1913 by the painter and art critic Roger Fry, the Omega Workshops was an English applied arts company based in London

 

Op art

A major development of painting in the 1960s that used geometric forms to create optical effects

 

Orientalism

Term describing the mythological identity created by the West about the East

 

Orientalist

Term used to describe the artists who travelled to the Middle East during the Victorian era in search of new and exotic subjects

 

Orphism

Abstract, cubist influenced painting style developed by Robert and Sonia Delaunay around 1912

 

Otherness

Concept that stems from the idea of ‘other’ – meaning that which is different from you, but also defines you

 

Outsider art

Term used to describe art that has a naïve quality, often produced by people who have not trained as artists or worked within the conventional structures of art production

Painterly
Refers to the application of paint in a ‘loose’ or less than controlled manner, resulting in the appearance of visible brushstrokes within the finished painting

 

Painting

The practice of applying paint or other media to a surface, usually with a brush

 

Palette

A smooth, flat surface on which artists set out and mix their colors before painting, often designed to be held in the hand

 

Pan-Africanism

An ideology of racial solidarity with Africa and its diaspora formed in the mid-nineteenth century

 

Pan-Arabism

A movement devoted to the unification and modernisation of the Arab-speaking world which took root in the late nineteenth century as Arab nations sought independence from the Ottoman Empire

 

Panel

Rigid support or surface for painting on

 

Paper

Matted plant fibres made into sheet form either by hand (traditional) or machine (modern), used by artists as a surface for drawing, watercolour or printmaking

 

Papier collé

Papier collé (pasted paper) is a specific form of collage that is closer to drawing than painting

 

Papunya Tula

An Aboriginal artist collective formed in 1972 in Papunya, Australia, who use traditional Aboriginal art forms and imagery to express their identity

 

Parallel cinema

Movement that began in the 1960s in India with a group of socially conscious film directors who began to produce low-budget films in parallel to the country’s highly successful commercial film industrc

 

Parchment

A surface for drawing or writing made from the skins of calves, goats and sheep

 

Participatory art

a form of art that directly engages the audience in the creative process so that they become participants in the event

 

Pastel

A coloured drawing medium made from pure coloured pigment mixed with a binder to form a stick

 

Patina

Usually refers to a distinct green or brown surface layer on bronze sculpture

 

Pen and ink

Drawing technique involving the application of ink using a quill or pen with metal nib

 

Pencil

An implement for drawing or writing made from graphite (a metallic grey crystallized form of carbon) encased in a wooden cylinder

 

Pendant

A pendant picture is one of two pictures designed to hang together as a matching pair

 

Penwith Society of Arts

Artists’ society formed in 1948 at St Ives, Cornwall, Britain by artists working in an abstract style

 

Perceptismo

Art movement founded in Argentina in 1947 that proposed an approach to abstract painting based on a mathematically formulated relationship between colours and geometric shapes

 

Performance art

Art in which the medium is the artist’s own body and the artwork takes the form of actions performed by the artist

 

Performativity

Describes the interdependent relationship between certain words and actions – as when a word or sentence implies an action

 

Perspective

A system for representing objects in three-dimensional space on the two-dimensional surface of a picture

 

PESTS

An anonymous protest and pressure group of artists operating in New York in the 1980s who aimed to expose the discrimination and tokenism directed towards artists from racial minorities by commercial galleries

 

The photobook

The photobook is a book of photographs by a photographer that has an overarching theme or follows a storyline

 

Photogram

Photographic prints made by laying objects onto photographic paper and exposing it to light

 

Photography

The process or practice of creating a photograph – an image produced by the action of light on a light-sensitive material

 

Photomontage

A collage constructed from photographs

 

Photorealism

Painting style that emerged in Europe and the USA in the late 1960s, characterized by its painstaking detail and precision

 

Pictorialism

An experimental photographic movement dating from the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that sought to elevate the photograph to the status of painting or drawing

 

Picture plane

The physical surface of the painting

 

Pictures generation

Name given to a group of American artists who came of age in the early 1970s and who were known for their critical analysis of media culture

 

Picturesque

An ideal type of landscape that has an artistic appeal, in that it is beautiful but also with some elements of wildness

 

Pittura Metafisica

Early twentieth century Italian art movement typified by dream-like views of eerie arcaded squares with unexpected juxtapositions of objects

 

Plane

A plane surface is a flat surface, and any distinct flat surface within a painting or sculpture can be referred to as a plane

 

Plaster of Paris

A fine white powder which, when mixed with water, forms a white solid

 

Plein air

Refers to the practice of painting entire finished pictures out of doors

 

Plinth

A heavy base or box on which a sculpture stands or is presented

 

Pluralism

In an art context, pluralism refers to the late 1960s and 1970s when art, politics and culture merged as artists began to believe in a more socially and politically responsive form of art

 

Polaroid print

A Polaroid print is a positive print that is produced shortly after exposure by a Polaroid camera

 

Political pop

Art movement that emerged in China in the 1980s and combined western Pop art with socialist realism to create art that questioned the political and social climate of a rapidly changing China

 

Polyptych

A painting or other two-dimensional artwork made up of more than three panels

 

Pont-Aven

The coastal town in Brittany, north-west France, which Paul Gauguin frequented between 1886 and 1894

 

Pop art

Name given to art made in America and Britain from the mid 1950s and 1960s that drew inspiration from sources in popular and commercial culture

 

Portfolio

A number of prints presented as a group and often, though not necessarily, by the same artist and based on a related theme

 

Portrait

A portrait is a representation of a particular person

 

Post-impressionism

Umbrella term to describe changes in impressionism from about 1886, the date of last Impressionist group show in Paris

 

Postcolonial art

Art produced in response to the aftermath of colonial rule, frequently addressing issues of national and cultural identity, race and ethnicity

 

Postmodernism

Term used from about 1970 to describe changes seen to take place in Western society and culture from the 1960s onwards

 

Post-painterly abstraction

A blanket term covering a range of new developments in abstract painting in the late 1950s and early 1960s characterized by a more rigorous approach to abstraction

 

Pre-Raphaelite

Founded in London in 1848, a secret society of young artists (and one writer) who were opposed to the Royal Academy’s promotion of the ideal as exemplified in the work of Raphael

 

Primitivism

Term used to describe the fascination of early modern European artists with tribal art from Africa, the South Pacific and Indonesia, as well as prehistoric and very early European art, and European folk art

 

Print

An impression made by any method involving transfer from one surface to another

 

Process art

Art in which the process of its making is not hidden but remains a prominent aspect of the completed work, so that a part or even the whole of its subject is the making of the work

 

Proof

A printing term applied to all individual impressions made before work on a printing plate or block is completed, in order to check progress of the image

 

Proportion

The relationship of one part of a whole to other parts

 

Provenance

The provenance of a work of art is the history of its ownership

 

Psychedelic art

Generally associated with the 1960s and work made by artists under the influence of the mind-expanding drug LSD

 

Psychogeography

A term coined by the Marxist theorist Guy Debord in 1955 in order to describe the effect of a geographical location on the emotions and behavior of individuals

 

Public art

Art that is in the public realm, regardless of whether it is situated on public or private property or whether it has been purchased with public or private money

 

Purism

Movement formed around 1918 which proposed a kind of painting in which objects are represented as powerful basic forms stripped of detail

Queer aesthetics
Art of homosexual or lesbian imagery that is based around the issues that evolved out of the gender and identity politics of the 1980s

Rational painting
A style of painting that emerged in the mid-1980s in Northern China and was part of a utopian idea of a new spiritual culture, one detached from history and tradition, and based on rationalism

 

Rayograph

Photographic prints made by laying objects onto photographic paper and exposing it to light

 

Rayonism

An early form of abstract art characterized by interacting linear forms derived from rays of light

 

Readymade

Term used by the French artist Marcel Duchamp to describe works of art he made from manufactured objects

 

Realism

Refers to a nineteenth century art movement characterized by subjects painted from everyday life in a naturalistic manner and also to artworks painted in a realistic, photographic way

 

Réalités nouvelles

The Salon des Réalités nouvelles (new realities) was an exhibiting society devoted to pure abstract art founded in Paris in 1939

 

Rebel Art Centre

Founded by Wyndham Lewis in London in March 1914 as a meeting place for artists to discuss revolutionary ideas and teach non-representational art

 

Reception theory

In an art context, reception theory refers to the way an audience actively decodes a work of art

 

Recto / verso

The front and back of a single sheet of paper, or the right-hand and left-hand page of an open book

 

Reformation

The reform of the Christian Church initiated by Martin Luther in Germany from about 1520 and resulting in the split of the church into Catholic and Protestant sects

 

Regency

The style of architecture, furniture and decorative art produced from 1811 until 1830, during the Prince Regency and subsequent reign of George IV

 

Relational aesthetics

Term created by curator Nicholas Bourriaud in the 1990s to describe the tendency he noticed in fine art practice to make art based on, or inspired by, human relations and their social context

 

Relief

A relief is a wall-mounted sculpture in which the three-dimensional elements are raised from a flat base

 

Renaissance

The great revival of art that took place in Italy from about 1400 under the influence of the rediscovery of classical art and culture

 

Replica

A copy of a work of art that is virtually indistinguishable from the original

 

Representational

Blanket term for art that represents some aspect of reality, in a more or less straightforward way

 

Resin

A usually transparent solid or semi-solid substance sometimes used as a medium by sculptors

 

Resistance art

A form of art that emerged in South Africa in the mid-1970s after the Soweto uprising that focused on resisting apartheid and celebrating African strength and unity

 

Restoration

In relation to art, refers to artworks made in the period immediately after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 after ten years of Commonwealth

 

Return to order

A post-First World War European art movement characterized by a return to more traditional approaches to art-making – rejecting the extreme avant-garde tendencies of art in the years leading up to 1918

 

Rhizomes

A key concept in the thinking of philosopher and psychoanalyst duo Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari that each manifestation of an idea is a new way of seeing the world, rather than an extension of an older idea

 

Rococo

Light, sensuous, intensely decorative French style developed in the early eighteenth century following death of Louis XIV and in reaction to the Baroque grandeur of Versailles

 

Romanticism

Early nineteenth century term describing the movement in art and literature distinguished by a new interest in human psychology, expression of personal feeling and interest in the natural world

 

Rural naturalism

Nineteenth century painting movement characterized by scenes of rural life painted in a realist, often sentimentalized, manner

 

Ruralists

Group of British artists founded in 1975 who aimed to revive the painting of figure subjects in idyllic rural settings

Salon
Originally the name of the official art exhibitions organized by the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture and its successor the Academy of Fine Arts

 

Sampling

In its most basic form sampling simply re-processes existing culture, usually technologically, in much the same way a collage does

 

São Paulo Biennial

Large two-yearly exhibition held in São Paulo, Brazil hosting national presentations of contemporary art

 

School of Altamira

Avant-garde art school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, founded in 1946 with the aim of promoting the idea that a new art was necessary to reflect the modern world as revealed by science

 

School of London

London-based painters who were pursuing forms of figurative painting in the face of avant-garde approaches in the 1970s

 

School of Paris

Term describing the early years of the twentieth century when Paris became a magnet for artists from all over the world and the focus of the principal innovations of modern art

 

Scottish Colourists

Group of four Scottish artists, who were among the first to introduce the intense color of the French Fauve movement into Britain in the 1920s

 

Screen-print

A variety of stencil printing, using a screen made from fabric (silk or synthetic) stretched tightly over a frame

 

Sculpture

Three-dimensional art made by one of four basic processes: carving, modelling, casting, constructing

 

Scuola Romana

An umbrella term for the artists based in Rome, or having close links with it, in the 1920s and 1930s

 

Secession

The breaking away of younger and more radical artists from an existing academy or art group to form a new grouping

 

Self-portrait

A portrait of the artist by the artist.

 

Semana de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Week)

An arts festival held in São Paulo in 1922, which was to be the first manifestation of Brazilian modernism

 

Sensorial

Describes art that seeks to engage the audience by activating the senses

 

Serial art

Art that adheres to a strict set of rules to determine its composition or to determine a series of compositions

 

The Seven and Five Society

Formed in London in 1919 The Seven and Five Society was initially a conservative group and can be seen as a British manifestation of the return to order that followed the First World War

 

Shaped canvas

Term used to describe a canvas that is not the traditional rectangular shape

 

Significant form

Term coined by art critic Clive Bell in 1914 to describe the idea that the form of an artwork or forms within an artwork can be expressive even if largely or completely divorced from appearances

 

Simulacrum

A term from Greek Platonic philosophy that meant a copy of a copy of an ideal form

 

Simultanism

Term invented by artist Robert Delaunay to describe the abstract painting developed by him and his wife Sonia Delaunay from about 1910

 

Site-specific

Refers to a work of art designed specifically for a particular location and that has an interrelationship with the location

 

Situationist International

Revolutionary alliance of European avant-garde artists, writers and poets formed at a conference in Italy in 1957 (as Internationale Situationiste or IS)

 

Social realism

Refers to any realist painting that also carries a clearly discernible social or political comment

 

Social Sculpture

Theory developed by the artist Joseph Beuys in the 1970s based on the concept that everything is art and, as a result, everyone has the potential to

 

Social turn

Term first used in 2006 to describe a recent return to socially engaged art that is collaborative, often participatory and involves people as the medium or material of the work

 

Socialist Realism

A form of modern realism imposed in Russia by Stalin and characterized by rigorously optimistic pictures of Soviet life created in a realist style

 

Socially Engaged Practice

Term used to describe socially engaged art that is collaborative, often participatory and involves people as the medium or material of the work

 

Software Art

Art created using software programmers. It is closely related to Net art because of its reliance of the World Wide Web as a tool for dissemination

 

Solarisation

Technique that involves exposing a partially developed photograph to light, before continuing processing, creating halo-like effects

 

Sots Art

Art that appeared in the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s which adapts the techniques of socialist realism to critique its ideological basis and question its cultural implications

 

Sound art

Art about sound, using sound both as its medium and as its subject

 

Spazialismo

Italian movement started by the Argentine-born Italian artist Lucio Fontana in 1947 who, in its manifesto, stated that art should embrace science and technology

 

Spiral

A New York based African American collective formed in 1963 with the aim of addressing how African-American artists should respond to America’s changing political and cultural landscape

 

St Ives School

Artists associated with the fishing town of St Ives in West Cornwall, which became a center for modern and abstract developments in British art from the 1940s to the 1960s

 

St John’s Wood clique

A loose association of painters who lived in the St John’s Wood area of London in the 1870s and 1880s, and who aimed to seek a fresh approach to historical subjects

 

Stars group

A short-lived avant-garde group of self-taught artists operating in Beijing between 1979 and 1983, staging outdoor exhibitions, street demonstrations and public readings

 

Still life

One of the principal genres (subject types) of Western art – essentially, the subject matter of a still life painting or sculpture is anything that does not move or is dead

 

Street art

Related to graffiti writing in that it is created in public locations and is usually unsanctioned, but it covers a wider range of media and is more connected with graphic design

 

Stuart

Refers to the reigns of seventeenth-century British monarchs Charles I and Charles II who were part of the Stuart dynasty

 

Stuckism

Founded by Billy Childish and Charles Thomson in 1999, Stuckism is an art movement that is anti-conceptual and champions figurative painting

 

Subjective Photography

An international movement founded in Germany by the photographer Otto Steinert in 1951 championing photography that explored the inner psyche and human condition rather than reflecting the outside world

 

Sublime

Theory developed by Edmund Burke in the mid eighteenth century, where he defined sublime art as art that refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation

 

Superflat

A concept devised by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami based on the principle that all creative works on a flat surface are two-dimensional and as a result should be given equal weight be they fine art, pop vide

 

Supra-sensorial

A term devised by the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica to describe the experience of being in one of his installations which were designed to encourage the viewer’s emotional and intellectual part

 

Suprematism

Name given by the Russian artist Kasimir Malevich to the abstract art he developed from 1913 characterized by basic geometric forms, such as circles and lines, painted in a limited range of colors

 

Surrealism

Movement, which began in the 1920s, of writers and artists who experimented with ways of unleashing the subconscious imagination

 

Symbolism

Tate glossary definition for symbolism: Late nineteenth-century movement that advocated the expression of an idea over the realistic description of the natural world

 

Synaesthesia

Tate glossary definition for synaesthesia: A neurological condition in which the stimulation of a sense (like touch or hearing) leads involuntarily to the triggering of another sense (like sight or taste)

 

Synthetic cubism

Tate glossary definition for synthetic cubism: The later phase of cubism, generally considered to run from about 1912 to 1914, characterised by simpler shapes and brighter colours

 

Synthetism

Tate glossary definition for synthetism: Term associated with the style of symbolic representation adopted by Paul Gauguin and his followers in the 1880s characterised by flat areas of colour and bold outlines

 

Systems art

Tate glossary definition for systems art: Loosely describes a group of radical artists working in the late 1960s early 1970s who reacted against art’s traditional focus on the object with the aim of making their art more responsive to the world

Tableau
Tate glossary definition for tableau: A painting in which characters are arranged for picturesque or dramatic effect and appear absorbed and completely unaware of the existence of the viewer

 

Tachisme

Tate glossary definition for tachisme: Term used to describe the non-geometric abstract art that developed in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s characterized by spontaneous brushwork, drips and scribble-type marks

 

Tactical media

Tate glossary definition for tactical media: Refers to a re-awakening of social, political and media activism brought on by access to cheap forms of communication, in particular, the Internet

 

Taller Gráfica Popular (The People’s Print Workshop)

Tate glossary definition for Taller Gráfica Popular: An artist’s print collective founded in Mexico in 1937 which, fuelled by post-revolutionary idealism, fought for their own culture against the dominance of the European avant-garde in art

 

Telematic art

Tate glossary definition for telematic art: Interactive art that uses the internet and other digital means of communication, like email and mobile phones

 

Tempera

Tate glossary definition for tempera: The technique of painting with pigments bound in a water-soluble emulsion, such as water and egg yolk, or an oil-in-water emulsion such as oil and a whole egg

 

The Ancients

Tate glossary definition for The Ancients: Group of artists who formed around the visionary artist and poet William Blake in the last years before his death in 1827

 

The Clique

Tate glossary definition for The Clique: Informal society formed in around 1837 by a group of friends while they were students at the Royal Academy Schools in London

 

The Photo-Secession

Tate glossary definition for The Photo-Secession: Group of American photographers who believed that photography was a fine art

 

The uncanny

Tate glossary definition for the uncanny: A Freudian concept which describes the strange and anxious feeling individuals might sometimes experience with familiar objects

 

Time-based media

Tate glossary definition for time-based media: Refers to art that is dependent on technology and has a durational dimension

 

Tondo

Tate glossary definition for tondo: A circular painting or relief sculpture

 

Tone

Tate glossary definition for tone: The lightness or darkness of something – this could be a shade, or how dark or light a colour appears

 

Transavanguardia

Tate glossary definition for Transavanguardia: Italian neo-expressionist group formed in the late 1970s

 

Triennial

Tate glossary definition for triennial: A large-scale contemporary art exhibition that occurs every three years

 

Triptych

Tate glossary definition for triptych: An artwork in three panels

 

Trompe l’oeil

Tate glossary definition for trompe l’oeil: French phrase meaning ‘deceives the eye’ used to describe paintings that create the illusion of a real object or scene

 

Tropicália

Tate glossary definition for tropicália: The name used for an explosion of cultural creativity in Rio de Janerio and São Paulo in 1968 as Brazil’s military regime tightened its grip on power.

 

Tucuman Arde (Tucuman is Burning)

Tate glossary definition for Tucuman Arde (Tucuman is Burning): An exhibition held in Buenos Aires and Rosario in 1968 that sought to highlight the terrible working and living conditions in the industrial city of Tucuman, in north-west Argentina

 

Tudor

Tate glossary definition for Tudor: Family name of the dynasty who ruled Britain from 1485 to 1603

Ugly realism
Tate glossary definition for ugly realism: A style of painting developed in the 1970s that combined fine draughtsmanship with images that were considered ugly

 

The uncanny

Tate glossary definition for the uncanny: A Freudian concept which describes the strange and anxious feeling individuals might sometimes experience with familiar objects

 

Underground art

Tate glossary definition for underground art: First used in relation to the cultural phenomenon of the 1960s and early 1970s where groups of creatives were regarded as existing outside or on the fringes of popular culture

 

Unit One

Tate glossary definition for Unit One: British group formed by Paul Nash in 1933 to promote modern art, architecture and design

 

Useful Art Association

Tate glossary definition for the Useful Art Association: An association started in New York by artist Tania Bruguera which promotes the idea of art as a process that should have real effect in society rather than be a rarefied spectator experience

Vanishing point
Tate glossary definition for vanishing point: The point at which receding parallel lines viewed in perspective appear to converge

 

Vanitas

Tate glossary definition for vanitas: A still life artwork which includes various symbolic objects designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the shortness and fragility of human life

 

Vellum

Tate glossary definition for vellum: A surface for drawing or writing made from the skins of calves, goats and sheep

 

Venice Biennale

Tate glossary definition for Venice Biennale: A major contemporary art exhibition that takes place once every two years in Venice, Italy

 

Verism

Tate glossary definition for verism: From Italian term ‘verismo’, meaning realism in its sense of gritty subject matter

 

Verso / recto

Tate glossary definition for verso / recto: The front and back of a single sheet of paper, or the right-hand and left-hand page of an open book

 

Victorian

Tate glossary definition for Victorian: British life and culture during Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901; in relation to art it usually alludes to the style of genre painting that predominated during the period

 

Video art

Tate glossary definition for video art: Art that involves the use of video and /or audio data and relies on moving pictures

 

Virtual reality

Tate glossary definition for virtual reality: A technology that enables a person to interact with a computer-simulated environment, be it based on a real or an imagined place

 

Visual ethnography

Tate glossary definition for visual ethnography: The study and interpretation of social organisations and cultures in everyday life conducted using photography, video or film

 

Vitrine

Tate glossary definition for vitrine: A large, glass cabinet used for displaying art objects

 

Vivencias

Tate glossary definition for vivencias: Term coined by the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica to mean an interaction with life, or lived experiences

 

Vivo-dito

Tate glossary definition for vivo-dito: Term coined by the Argentinean artist Alberto Greco to express the contradictory position he found himself in with relation to life and the institution of art

 

Vorticism

Tate glossary definition for vorticism: The vorticists were a British avant-garde group formed in London in 1914 with the aim of creating art that expressed the dynamism of the modern world

War artists
Tate glossary definition for war artists: Artists commissioned through an official scheme to record the events of war

 

Washington Color School

Tate glossary definition for Washington Color School: An art movement founded by Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland in the late 1950s in Washington DC promoting a form of abstract art developed from colour field painting

 

Watercolour

Tate glossary definition for watercolour: Refers both to the medium and works of art made using the medium of watercolour – a water soluble paint with transparent properties

 

Watermark

Tate glossary definition for watermark: An image or mark in a sheet of paper visible when viewed by transmitted light

 

Welding

Tate glossary definition for welding: The process of joining two pieces of metal by softening or melting both surfaces to be joined by the application of heat

 

White cube

Tate glossary definition for white cube: Refers to a certain gallery aesthetic characterised by its square or oblong shape, white walls and a light source usually from the ceiling

 

Wood engraving

Tate glossary definition for wood engraving: A printmaking method distinct from woodcut in that the line is incised into the woodblock, rather than the background being cut away to leave a line in relief

 

Woodcut

Tate glossary definition for woodcut: A method of relief printing from a block of wood cut along the grain

 

World Festival of Negro Arts

Tate glossary definition for World Festival of Negro Arts: Held in Dakar in 1966, the first state-sponsored festival to showcase the work of black artists, musicians and writers to a global audience

 

World of Art (Mir Iskutsstva)

Tate glossary definition for World of Art (Mir Iskutsstva): A Russian avant-garde artistic group promoted through the journal of the same name that ran from 1898 to 1905

 

Worpswede group

Tate glossary definition for Worpswede group: Artist colony founded in the countryside village of Worpswede,Germany, by artists who were interested in working from landscape using an expressionist approach

Xiamen Dada
Tate glossary definition for Xiamen Dada: 1980s Chinese art group who protested the influence of socialist realism from the Soviet Union, through absurdist artworks and performances

Young British Artists (YBAs)
Tate glossary definition for Young British Artists: Label applied to a loose group of artists who began to exhibit together in 1988 and who became known for their openness to materials and processes, perceived shock tactics and entrepreneurial attitude

Zaria Art Society
Tate glossary definition for Zaria Art Society: Formed in Zaria, Nigeria in 1958 by a group of young artists with the primary purpose of reconsidering the legacy of early modern Nigerian artists

 

Zero

Tate glossary definition for Zero: Group of artists who practised a form of kinetic art using light and motion