Artstory Advisors | Art Terms
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Art Terms


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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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 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



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



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



Art that challenges the existing accepted definitions of art



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)



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



The characteristics of a paint surface applied with a brush



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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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 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



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



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



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



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


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



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

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



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



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



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



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



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



The act of destroying or mutilating a work of art



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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 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



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



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 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



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



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



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



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



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

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



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



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



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

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



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



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



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’



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



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



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



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



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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



A small painting, usually a portrait



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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


A painting applied directly to a wall in a public space

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 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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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

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



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



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



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



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



Rigid support or surface for painting on



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



A collage constructed from photographs



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



A portrait is a representation of a particular person



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



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



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



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



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



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



The relationship of one part of a whole to other parts



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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