A term generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.
The dominant artistic movement in the 1940s and 1950s, Abstract Expressionism was the first to place New York City at the forefront of international modern art. The associated artists developed greatly varying stylistic approaches, but shared a commitment to an abstract art that powerfully expresses personal convictions and profound human values. They championed bold, gestural abstraction in all mediums, particularly large painted canvases.
Art critic Harold Rosenberg coined the term “action painting” in 1952 to describe the work of artists who painted using bold gestures that engaged more of the body than traditional easel painting. Often the viewer can see broad brushstrokes, drips, splashes, or other evidence of the physical action that took place upon the canvas.
Relating to or characterized by a concern with beauty or good taste (adjective); a particular taste or approach to the visual qualities of an object (noun).
A canvas covered in paint from edge to edge and from corner to corner, in which each area of the composition is given equal attention and significance.
As an artistic strategy, the intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images, objects, and ideas.
The science, art, or profession of designing and constructing buildings, bridges, and other large structures.
The area of an artwork that appears farthest away from the viewer; also, the area against which a figure or scene is placed.
A term meaning extravagant, complex; applied to a style in art and architecture developed in Europe from the early seventeenth to mid-eighteenth century, emphasizing dramatic, often strained effect and typified by bold, curving forms, elaborate ornamentation, and overall balance of disparate parts.
A component of paint that creates uniform consistency or cohesion.
The manner in which a painter applies paint with a brush.
Decorative handwriting or lettering.
A closely woven, sturdy cloth of hemp, cotton, linen, or a similar fiber, frequently stretched over a frame and used as a surface for painting.
A rendering, usually a drawing, of a person or thing with exaggerated or distorted features, meant to satirize the subject.
The act, process, or practice of examining books, films, or other material to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable.
Objects, such as pots and vases, made of clay hardened by heat.
An image with urban scenery as its primary focus; an urban environment.
The principles embodied in the styles, theories, or philosophies of the art of ancient Greece and Rome.
Derived from the French verb coller, meaning “to glue,” collage refers to both the technique and the resulting work of art in which fragments of paper and other materials are arranged and glued or otherwise affixed to a supporting surface.
The perceived hue of an object, produced by the manner in which it reflects or emits light into the eye. Also, a substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.
To request, or the request for, the production of a work of art.
Colors located opposite one another on the color wheel. When mixed together, complementary colors produce a shade of gray or brown. When one stares at a color for a sustained period of time then looks at a white surface, an afterimage of the complementary color will appear.
The arrangement of the individual elements within a work of art so as to form a unified whole; also used to refer to a work of art, music, or literature, or its structure or organization.
The subject matter or significance of a work of art, especially as contrasted with its form.
The outline of something.
In photography, the range of light to dark areas in the composition. An image with high contrast will have a greater variability in tonality while a photograph with low contrast will have a more similar range of tones.
In photography, editing, typically by removing the outer edges of the image. This process may happen in the darkroom or on a computer.
Originally a term of derision used by a critic in 1908, Cubism describes the work of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and those influenced by them. Working side by side, they developed a visual language whose geometric planes and compressed space challenged what had been the defining conventions of representation in Western painting: the relationship between solid and void, figure and ground. Traditional subjects—nudes, landscapes, and still lifes—were reinvented as increasingly fragmented compositions. Cubism’s influence extended to an international network of artists working in Paris in those years and beyond.
The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.
A person whose job it is to research and manage a collection and organize exhibitions.
A work of art made with a pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements, often consisting of lines and marks (noun); the act of producing a picture with pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements (verb, gerund).
An intaglio printmaking technique that creates sharp lines with fuzzy, velvety edges. A diamond-pointed needle is used to incise lines directly into a bare metal printing plate, displacing ridges of metal that adhere to the edges of the incised lines. This displaced metal is called burr. Inking fills the incised lines and clings to the burr. Damp paper is placed on the plate and run through a press, picking up the ink from the incised lines and the burr, resulting in a characteristically fuzzy line.
An intaglio printmaking technique that creates thin, fluid lines whose effects can vary from graceful and serpentine to tight and scratchy. An etching needle, a fine-pointed tool, is used to draw on a metal plate that has been coated with a thin layer of waxy ground, making an easy surface to draw though. When the plate is placed in acid, the ground protects the areas it still covers, while the drawn lines expose the plate and are incised, or “bitten,” by the acid. After removing the coating, the plate is inked, filling only the incised lines. Damp paper is placed on the plate and run through a press, forcing the paper into the incised lines to pick up the ink.
The area of an image—usually a photograph, drawing, or painting—that appears closest to the viewer.
The shape or structure of an object.
A category of artistic practice having a particular form, content, or technique.
A water-based matte paint, sometimes called opaque watercolor, composed of ground pigments and plant-based binders, such as gum Arabic or gum tragacanth. The opacity of gouache derives from the addition of white fillers, such as clay or chalk, or a higher ratio of pigment to binder.
A particular gradation of color; a shade or tint.
A label applied to a loose group of mostly French artists who positioned themselves outside of the official Salon exhibitions organized by the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Rejecting established styles, the Impressionists began experimenting in the early 1860s with a brighter palette of pure unblended colors, synthetic paints, sketchy brushwork, and subject matter drawn from their direct observations of nature and of everyday life in and around Paris. They worked out of doors, the better to capture the transient effects of sunlight on the scenes before them. With their increased attention to the shifting patterns of light and color, their brushwork became rapid, broken into separate dabs that better conveyed the fleeting quality of light. In 1874, they held their first group exhibition in Paris. Most critics derided their work, especially Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (1872), which was called a sketch or impression, rather than a finished painting. From this criticism, they were mockingly labeled Impressionists. They continued exhibiting together until 1886, at which point many of the core artists were taking their work in new directions.
An act of placing things close together or side by side for comparison or contrast.
Sculpture that depends on motion.
The natural landforms of a region; also, an image that has natural scenery as its primary focus.
A long mark or stroke.
A printmaking technique that involves drawing with greasy crayons or a liquid called tusche, on a polished slab of limestone; aluminum plates, which are less cumbersome to handle, may also be used. The term is derived from the Greek words for stone (litho) and drawing (graph). When the greasy image is ready to be printed, a chemical mixture is applied across the surface of the stone or plate in order to securely bond it. This surface is then dampened with water, which adheres only to the blank, non-greasy areas. Oily printer’s ink, applied with a roller, sticks to the greasy imagery and not to areas protected by the film of water. Damp paper is placed on top of this surface and run through a press to transfer the image. In addition to the traditional method described here, other types of lithography include offset lithography, photolithography, and transfer lithography.
Mexican Muralist movement
A public declaration, often political in nature, of a group or individual’s principles, beliefs, and intended courses of action.
An element or substance out of which something can be made or composed.
The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used (for example, painting [or more specifically, watercolor], drawing, sculpture).
This art movement began in Mexico in the early 1920s when, in an effort to increase literacy, Education Minister José Vasconcelos commissioned artists to create monumental didactic murals depicting Mexico's history on the walls of government buildings. Artists of the Mexican Muralist movement include José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
The part of the picture that is between the foreground and background.
A primarily American artistic movement of the 1960s, characterized by simple geometric forms devoid of representational content. Relying on industrial technologies and rational processes, Minimalist artists challenged traditional notions of craftsmanship, using commercial materials such as fiberglass and aluminum, and often employing mathematical systems to determine the composition of their works.
1. A technique involving the use of two or more artistic media, such as ink and pastel or painting and collage, that are combined in a single composition; 2. A designation for an artist who works with a number of different artistic media.
1. A detailed three-dimensional representation, usually built to scale, of another, often larger, object. In architecture, a three-dimensional representation of a concept or design for a building; 2. A person who poses for an artist.
Modern can mean related to current times, but it can also indicate a relationship to a particular set of ideas that, at the time of their development, were new or even experimental.
A work of art rendered in only one color.
A distinctive and often recurring feature in a composition.
A large painting applied to a wall or ceiling, especially in a public space.
The guiding spirit that is thought to inspire artists; source of genius or inspiration (noun).
Faithful adherence to nature; factual or realistic representation.
A previously exposed and developed photographic film or plate showing an image that, in black-and-white photography, has a reversal of tones (for example, white eyes appear black). In color photography, the image is in complementary colors to the subject (for example, a blue sky appears yellow). The transfer of a negative image to another surface results in a positive image.
A term coined by French art critic Fénéon in 1886, applied to an avant-garde art movement that flourished principally in France from 1886 to 1906. Led by the example of Georges Seurat, the Neo-Impressionists renounced the spontaneity of Impressionism in favor of a measured painting technique grounded in science and the study of optics. Neo-Impressionists came to believe that separate touches of pigment result in a greater vibrancy of color than is achieved by the conventional mixing of pigments on the palette.
A style that arose in the second half of the eighteenth century in Europe with the increasing influence of classical antiquity on the development of taste. It was based on first-hand observation and reproduction of antique works and came to dominate European architecture, painting, sculpture, and decorative arts.
A tall, four-sided monument that tapers into a pyramid-like form.
A paint in which pigment is suspended in oil, which dries on exposure to air.
Impenetrable to the passage of light.
A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).
1. The range of colors used by an artist in making a work of art; 2. A thin wooden or plastic board on which an artist holds and mixes paint.
An unbroken view on an entire surrounding area.
A soft and delicate shade of a color (adjective); a soft drawing stick composed of finely ground pigment mixed with a gum tragacanth binder (noun). Pastel sticks are often applied to a textured paper support. The pastel particles sit loosely on the surface of the paper and can be blended using brushes, fingers, or other soft implements. Pastels can also be dipped into water to create a denser mark on the paper or ground into a powder and mixed with water to create a paint that can be applied by brush. Because pastel drawings are easily smudged they are sometimes sprayed with fixative, a thin layer of adhesive.
Technique used to depict volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface, as in a painted scene that appears to extend into the distance.
An image, especially a positive print, recorded by exposing a photosensitive surface to light, especially in a camera.
An international style of photography in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, characterized by the creation of artistic tableaus and photographs composed of multiple prints or manipulated negatives, in an effort to advocate for photography as an artistic medium on par with painting.
The virtual, illusionary plane created by the artist, parallel to the physical surface of a two-dimensional work of art; the physical surface of a two-dimensional work of art, e.g. a painting, drawing, or print.
A substance, usually finely powdered, that produces the color of any medium. When mixed with oil, water, or another fluid, it becomes paint.
A painting technique developed by French artists Georges-Pierre Seurat and Paul Signac in which small, distinct points of unmixed color are applied in patterns to form an image.
A movement comprising initially British, then American artists in the 1950s and 1960s. Pop artists borrowed imagery from popular culture—from sources including television, comic books, and print advertising—often to challenge conventional values propagated by the mass media, from notions of femininity and domesticity to consumerism and patriotism. Their often subversive and irreverent strategies of appropriation extended to their materials and methods of production, which were drawn from the commercial world.
A representation of a particular individual, usually intended to capture their likeness or personality.
A term coined in 1910 by the English art critic and painter Roger Fry and applied to the reaction against the naturalistic depiction of light and color in Impressionism, led by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat. Though each of these artists developed his own, distinctive style, they were unified by their interest in expressing their emotional and psychological responses to the world through bold colors and expressive, often symbolic images. Post-Impressionism can be roughly dated from 1886 to 1905.
In art, postmodernism refers to a reaction against modernism. It is less a cohesive movement than an approach and attitude toward art, culture, and society. Its main characteristics include anti-authoritarianism, or refusal to recognize the authority of any single style or definition of what art should be; and the collapsing of the distinction between high culture and mass or popular culture, and between art and everyday life. Postmodern art can be also characterized by a deliberate use of earlier styles and conventions, and an eclectic mixing of different artistic and popular styles and mediums.
One of three base colors (blue, red, or yellow) that can be combined to make a range of colors.
A term meaning rebirth or revival; applied to a period characterized by the humanistic revival of classical art, architecture, literature, and learning, originating in Italy in the fourteenth century and later spreading throughout Europe and lasting through the sixteenth century.
A representation, executed in perspective, of a proposed structure.
A style of art, particularly in architecture and decorative art, that originated in France in the early 1700s and is marked by elaborate ornamentation, including, for example, a profusion of scrolls, foliage, and animal forms.
A genre of visual art that uses humor, irony, ridicule, or caricature to expose or criticize someone or something.
The ratio between the size of an object and its model or representation, as in the scale of a map to the actual geography it represents.
A setting for or a part of a story or narrative.
A stencil-based printmaking technique in which the first step is to stretch and attach a woven fabric (originally made of silk, but now more commonly of synthetic material) tightly over a wooden frame to create a screen. Areas of the screen that are not part of the image are blocked out with a variety of stencil-based methods. A squeegee is then used to press ink through the unblocked areas of the screen, directly onto paper. Screenprints typically feature bold, hard-edged areas of flat, unmodulated color. Also known as silkscreen and serigraphy.
A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.
A color made by mixing at least two primary colors.
A representation of oneself made by oneself.
In painting, a color plus black.
A rendering of the basic elements of a composition, often made in a loosely detailed or quick manner. Sketches can be both finished works of art or studies for another composition.
A substance capable of dissolving another material. In painting, the solvent is a liquid that thins the paint.
A representation of inanimate objects, as a painting of a bowl of fruit.
Awe-inspiring or worthy of reverence. In philosophy, literature, and the arts, the sublime refers to a quality of greatness that is beyond all calculation.
An artistic and literary movement led by French poet André Breton from 1924 through World War II. Drawing on the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud, the Surrealists sought to overthrow what they perceived as the oppressive rationalism of modern society by accessing the sur réalisme (superior reality) of the subconscious. In his 1924 “Surrealist Manifesto,” Breton argued for an uninhibited mode of expression derived from the mind’s involuntary mechanisms, particularly dreams, and called on artists to explore the uncharted depths of the imagination with radical new methods and visual forms. These ranged from abstract “automatic” drawings to hyper-realistic painted scenes inspired by dreams and nightmares to uncanny combinations of materials and objects.
The method with which an artist, writer, performer, athlete, or other producer employs technical skills or materials to achieve a finished product or endeavor.
The lightness or darkness of a color. In painting, a color plus gray.
Permitting the passage of light.
A position or place that affords an advantageous perspective; in photography, the position from which a photographer has taken a photograph.
The position from which something is viewed or observed.
The thickness of a liquid. In painting, the viscosity of oil paints is altered by adding a binder (such as linseed oil) or a solvent (such as turpentine).
Paints composed of pigments ground to an extremely fine texture in an aqueous solution of gum Arabic or gum tragacanth. The absence of white fillers, such as those in gouache, creates a medium with luminous transparency.
A process of joining two pieces of metal together by heating the surfaces to the point of melting and then pressing them together.
A printmaking technique that involves printing an image from a carved plank of wood. The image is cut into the wood using tools such as chisels, gouges, and knives. Raised areas of the image are inked and printed, while cut away or recessed areas do not receive ink and appear blank on the printed paper. Woodcuts can be printed on a press or by hand, using a spoon or similar tool to rub the back of the paper.