Art Terms

Knowing your art terms

Puzzled by a specific term. Here are some popular art terms and definitions.

The process of leaving out of consideration one or more properties of a complex object so as to attend to others

A sketchy, imperfect or faint representation

A painted or carved screen placed above and behind an altar or communion table

A method of etching that imitates the broad washes of a watercolor

An elaborate ornamentation in decorative art & architecture that flourished in Europe in the 17th century

An artist who creates sculpture

Impure carbon prepared from vegetable or animal substances. Finely prepared charcoal in small sticks used as a drawing implement.

The arrangement and relationship of light against dark parts in a work of art

Classical Style
The artistic style of ancient Greek art with its emphasis on proportion and harmony

To order an original work of art from the artist

Conservation Framing
Using materials and techniques in the framing process to ensure framing do not damage artwork. Hinging the artwork instead of mounting it, using high-quality acid-free boards and mats, using no staining paste, and glazing with conservation glass or acrylic are generally accepted procedures used to help preserve artwork. The same procedures are sometimes referred to as "preservation framing."

An engraving consisting of a smooth plate of copper that has been etched or engraved

Shading consisting of multiple crossing lines

A painting or carving on two panels

Something shown to the public; a visual representation of something

To twist and press out of shape

Dry mount
The process of using dry adhesive substances to mount paper artwork or photographs to a board, using high heat and a dry mount press.

Ecce Homo
A representation of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns

Number of prints made from an original. This number generally does not include any artist proofs or any special editions.

When painting, used upon a ground of metal, porcelain, the colors afterward being fixed by fire

Making engraved or etched plates and printing designs from them

Making engraved or etched plates and printing designs from them

An art movement launched in 1905 with work characteristic of bright, non-natural colors and simple forms. This influenced Impressionists.

A thin moulding used as an accent in framing inside another moulding, liner or mat.

Fine Art
The products of human creativity; works of art collectively

Folk Art
Genre of art of unknown origin that reflects traditional values of a society

The art of painting on freshly spread plaster before it dries, or in any manner

A class of art having a characteristic form or technique

A glossy finish on a surface, to varnish

Gold leaf
Very thin leaves of real gold that are burnished onto a wood frame that has been coated with several layers of other material in preparation. The process is expensive because of the use of precious metal.

A watercolor executed by using opaque watercolors mixed with gum

Chiaroscuro painting in shades of gray imitating the effect of relief

High Renaissance
The artist style of early 16th century painting in Florence and Rome ; characterized by technical mastery, heroic composition and humanistic content

Color or shade of a color

The style of a particular artist, school or movement

A general term used for a drawing or an original work of art

A visual representation of an object, scene or person produced on a surface.

Image Size
The size of the work reproduced on a print, not the overall paper size.

Painting that applies the pigment thickly so that brush or palette knife marks are visible

A print on paper from a wood block, metal plate, linoleum, etc.

A printing process that uses an etched or engraved plate, the plate is smeared with ink and wiped clean, then the ink left in the recesses makes the print

A painting depicting an expanse of natural scenery

A varnish consisting of a solution of shella in alcohol, often used for varnishing metals

The process of putting designs or writing, with a greasy material, on a stone, and of producing printed impression there from. The original painting is photographed and the image is burned into four plates for a full color printing process. The ink comes from a roller on a printing press. High quality lithographs use a very fine dot screen on acid free paper with fade resistant inks.

A deliberate simulation or exaggerated display

A liquid with which pigment is mixed by a painter

Print produced by an engraving that has been scraped to represent light or shade

The act of representing something

Genre of art and literature that makes a self-conscious break with previous genres

Painting done in a range of tints and tones of a single color

A collage made by sticking together pieces of paper or photographs

A painting that is applied to a wall surface

A numbered print is designed to show the limit or size of a print edition. The number is generally placed over the size of the edition. For example 12/500 indicates that the print is number twelve out of an edition of 500. Lower numbers used to mean a sharper image, but with modern printing, the last print should be as sharp as the first "off the press".

Oil paint
A paint made by grinding a coloring substance in oil

Open Edition
The print produced has an unlimited size. The print may or may not be signed by the artist. An unsigned, unnumbered print is basically just a poster.

Buying an original means you have the only one. It is the actual painting or work of art done by the artist. Most times, no reproductions are made of a painting. When a print has been made, the original painting is what was photographed for the reproduction. This makes the original to a limited edition print more valuable in that the piece becomes well known and more appreciated. Usually the original is larger than the print.

The work of a painter; a painted representation of any object or scene; a picture.

The range of color characteristic of a particular artist, painting, or school of art

A crayon made of paste composed of a color ground with gum water

A slender cylinder or strip of black lead, colored chalk, slate, graphite used for drawing

Dry coloring matter; especially an insoluble powder to be mixed with a liquid to produce paint

A genre of painting characterized by the application of paint in dots and small strokes; developed by Georges Seurat and his followers in late 19th France

Having or exhibiting many colors

Pop Art
An American school of the 1950's that imitated the techniques of commercial art and the styles of popular culture and mass media

Any likeness of a person; a painting of a person's face and sometimes their body

Post Modernism
Genre of art, literature and architecture in reaction against principles and practices of established modernism

A printed picture produced from a photographic negative

The Italian Renaissance art & literature in the 15th century

The groove under the lip of the moulding that allows space for the mat, glass, art and mounting board.

A small original sketch done by the artist, often outside the actual image of the print. It may be in pencil, watercolor or pen and ink. A remarqued print is more desirable to many serious art collectors. A remarque adds value to a print in that it then becomes one of a kind with the addition of the original artwork by the artist.

The period of European history at the close of the Middle Ages and the rise of the modern world; a cultural rebirth from the 14th century through the 17th century

Creation that is a visual or tangible rendering of someone or something

A fanciful asymmetric ornamentation in art and architecture that originated in France in the 18th century

A movement of literature and art during the late 18th and early 19th centuries that celebrated nature rather than civilization

A depression scratched or carved into a surface

Picture consisting of a graphic image of a person or thing

A preliminary drawing for a later elaboration

Sometimes refers to the signature on the plate itself but is generally the artist's actual signature on the print after printing.

Signed Only
The artist signs the print only. It is not numbered and is sometimes referred to as an "open edition".

Signed and Numbered
Refers to an artist's signature (generally in pencil) and the numbering of the edition.

Sold Out
A limited edition print is no longer available at issue price and is being sold at secondary market prices.

Still life
A work of art depicting inanimate objects such as fruit, flowers, bottles

A genre of French painting characterized by bright flat shapes and symbolic treatments of abstract ideas

A painting or carving consisting of three panels

Trompe L'oiel (Pronounced 'Tromp-Loy')
A painting rendered in such great detail as to deceive the viewer concerning its reality

A small illustrative sketch or painting that appears to float suspended on a surface

Artistic quality

A thin coat of water-based paint

A painting produced by using water-soluble pigments

The total output of an artist

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