Art Glossary




Academic art

Academic art, or academicism or academism, is a style of painting, sculpture, and architecture produced under the influence of European academies of art. Specifically, academic art is the art and artists influenced by the standards of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts, which was practiced under the movements of Neoclassicism and Romanticism, and the art that followed these two movements in the attempt to synthesize both of their styles, and which is best reflected by the paintings of William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Thomas Couture, and Hans Makart. In this context it is often called “academism”, “academicism”, “art pompier”, and “eclecticism”, and sometimes linked with “historicism” and “syncretism”.


Abstract Expressionism

Post–World War II art movement in painting, originating in New York City in the 1940s. It emphasized spontaneous personal expression, freedom from accepted artistic values, surface qualities of paint, and the act of painting itself. Abstract Expressionism was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence.


Art Deco

Design style prevalent during the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by a sleek use of straight lines and slender forms. It influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, movie theatres, trains, ocean liners, and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners.


Art Nouveau

A decorative international style of art movement that emerged in the late nineteenth century. Characterized by dense asymmetrical ornamentation in sinuous forms, it is inspired by natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers and is often symbolic and of an erotic nature.


Ashcan School (Ash Can School)

It was an artistic movement in the United States during the early 20th century that is best known for works portraying scenes of daily life in New York, often in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. A group of American artists active from 1908 to 1918. It included members of The Eight such as Henri and Davies; Hopper was also part of the Ash Can group. Their work featured scenes of urban realism. The movement has been seen as emblematic of the spirit of political rebellion of the period.


Barbizon School

An association of French landscape painters, c. 1840-70, who lived in the village of Barbizon and who painted directly from nature. Some of the most prominent features of this school are its tonal qualities, color, loose brushwork, and softness of form.


Baroque

A movement in European painting in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, characterized by violent movement, strong emotion, and dramatic lighting and coloring. It used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance, theatre, and music.


Byzantine

A style of the Byzantine Empire and its provinces, c. 330-1450. Appearing mostly in religious mosaics, manuscript illuminations, and panel paintings, it is characterized by rigid, monumental, stylized forms with gold backgrounds.


Classicism

Referring to the principles of Greek and Roman art of antiquity with its emphasis on harmony, proportion, balance, and simplicity. In a general sense, it refers to art based on accepted standards of beauty. Classicism is a force which is often present in post-medieval European and European influenced traditions; however, some periods felt themselves more connected to the classical ideals than others, particularly the Age of Enlightenment, when Neoclassicism was an important movement in the visual arts.




Conceptual Art

Term applied to work produced from the mid-1960s that either markedly de-emphasized or entirely eliminated a perceptual encounter with unique objects in favour of an engagement with ideas. Although Henry Flynt of the fluxus group had designated his performance pieces ‘concept art’ as early as 1961 and Edward Kienholz had begun to devise ‘concept tableaux’ in 1963, the term first achieved public prominence in defining a distinct art form in an article published by Sol LeWitt in 1967. Only loosely definable as a movement, it emerged more or less simultaneously in North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia and had repercussions on more conventional spheres of artistic production spawning artists’ books as a separate category and contributing substantially to the acceptance of photographs, musical scores, architectural drawings, and performance art on an equal footing with painting and sculpture. Moreover, conceptual art helped spawn the move towards multimedia installations that emerged to such prominence from the 1980s.


Constructivism

A Russian abstract movement founded by Tatlin, Gabo, and Antoine Pevsner, originated in 1913. This was a rejection of the idea of autonomous art. It focused on art for the industrial age. Tatlin believed in art with a utilitarian purpose.


Cubism

A revolutionary movement begun by Picasso and Braque in the early twentieth century. It employs an analytic vision based on fragmentation and multiple viewpoints. Cubism in its various forms inspired related movements in literature and architecture. Cubism has been considered to be among the most influential art movements of the 20th century.


Dadaism

A movement, c. 1915-23, that rejected accepted aesthetic standards. It aimed to create antiart and nonart, often employing a sense of the absurd. The art of the movement spanned visual, literary, and sound media, including collage, sound poetry, cut-up writing, and sculpture. Dadaist artists expressed their discontent with violence, war, and nationalism, and maintained political affinities with the radical left.


Engraving

Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called engravings. Wood engraving is a form of relief printing.


Expressionism

Refers to art that uses emphasis and distortion to communicate emotion. More specifically, it refers to early twentieth-century northern European art, especially in Germany c. 1905-25. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of emotional experience rather than physical reality.


Fauvism

From the French word fauve, meaning “wild beast.” A style adopted by artists associated with Matisse, c. 1905-08. They painted in a spontaneous manner, using bold colors. Fauvists shared the use of intense color as a vehicle for describing light and space, and who redefined pure color and form as means of communicating the artist’s emotional state.


Folk Art

Term used broadly to describe those arts that exist outside the received canons of taste established by or on behalf of the leaders of a given society. Implicit in such a definition is the existence of a society that is sufficiently complex to permit more than one level of cultural activity to thrive. The art of the élite may be dominant, but it is usually a minority aesthetic. In countries or regions that have at some time formed part of larger political entities, the élite culture may have dwindled while the folk culture has developed as a symbol of nationalism. Folk art exists in clearly defined geographical regions among peoples with shared characteristics such as language or religion. Tradition usually provides some component, not only in terms of content, subject-matter or use but also in structure, craft techniques, tools and materials. Folk art is as inseparable from folk building as it was inseparable from daily life. The ‘applied’ or ‘decorative’ arts (e.g. furniture) have their ‘folk’ equivalents.


Futurism

An Italian movement c. 1909-19. It attempted to integrate the dynamism of the machine age into art, emphasizing speed, technology, youth, and violence, and objects such as the car, the aeroplane, and the industrial city. Although it was largely an Italian phenomenon, there were parallel movements in Russia, England, Belgium and elsewhere.




Geometric abstraction

Geometric abstraction is a form of abstract art based on the use of geometric forms sometimes, though not always, placed in non-illusionistic space and combined into non-objective compositions. Although the genre was popularized by avant-garde artists in the early twentieth century, similar motifs have been used in art since ancient times.


Gothic

The artworks are characterized by a linear, graceful, elegant style more naturalistic than existed previously in Europe. It spread to all of Western Europe, and much of Southern and Central Europe, never quite effacing more classical styles in Italy. In the late 14th century, the sophisticated court style of International Gothic developed, which continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In many areas, especially Germany, Late Gothic art continued well into the 16th century, before being subsumed into Renaissance art. Gothic sculpture emerged before painting.


Illustration

An illustration is a decoration, interpretation or visual explanation of a text, concept or process, designed for integration in published media, such as posters, flyers, magazines, books, teaching materials, animations, video games and films.


Impressionism

A late-nineteenth-century French school of painting. It focused on transitory visual impressions, often painted directly from nature, with an emphasis on the changing effects of light and color. It is characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.


Mannerism

A style, c. 1520-1600, that arose in reaction to the harmony and proportion of the High Renaissance. It featured elongated, contorted poses, crowded canvases, and harsh lighting and coloring.


Minimalism

A post–World War II movement in American painting and sculpture that originated in the late 1950s. It emphasized pure, reduced forms and strict, systematic compositions.


Nabis

From the Arabic word for “prophet.” A group of French painters active in the 1890s who worked in a subjective, sometimes mystical style, stressing flat areas of color and pattern.


Naive Art

Artwork, usually paintings, characterized by a simplified style, nonscientific perspective, and bold colors. The artists are generally not professionally trained. Unlike folk art, naive art does not necessarily evince a distinct cultural context or tradition. Naive art is recognized, and often imitated, for its childlike simplicity and frankness. Paintings of this kind typically have a flat rendering style with a rudimentary expression of perspective.


Neo-Classicism

A European style of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Its elegant, balanced works revived the order and harmony of ancient Greek and Roman art. Its popularity spread all over Europe, as a generation of European art students finished their Grand Tour and returned from Italy to their home countries with newly rediscovered Greco-Roman ideals.


Neo-Impressionism

It refers to a pictorial technique where color pigments are no longer mixed either on the palette or directly on canvas, but instead placed as small dots side by side. Mixing of colors takes place from a suitable distance, in the observer’s eye, as an “optical mixture”.




Op Art

An abstract movement in Europe and the United States, begun in the mid-1950s, based on the effects of optical patterns. Op Art works are abstract, with many better-known pieces created in black and white. Typically, they give the viewer the impression of movement, hidden images, flashing and vibrating patterns, or of swelling or warping.


Photorealism

A figurative movement that emerged in the United States and Britain in the late 1960s and 1970s. The subject matter, usually everyday scenes, is portrayed in an extremely detailed, exacting style. It is also called superrealism, especially when referring to sculpture.


Pointillism

It is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. Seurat and Paul Signac developed pointillism in the 1880s. The movement is also known as Neo-impressionism. The Divisionists, too, used a similar technique of patterns to form images, though with larger cube-like brushstrokes.


Pop Art

A movement that began in Britain and the United States in the 1950s. The movement presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular and mass culture, such as advertising, comic books and mundane cultural objects.


Post-Impressionism

It emerged as a reaction against Impressionists’ concern for the naturalistic depiction of light and colour. Due to its broad emphasis on abstract qualities or symbolic content, Post-Impressionism encompasses Neo-Impressionism, Symbolism, Cloisonnism, Pont-Aven School, and Synthetism, along with some later Impressionists’ work.


Realism

A nineteenth-century movement, generally sense, referring to objective representation. It attempts to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements.


Renaissance

Meaning “rebirth” in French. was a period in European history, from the 14th to the 17th century, regarded as the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages and modern history. It started as a cultural movement in Italy in the Medieval period and later spread to the rest of Europe, marking the beginning of the Modern age. It stressed the forms of classical antiquity, a realistic representation of space based on scientific perspective, and secular subjects.


Rococo

An eighteenth-century European style, originating in France. In reaction to the grandeur and massiveness of the baroque, rococo employed refined, elegant, highly decorative forms. Fragonard worked in this style.




Romanesque

A European style developed in France in the late eleventh century. Its sculpture is ornamental, stylized, and complex. Some Romanesque frescoes survive, painted in a monumental, active manner.


Romanticism

A European movement of the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century. It was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It focused on emotion over reason, and on spontaneous expression. The subject matter was invested with drama and usually painted energetically in brilliant colors.


Street art

Street art is visual art created in public locations, usually unsanctioned artwork executed outside of the context of traditional art venues. Other terms for this type of art include “independent public art”, “post-graffiti”, and “neo-graffiti”, and is closely related with urban art and guerrilla art. Common forms and media include spray paint graffiti, stencil graffiti, wheat-pasted poster art, sticker art, street installations, and sculpture. Video projection and yarn bombing have also gained some popularity near the turn of the 21st century.


Suprematism

A Russian abstract movement originated by Malevich c. 1913. It was characterized by flat geometric shapes on plain backgrounds and emphasized the spiritual qualities of pure form.


Surrealism

A movement of the 1920s and 1930s that began in France. It explored the unconscious, often using images from dreams. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact.


Symbolism

A painting movement that flourished in France in late nineteenth century. It was largely a reaction against naturalism and realism, anti-idealistic styles, which were attempts to represent reality in its gritty particularity, and to elevate the humble and the ordinary over the ideal. Symbolism was a reaction in favor of spirituality, the imagination, and dreams.




Ukiyo-e

Japanese for ‘pictures of the floating world’ and referring to transient everyday life, it provided a major source of imagery in Japanese art from the 17th to the 19th centuries, particularly in the work of printmakers such as Hiroshige, Hokusai, and Utamaro. Typical subjects included theatre scenes, with actors in well-known roles, and views of the night-life of Edo (as Tokyo was then called). The resulting brightly coloured Woodcut prints were imported into Europe from the middle of the 19th century and had a great influence on many avant-garde artists, including the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, who were particularly attracted by the bold compositions and striking colours of Ukiyo-e prints. See Japanese Prints.