Glossary of Art Terms

Abstract

A term generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.

 

Abstract Expressionism

The term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters in the 1940s and 1950s, characterized by gestural brush-strokes and spontaneity.

 

Aesthetic

A concern with beauty or taste (adjective); a particular taste or approach to the visual qualities of an object (noun).

 

Art criticism

An organized system for looking at the visual arts; a process of appraising what we want students to know and be able to do.

 

Art History

The academic study of the history and development of the visual arts.

 

Artist’s Proof (AP)

A first impression of a print, often produced by the artist to assess the state of the print before creating further editions.

 

​Calligraphy

A style of decorative lettering or handwriting.

Collage

An artistic composition made of various materials (e.g., paper, cloth, or wood) glued on a surface.

Commission

The request for the creation of a work of art.

 

​Composition

The arrangement of the individual elements within a work of art.

 

Curator

An art expert who manages collections and organizes exhibitions.

 

Engraving

A print made from an engraved plate, block, or other surface.

Gesture

A term used to describe the application of paint in free sweeping movements, most commonly with a brush.

 

​Gravure

A type of intaglio printing process, in which an image is engraved onto a rotating copper cylinder.

 

​Iconography

A subject that adheres to particular conventions of artistic representation and is imbued with symbolic meaning.

Limited Edition

A work of art which is only produced in limited numbers, so that each one will be valuable in the future.

Lithography

A printing process that uses a metal plate or flat stone on which ink is adhered using a greasy substance and non-image areas are made ink-repellent.

 

​Medium

A term that refers to both to the type of art (e.g. painting, sculpture etc.), as well as the materials an artwork is made from.

 

Minimalism

A style that uses pared-down design elements.

 

Mixed Media

An artwork in which more than one type of art material is used to create the finished piece.

Monochromatic

A color scheme involving the use of only one hue that can vary in value or intensity.

 

Multidisciplinary

Combining several artistic disciplines or specializations in the approach to creating a work of art.

Original

Original art is any work considered to be an authentic example of the works of an artist, rather than a reproduction or imitation.

 

​Painting

The practice of applying paint to a surface, usually with a brush.

 

​Palette

The assortment of colors used by an artist in the making of a work of art.

 

Perspective

A system for representing three-dimensional objects viewed in spatial recession on a two-dimensional surface.

 

Pop Art

A movement of mostly British and American artists in the 1950s and 1960s that was characterized by references to imagery and products from media, popular culture, and advertising.

 

Print

Multiple copies of an original design.

 

​Realism

Artwork painted in a realistic almost photographic way.

 

Still life

Arrangement or artwork showing a collection of inanimate objects.

 

Style 

A set of characteristics of the art of a culture, a period, or school of art. It is the characteristic expression of an individual artists.

 

Theme

An idea based upon a particular subject.

 

​Texture

The perceived surface quality of an artwork.