Art Glossary of Terms
The Art History Archive


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INDEX - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

Art Glossary of Terms - Art Lexicon AA to AZ

  • abacus - In architecture, a flat slab on top of a capital, beneath an architrave. Also called an impost block.

  • abbozzo - In painting, blocking in — the first sketching done on the canvas, and also the first underpainting. In sculpture, a mass of material that has been carved or manipulated into a rough form of the ultimate work. Italian for "sketch." Also see pochade and study.

  • abecedarian - Having to do with the alphabet, or arranged in alphabetical order. Sometimes spelled ABCDarian. Among other ways of ordering things, it should be compared with numerical and chronological ordering, periodicity, taxonomy, etc. Also see chronology, rhythm, and sequence.

  • ablaq - Islamic ornament, generally in masonry, often inlaid marble, which is black and white. Persian, literally: piebald.

  • Aboriginal art - Art made by the aboriginal peoples of Australia — native to Australia (before Europeans arrived).

  • abrasion, abrasive - Abrasion is the action or technique of wearing away a surface by friction, and can be a means of shaping solid forms. An abrasive is any substance which wears down a surface by rubbing against it. Abrasives are available in many forms, including powders, compounds, papers, wheels or disks, brushes, belts, and more, each most appropriate for certain applications. Sandpapers and grinding disks and wheels, for instance, have abrasive surfaces used to wear down surfaces, or to smooth out rough ones. Wear safety glasses!To wear down by rubbing is to abrade. Also see Carborundum, carving, corundum, emery, finish, glass, mark, metal, polish, pumice, rottenstone, rouge, and wood.

  • absorbent, absorbent ground - A material is absorbent when it can soak up liquids. Towels, rags, and sponges are common examples, often used to blot, clean up, apply and spread colors, etc. An absorbent ground is a ground or coating on a surface that can absorb the liquid from paint applied to it. Also see absorption, gesso, canvas, paper, stain and stain removal, and vehicle.

  • absorption - Refers to the light absorbing behavior of some surfaces — various characteristics determine the degree to which surfaces absorb certain colors. The light which is absorbed is converted to heat, while light not absorbed is either transmitted (by transparency or translucent surfaces) or reflected (by opaque surfaces). Not to be confused with adsorption. Also see additive, angle of incidence, reflected color, and reflection.

  • Abstraction-Creation Group - An international school of painters and sculptors of the 1930s, who typically employed geometric shapes and forms. Piet Mondrian was the most prominent figure in the Abstract-Creation Group. Also see Bauhaus and De Stijl.

  • absurd - Ridiculously incongruous or unreasonable, because of a flaw in logic. Also, pertaining to the view that there is no order or value in human life or in the universe — a condition in which human beings exist in a meaningless, irrational world in which people's lives have no purpose or meaning. Also see consistency, existentialism, Fluxus, harmony, incongruity, juxtaposition, meaning, and Rube Goldberg.

  • academic - Having to do with the affairs or ways of academies, or works of art that were done according to established, traditional ways. Also see academician, academy, bad art, brummagem, kitsch, secession, and teacher.

  • academician - Either an elected member of an academy, or an artist who follows the principles of the traditional and conservative academic tradition. Adolphe-William Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905) was an archetypal academician. Bouguereau was immensely successful and influential as an exponent of academic art, upholding traditional values and contriving to exclude avant-garde work from the Salon.

  • academy - A learned group accepted as authoritative in its discipline (subject area), or a school in which art is taught. Originally the school of philosophy founded by Plato in the garden of Academe, a district in the vicinity of Athens. It was closed by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, with the other pagan schools, in 529 CE. The term usually refers to a recognized society established for the promotion of one or more of the arts or sciences. The earliest such organization was the Museum of Alexandria, founded by Ptolemy Soter in the third century BCE. The first such academy following the classical era in Europe was the Florentine Academy of Design (Accademia di Designo), founded by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) in 1560. Michelangelo was elected an officer in 1563, one year before he died. Numerous academies flourished in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and Britain during and since the Renaissance. By 1729 there were more than five hundred in Italy alone. Academies specifically for art instruction Among the several academies in France, the one concerned with the visual arts is the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, founded in 1648 by Colbert and King Louis XIV, and later known as the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Because the French academies dictated elaborate conventions and aesthetic doctrines for the manufacture of works of art, the term "academic" came to imply derivative rather than creative work. In England, the Royal Academy of Arts was established in 1768. Today it serves primarily as an art school and exhibition facility. The first art museum and art school in the U.S. was the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, founded in 1805 by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Because they've generally supported the aesthetic tastes of their elders, academies have often been the targets of innovators in the arts. Also see academic, academic figure, academician, avant-garde, Salon, and teacher.

  • academy figure - Sometimes simply called an academy, an academic figure is a two-dimensionally drawn or painted figure of a nude model, about half-size, typically used for instruction and not considered a work of art at the time it was made. Such life drawing or painting studies, demonstrating skill in idealistic or realistic representation of human anatomy, became standard exercises in art schools (academies) from the sixteenth century until late in the nineteenth century.

  • acanthus - The thorny leaf of an herb native to the Mediterranean region, the design of which has been used as a stylized motif throughout history. Of special note is its use in capitals of the Corinthian and composite order. It sometimes resembles the leaves of dandelion, thistle or artichoke plants, pinnately lobed basal leaves with spiny margins.

  • accelerator - A substance which speeds up a chemical change. An accelerator is added to oil paints to speed drying (also called a "drier"), and to polyester resin to promote curing. Alum is added to plaster as an accelerator to quicken its setting.

  • accent - In design, a distinctive feature or quality, such as a feature that accentuates or complements a decorative style. In line drawing, accenting lines is the gradual increase or decrease in the weight or thickness of lines as produced by a pencil or similar medium by the amount of pressure exerted on it while drawing. Accenting should not be confused with shading — the filling in of areas to represent shadow. Accenting refers only to lines used for the contours or outlines in the drawing of a subject. Generally, lines representing the nearest parts of a subject are accented most boldly. Also see compare, value, and gradation.

  • accession - An object acquired by a museum or any other collector as part of its permanent collection, or the act of recording and processing an addition to the permanent collection. The opposite of accession is deaccession. Also see collection, donation, and register.

  • accession number - A control number unique to an object, used to identify it among the other objects in that collection. It is part of the numbering system encompassing the permanent collection of an individual or an institution, and reflects the transaction making an object a part of that collection. An accession number is assigned based on the order in which it was acquired, not on its kind, and typically consists of the year of accession and the serial number within that year. Also see catalogue number and museum.

  • accident, accidental - An accident is anything that happens by chance; uncontrolled occurrence; aleatory. Although this may traditionally have negative connotations, an accident may be taken as a positive thing, as an oportunity. The word "accidental" is usually an adjective, but it is sometimes used as a noun: an act interpreted as an accident occurring in the production of art is sometimes called "an accidental."

  • accidental color - Color obtained by mixing on a painting's surface without conscious preliminary planning during the process of painting.

  • acculturation - Borrowing between cultures, or, the modifying of one person's or group's culture by contact with a different culture. Also, the process by which people acquire knowledge of the cultures in which they live.

  • accuracy - Correctness or exactness.

  • acetate - The common name for a type of strong, transparent or semi-transparent sheets of plastic, available in various thicknesses, and used in making covers for artwork, as the basis for photographic film, in color separation, in retouching, as cels in animated filmmaking; as a material for printing plates (see cellocut), and as an ingredient in some plastics, textile fibers, and lacquers. It should not be expected to be a permanent material. Also see acetate color, Lucite, and Plexiglas.

  • acetate color - Opaque, waterproof paint which doesn't crawl or peel when used on acetate, glass, foil, or other extremely smooth surface. Acetate ink is an ink which can be applied either with a pen or a brush, and adheres to extremely smooth surfaces.

  • acetic acid - In graphics, WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING!a liquid used to clean a plate just before the mordant is applied. Also see solvent.

  • acetone - A volatile solvent, commonly WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING!used with lacquers and in paint-removers; also known as dimethyl ketone and 2-propanone. It is soluble in water and alcohol. It is non-photochemically reactive. One of its uses is to clean up epoxy resins, polyester resins, contact cement,Flammable! fiberglass, along with many inks and adhesives. Acetone is often used in the cleaning and restoration of old paintings. It is slightly toxic by skin contact and inhalation, and it is highly flammable, so carefully read cautioning labels on containers. (pr. ass"e-tone') Also see art conservation and art restoration, and flammable.

  • acetylene - A colorless gas burned in combination with oxygen for oxyacetylene welding. Explosive, especially if used in welding with Flammable!gauge pressures over 15 psig (30 psig absolute). It has a garlic-like odor. Tank sizes available are 10, 40, 75, 100, and 300 cubic feet. (pr. uh-se"te-leen') Also see arc welding, argon, carbon dioxide, flammable, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

  • achieve, achievement - To achieve is to accomplish; to perform with success; to attain with effort or despite difficulty. Achievement is either the act of accomplishing or the thing accomplished. Achievement is especially the successful performance that reaches or exceeds a standard level.

  • achromatic - Color having no chroma — black, white and grays made by mixing black and white. All other colors employ chromatic pigments. (pr. AY-crow-MA-t?ck) Also see 1-bit image, 2-bit image, 3-bit image, 4-bit image, 8-bit image, analogous, black and white, color scheme, complementary, gray scale, grisaille, monochromatic, neutral, optical mixing, split complementary, triadic (three), value, and value scale.

  • acid - Any of a large class of substances capable of reacting with WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING!Poisonous!WEAR SAFETY GLASSES!and dissolving certain metals into salts, and of reacting with bases or alkalis to form salts. Acids can weaken cellulose in papers, cardboards, and textiles, eventually making them brittle. Acids are sometimes introduced in the manufacture of certain materials. They can also be introduced by migration from other materials or from atmospheric pollution. Acids and acidic materials are used in various processes or techniques in making art, and they are considered destructive to many works by those concerned with art conservation. See also acid bath, acid-free, acid migration, hazardous, pickle, and safety.

  • acid bath - In etching, the mordant — WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING!either an acid or a diluted acid — in which a printing plate to be etched is placed. Also see acetic acid, feather, and nitric acid.
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  • acid free - A characteristic of inert materials; especially said of papers with a 7 pH, or very close to 7 pH. Below 6.5 pH or above 8.5 pH is not considered acid-free. Acid free materials are more permanent, less likely to experience acid migration — to discolor, or to deteriorate materials they are placed with over time. Works on paper, and the mats, mounts, etc. with which they are framed, are best acid free. This term is sometimes used incorrectly as a synonym for "alkaline" or "buffered." Such materials may be produced from virtually any cellulose fiber source (cotton and wood, among others), if measures are taken during manufacture to eliminate active acid from the pulp. However free of acid a paper or board may be immediately after its manufacture, over time the presence of residual chlorine from bleaching, aluminum sulfate from sizing, or pollutants in the atmosphere may lead to the formation of acid unless the paper or board has been buffered with an alkaline substance. The presence of alpha cellulose in paper or board is an indication of its stability or longevity. Non-cellulosic components of wood are believed to contribute to the degradation of paper and board. Also see adhesives, archival image, art conservation, buffer, glassine, polypropylene, and storage.

  • acid migration - The transfer of an acid from an acidic material to a less acidic or pH neutral material, most often from one with which it is in contact. Since acid can cause certain materials, such as paper, and the mats, mounts, etc. with which they are framed, to discolor and to deteriorate, acid migration is one of the factors to be considered in planning the storage of various artifacts, especially textiles and works on paper, including books, pamphlets, museum records, etc. Also see adhesives, archival image, art conservation, and buffer.

  • ACMI - An acronym for the Art & Craft Materials Institute.

  • acquisitions - In museums, objects acquired for the museum through gift, bequest, field expedition, or purchase. Also see registrar.

  • acrolith - An ancient Greek sculpture in which the head and arms and feet were made of marble or some other stone. Greek for "stone-ended." At first an acrolith was considered to be a wooden sculpture with marble extremities, and later, a limestone sculpture with such marble features. The adjectival form is acrolithic.

  • acropolis - The Greek word meaning "high city." Ancient Greek builders chose to erect their towns around fortified hills upon which their main temples were placed. The most famous acropolis is in Athens. (pr. uh-CRAH-p?-l?s)

  • acroterion or acroterium - In classical architecture, a figure or ornament usually at the apex of the pediment. "Acroterion" is the Greek spelling. "Acroterium" is the Latin spelling. (pr. AK-'ro-TEE-ri-?m)

  • acrylic flow improver - A medium used with acrylic paints designed to improve their flow without diminishing the strength of its color.

  • acrylics or acrylic plastics - A range of rigid, light weight, weather resistant plastics, used commonly in the form of sheets, films, rods, and fibers, as well as in their liquid state for casting, coating, and adhesives. Acrylics are notable among plastics for their resistance to chemical change, making them valuable for their permanence, and in art conservation. Acrylics may be made transparent, translucent, or opaque, and are available in a range of colors. (pr. ?-CRI-l?cks)

  • actino- - A prefix (word beginning) meaning radial in form.

  • action pose - A figure's pose or attitude when it suggests movement.

  • action research - Disciplined inquiry-based research conducted by educational practitioners that follows a process of examining practices, implementing interventions, and evaluating results, leading to an improvement cycle benefiting students and practitioners. There are numerous synonyms, including: practitioner research, teacher research, site-based research, action science, collaborative action research, participatory action research and emancipatory praxis.

  • aculeate - Sharp-pointed. (pr. ?-KYEW-lee-?t) Also see angle, apex, finial, and point.

  • acute angle - An angle less than 90°. The first two of the angles below are obtuse. The third one is 90°, also called a right angle. Only the last of the four is an acute angle.

  • ad - Short form of advertisement.

  • AD or A.D. - Abbreviation for "Anno Domine," which is Latin, and means "in the year of Our Lord." It is conventionally placed before a number to show that it refers to a year following the birth of Christ, although contemporary experts generally agree that Christ was probably born in 3 BCE. These are fundamentals of the Christian calendar. Other cultures designate years according to other schemes. An alternative term for AD is CE, standing for Common Era. Although CE is a less traditional term, it is globally preferred because it avoids the bias inherent in an insistance upon referring to Christ.

  • Ada school - Forms of Carolingian art named for Ada, who is said to have been Charlemagne's sister, and patron to a group of sculptors in ivory, and some manuscript illuminators in the late 700s and early 800s. Also see illumination.

  • additive - May refer to the additive system for representing the color spectrum using combinations of the primary colors of light — red, green and blue — demonstrates combinations which produce an array of lighter, brighter colors, including white. This is also called the RGB (red green blue) system of color mixing. Mixing red and blue lights, for example, produces magenta. Mixing blue and green creates cyan, and curiously, red and green lights combine to produce yellow.

  • addorsed - Set back-to-back, especially as in heraldry. The opposite, as when figures face each other, is called "confronting". Also see ancipital.

  • adhere - Stick securely. See adhesives and join. Also see bookplate, collage, and découpage.

  • adhesion - The act or state of adhering. See adhesive, adsorption, cleavage, collage, découpage, and join.

  • adobe and Adobe - An adobe, traditionally, is a sun-dried, unfired brick of clay, sand, and straw. Contemporary makers of adobes sometimes introduce additional or alternative binders or aggregates. This construction material is traditional to many cultures to which these ingredients were readily available. In the United States this is especially true in the Southwest. Also, a structure built with this kind of brick. Adobe material is sometimes referred to as plaster when it is applied to a structure's surface, usually bricks, for protection and / or decoration.

  • adsorption - When a thin layer of a substance adheres strongly to another, holding to it on a molecular level as if it were glued to it. This situation is more likely to occur with substances in a gelatinous state and with the receiving surface absolutely clean. Often a truly adsorbed layer becomes so firmly attached to the receiving surface that it can be removed only by vigorous abrasion. One example of adsorption occurs in lithography, with the crayon or tusche on the stone or plate so that an adsorbed layer of fatty acid is in position to receive the printing ink. Also see occlude.

  • aduncous - Hooked; curved inward. (pr. eh-dun'kes)

  • adze - A tool used in wood carving to rough Wear safety glasses!out a form. It is similar to an ax, but the blade is set horizontally in the handle, sloping downwards. It is used for much the same purpose as a wood chisel and often for work of such detail, especially by African carvers.

  • Aegean art - Generally refers to works of Crete, Mycenae, and the Cyclades, from 2600-1200 BCE. Aegean painting is colorful and stylized, but with a strong feeling for naturalism. Also see antiquity, archaeology, Cycladic art, and Greek art.

  • aerial view - Seeing from a point of view at a great height, also called a bird's-eye view. Any picture in which the horizon line, and consequently the vanishing point (-s), have been placed near or above the top of the work, this applies to renderings of any subject, but most often to landscapes, cityscapes, etc. (Be careful not to confuse aerial view with aerial perspective.)

  • aertist - What contemporary Russian emigré painter and conceptual artist Aleksandr Melamid calls himself, instead of an artist. He has refused to define what the term means, except to say that it does not mean artist. He distances himself from all who feel there is anything particularly special about art. Russian painters and performance artists. Aleksandr Melamid (1945-) has been associated with Vitaly Komar (1943-) since they were classmates at the Stroganov School and at the Academy of Art in Vilnius. They moved to Israel in 1977, and to the USA in 1978.

  • aerugo - Patina.

  • aesthetic experience or æsthetic experience - Experience of intrinsic features of things or events traditionally recognized as worthy of attention and reflection, such as literal, visual, and expressive qualities, which are studied during the art criticism process. Also spelled esthetic. Also see frisson and edge.

  • aesthetician - A specialist in aesthetics. Curiously, some time in the twentieth century, those who specialize in giving facials, manicures, pedicures, and other beauty treatments also came to be called aestheticians. Also see beauty parlor or beauty salon and cosmetic.

  • aestheticism or æstheticism - The belief that the pursuit of beauty is the most important goal, and that it is the artist's duty to orchestrate selected elements from nature into a composition that, like music, exists for its own sake, without regard to moral or didactic issues. Prominent in the nineteenth century, now it often carries the connotation of decadence or preciousness. Also spelled estheticism. It is often associated with the fin de siècle circle of writer Oscar Wilde (English, born Ireland, 1854-1900), painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903), and illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (English, 1872-1898).

  • aesthetics or æsthetics

  • aesthetic value or æsthetic value - The value (worth) a thing or event has due to its capacity to evoke pleasure that is recognized as arising from features in the object traditionally considered worthy of attention. Also spelled esthetic.

  • aes ustum - Patina.

  • Afrocentrism - Believing that African cultural heritage must be more greatly represented in humanities curricula. Types of Afrocentrism vary widely, from straightforward demonstrations of black pride to claims that classic Greek philosophy was plagiarized from lost black sources and that the ancient Egyptians were actually black Africans. The term is most closely associated with the academic books of Molefi Kete Asante, but the issues should come up in discussions of the works of artists like Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, and Henry Ossawa Tanner, among others:

  • after - When used in an artist's inscription, it means that that artwork was modeled on the work of another artist. It may either be nearly identical to the other's work, or differ to some degree from it.

  • afterimage - An optical phenomenon in which the eye's nerves continue to convey an image after an initial image has departed. Typically, the afterimage appears as a likeness of the initial image, except that each of its colors is the complement to those in the initial image. Sometimes called a complementary afterimage or a photogene.

  • agent - A representative. An artist's agent is an artist's business representative.

  • agglutinate - To cause adhesion, as with glue. To join together into a group or mass. Any glue or adhesive, especially a binder used in aqueous paints, pastel, and drawing inks, can be considered an agglutinant. Also see gouache, tempera, and watercolor.

  • aggregate - Inert granular material such as sand or gravel which is mixed with cement to make concrete or mortar, or with a binder to make some other solid compound. Sand is the most common aggregate. An aggregate might be added to a mixture to add strength, hardness, softness, color, texture, or economy. For instance, to make plaster easier to carve, one can add an aggregate of vermiculite or perlite (both available at gardening stores.)

  • agitprop - A combination of agitation and propaganda. It most often refers to communist or socialist oriented political propaganda disseminated especially through literature, art, theater, or music. Also, a work, such as a painting, sculpture, poster, or video, that is designed to impress a certain political or social attitude on its audience, with little or no consideration given to accuracy. (pr. A-j?t-PROP)

  • agora - An open space used by ancient Greeks for assemblies and markets. (pr. AG-?r-?)

  • A.H. or AH - Placed beside a designated year, this abbreviation can stand either for Anno Hebraico, Latin for "in the Hebrew year," or it can stand for Anno Hegirae, Latin for "in the year of the Hegira." The Hegira refers to the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina in CE 622, marking the beginning of the Moslem era. A reader generally knows which of these identical terms is being used because its context concerns either Jewish or Islamic history. Although, because these two cultures are so closely related, the reference must be made clear or it may cause confusion. Also see A.D., B.C., B.C.E., C.E., Islamic art, and Jewish art.

  • aidoion - A Greek word used by archaeologist and historians of antiquities in referring to the private parts of men and women alike, usually on nude sculptures. The plural form is ta adoia, and is more frequently used than the singular. Also see erotica and fig leaf.

  • aisle - In architecture, a long, narrow space on either side of the nave of a church, usually between a row of columns or piers and the outer wall. It is often referred to as a side aisle.

  • airbrush or air brush - A precision compressorsee thumbnail to rightspray gun attached by a hose to an see thumbnail to leftelectric air compressor (or other means of air pressure), or the use of this device to spray paints, dyes or inks.

  • ala and alar groove - An ala is a winglike structure or part in anatomy, such as the external ear. It more commonly refers to the ala of the nose: that membrane to the outside of each nostril. The alar groove is a C-shaped edge formed at the joining of the ala to the cheek. Also see bust, philtrum, portrait, self-portrait, and septum.

  • alabastron - A container for perfumed oil that takes its name from alabaster, the material from which the original Egyptian examples were made. Greek artists adopted the Egyptian alabastron's form in the 600s BCE, but made the vessel in a variety of materials. Among the other types of Greek vases are the amphora, hydria, kantharos, krater, kyathos, kylix, lekythos, oinochoe, pelike, phiale, pinax, pithos, pyxis, and rhyton.

  • ala of the nose - The flesh which surrounds the nostrils away from the center of the nose. Also see alar groove, nasal septum, nostril, and philtrum.

  • à la poupée - In intaglio, a means of printing several colors at one time by applying each color to the plate separately with a felt pad. A French term.

  • alar groove - The small valley behind each ala of the nose. Also see glabela, nasal septum, nostril, and philtrum.

  • Albany slip - A slip clay that can produce a very dark brown glaze. Albany slip was mined near Albany, New York. Similar clays from other localities were used by early American potters in making stoneware.

  • albumen print - A paper for making photographic prints, on which egg whites (albumen) coated the paper in order to increase its sensitivity, adding to the brightness of whites in the picture. This process was invented in the mid-nineteenth century by Blanquart-Evrard. Albumen prints were the state of the art in photography from 1855 to 1895, when gelatin provided a more stable effect.

  • alchemy - The ancient and medieval chemical practice especially concerned with the attempt to convert base metals into gold.

  • alcohol - A colorless, volatile, flammable liquid, synthesized or obtained by fermentation of sugars and starches and widely used,Poisonous! either pure or denatured, as a solvent and in numerous manufactures as well as in intoxicating beverages. Types include absolute alcohol, ethanol, ethyl alcohol (solvent for shellac and some other resins), grain alcohol, denatured alcohol (inexpensive, because not taxed, and readily available, this is the type artists use most.) Flammable!Denatured alcohol is ethyl alcohol to which a poisonous substance, such as acetone or methanol, has been added to make it unfit for consumption. Also an alcohol, although from other compounds, is methanol (also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol), whose liquid and vapors are highly toxic. Also see stain and stain removal.

  • algorithm - A rule, often mathematical, governing computer processes.

  • alias, aliased - Outside of its uses in computer technology and graphic design, an alias is a name that's an "also known as" name. Among criminals an alias is a false name.

  • alienation - A sense of isolation, depersonalization, disenchantment, estrangement, or powerlessness. Alienation has been considered an especially important issue during the twentieth century. It's often noted as being at the heart of modern dissatisfactions — especially of youths, women and racial minorities. Also see angst, anti-art, existentialism, and issue.

  • align and alignment - In graphic design, to align is to line up type and other graphic elements on the same vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line. Alignment is the positioning of the characters in a line of type in exact juxtaposition with each other and with accompanying lines. It is also the positioning of printed pages in exact juxtaposition with each other when they register with adjacent pages, and with their reverse sides. Any mark made to assist in positioning images in order to align them is called either an alignment mark or register mark. Also see angle, arrangement, bias, butt, direction, fold, moiré, order, sequence, and straight.

  • alizarin - Originally a bright red pigment, also called madder lake, made from madder, derived from the root of the plant Rubia tinctorum. Alizarin now generally refers to a pigment and a class of dyes derived from anthraquinone — synthetic coal-tar — and is used in the manufacture of blue, brown, green, red, violet, and yellow pigments.

  • alkaline - Any substance having a pH over 7.0. Alkaline substances are sometimes added to a material to neutralize acids or to form an alkaline buffer or reserve for the purpose of counteracting acids that might form in the future. A buffer might be added during manufacture or during the process of deacidification. Although the number of chemicals may be used as buffers, the most commonly employed are magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate.

  • alkyd resins - Synthetic resins used in better-quality industrial house paints, enamels, and varnishes for over sixty years. In artists' materials, they have proven promising particularly as ingredients in oil paints.

  • alla prima - A method of oil painting in which the picture is completed with the first application of paints to the entire area, instead of being built up by layering. Italian for "the first time." (pr. ah-lah-pree'mah) Also see abbozzo, coat, pochade, spontaneity, and technique.

  • alligatoring - A crackled texturing of a painted surface which resembles alligator skin. Though sometimes intended, it is usually regarded as disfiguring. Also see fat over lean and finish.

  • all-over design or allover design - A repeated design that fills an entire area. All-over designs can be found on wallpapers and textiles, among other items. Also see moiré.

  • all-over painting or allover painting - A painting surface which is treated as a continuous and indivisible surface, paint applied so that every portion receives equal attention. First used to describe the method of Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956), an Abstract Expressionist who, by distributing paint in a significantly uniform way, dripping and spattering it onto canvas spread on his floor, abandoned traditional means of composition. Also see Color Field painting.

  • alloy - A metal produced by combining two or more metals — mixed together at the molecular level, in their molten state. Examples of alloys: brass, britannia, bronze, electrum, nichrome, niello, pewter and steel. Also see aluminum.

  • allusion - An indirect reference to something or someone presumed to be familiar to the viewer, in order to increase the effect of an image. A citation. Also see appropriation, audience, meaning, metaphor, perception, and subject.

  • Almohad style - An art style introduced into Spain by the Almohads, a Moroccan Berber dynasty, in the 1100s and 1200s. Also see Islamic art and mosque.

  • altar - A table or other raised surface used as the place for religious ceremonies, which might include sacrifices made upon the altar.

  • altered proportion - A technique used by an artist to change the size relationship of shapes in an artwork. Also see miniature, monumental, and proportion.

  • alternating figures - Ambiguous images which serve in the psychology of perception to demonstrate the way the mind habitually tries to achieve a coherent Gestalt. These are often seen as optical illusions. An example is a drawing of a cube made with twelve lines — allowing for two interpretations of which edges are nearest and farthest. This alternating figure is commonly called a "magic cube": the transparent cube in the see thumbnail belowcenter below. Which of its sides is nearest to you? Is it the one made solidly green on the cube to the left or is it the green side on the cube to the right, or is there no nearest side at all?

  • alternative spaces - Non-profit galleries run by and for artists, which proliferated in American and other cities in the 1970s as independent organizations, considered necessary in an era of increasingly diverse artistic issues, experimentation, commodification, etc. — the museums and commercial galleries were seen as providing exhibition opportunities both too few and too tied to commodification. Alternative spaces championed feminism and ethnic diversity by presenting work by women artists and artists of non-European descent. By the early 1980s the nature of such organizations had diversified. Recent art school graduates could still find storefront venues for their installation, conceptual, video and performance art endeavors, but some alternative spaces had evolved into highly structured institutions with large staffs and funding from foundations, and government entities such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The names most current for alternative space are "artists' organization" and "artist-run organization." Representing them in Washington, DC, is the National Association of Artists' Organizations (NAAO).

  • aluminum and aluminium

  • Amarna art - Egyptian art during the time of Pharaoh Akhenaten (1375-1358 BCE), who was a religious reformer. Amarna art is more natural, less stylized than earlier Egyptian art.

  • ambiguity - Something open to two or more possible meanings; amphibolous. Alternating figures and other optical illusions may be helpful visual examples. In visual art, as in expository writing, ambiguity is usually something to be avoided, because it results in the audience's confusion. This might, however be an artist's intention, and perhaps involving irony or poetry rather than a straight communication of knowledge. Many creative works employ ambiguity quite effectively.

  • ambivalence - Mixed feelings. The sort of conflicting attitudes, such as love and hate, that one can feel toward a person, a thing, or an idea. Not to be confused with ambiguity. Also see expression and communication.

  • Ambrotype - A photographic process introduced in 1851-52, which quickly replaced the earlier daguerreotypes because they were cheaper and easier to view. It used weak collodion negatives which were then bleached and backed by a black background which produced the effect of a positive image.

  • ambulatory - A continuous aisle around a circular building, or a semi-circular aisle curving around the apse of a church behind the main altar. Developed during the Romanesque period, it made it easier for large religious processions to move about inside the church. The addition of the ambulatory led to the construction of radiating chapels, each with its small altar for worship. Also, it may refer to a covered walkway outdoors, as in a cloister.

  • American art or art of the United States of America - Art American flagby inhabitants of the United States of America.

  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT) - This is an 830,000-member union of public and professional employees, including public and private school teachers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, higher education faculty and professionals, employees of state and local governments, nurses and health professionals. The union exits to serve the interests of its members as determined by democratic processes at the local, state and national levels. For the most part, those interests have to do with: establishing job security and fairness, usually through collective bargaining and legislative action; empowering AFT members to participate in efforts to uphold high standards for their professions and the institutions in which they work; disseminating information on professional issues and providing programs of training and professional development; working in coalition with other organizations to address issues that affect all working Americans, such as access to affordable health care, employment opportunity, social justice and much more. Also see National Education Association (NEA).

  • American Gothic - A realistic, yet hard-edged style of painting associated with the works of Grant Wood (American, 1892-1942). Also the title of a famous painting by Grant Wood:

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA) - A professional organization for architects providing resources for both practitioners and consumers. Its Web site — AIA Online — covers stories of architecture in the news and schedules of conferences as well as other events; provides information about career planning, scholarships, fellowships, awards, architecture schools, internships, and continuing education programs; offers media resources such as a list of experts in special fields and a synopsis of design trends; summarizes the state of the marketplace with information about salaries, economic forecasts, and architectural activity in different regions; also includes a database of employment opportunities and project leads; allows access to the searchableThe A I A's traditional logo catalog of the AIA library, a database of products, a directory of member firms, and a search engine for architectural design firms. The AIA also offers advice and publications for the consumer who is hiring or working with an architect.

  • Americans for the Arts - Americans for the Arts is one of the USA's leading nonprofit organizations for advancing the arts. It is dedicated to representing and serving local communities in order to create opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Americans for the Arts was created in 1996 as a result of the merger between the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies (NALAA) and the American Council for the Arts (ACA), two national nonprofit groups.

  • amorphous - An anomalous, shapeless form, without crystalline structure. Amorphous materials have no sharply defined melting point, and surfaces of pieces that break have undulating surfaces like those of lumps of broken glass or of resin, both of which are examples of amorphous materials.

  • ampersand - A character in lettering which stands for "and."

  • amphibolous - Susceptible of two meanings; ambiguous; equivocal. Also see cryptic, incongruity, irony, and pastel.

  • amphitheater - A kind of theater "in the round," a round or oval structure having a central stage or arena surrounded by tiers of seats rising gradually outward from it.

  • amulet - A piece of jewelry worn, most often as a ring, as a bracelet, or as a pendant to a necklace, as a charm against evil or injury. By contrast, a talisman is a piece of jewelry (often a pendant) promoting or attracting good.

  • amyl acetate - Derived from alcohol, and used as a solvent for some synthetic resins.

  • A.N.A. - Associate member of the American honorary association of artists, the National Academy, or National Academy of Design. N.A. indicates a full member.

  • anaglyph - A sculpture or decoration in relief, such as a cameo.

  • analog or analogue - Something that bears an analogy to something else. A photograph records the image of something, while an analog computer (also analogue computer) represents numerical data with measurable physical variables, such as electrical signals. Standard audiotape and videotape recordings are produced by an analog process, as a continuous wave, rather than digitally in a binary form. Digital recording is now crowding out analog recording technology, just as digital computing has triumphed over analog computing. To those immersed in the virtual worlds of computer activities (to "geeks" including you dear reader?!), analog may broadly refer to things in the "real world" — to that which cannot be accessed via a keyboard, indeed to anything messy! (Geek-speak is variously scary and amusing. Its terms for humans, for instance, include wetware and meatbots.) Analog is a variant of analogue. (pr. AN-?-LAWG) Also see analog-to-digital conversion, chaos, order, and sequence.

  • analogous colors - Any two or more colors that are next to each other on the color wheel and are closely related. For example, blue, blue-green, and green all have the color blue in common. Families of analogous colors include the warm colors (red, orange and yellow) and the cool colors (green, blue and violet). Analogous colors are sometimes referred to as adjacent colors. (pr. a-NA-l?-GUS) Also see achromatic, color scheme, complementary colors, grisaille, monochromatic, split complementary, and triadic colors.

  • analog-to-digital conversion - The electronic process of changing continuously varying wave-form data into digital quantities that represent the magnitude of the data at the moment the conversion is made. The most common use is to change analog signals into a form that can be manipulated by digital computer, as in data communications. You employ this process when you use your computer's microphone to record sounds, for instance. You'll use this process if you converted television/video signals into images your computer can manipulate. Also see moiré.

  • analogy - A comparison between things based upon observations of a significant similarity between them, while acknowledging that they are otherwise dissimilar. Makers of analogies generally infer that if these things are so similar then they are probably alike in other ways. Analogies are usually made to illustrate or explain complex or unfamiliar ideas. Any things similar or alike in such a way as to permit the drawing of an analogy may be called analogous. Analogy is a basic component of symbolism. (pr. a-NAL-?-JEE)

  • analysis - The separation of the parts of a subject for individual study, in order to find out their nature, function, and meaning. Exercising the ability to break down learned material into its component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood.

  • Analysis is a stage in art criticism, following the description of an artwork, and preceding its interpretation and judgment, in which one focuses on the relationships between the elements of art and principles of design in hopes of gaining an understanding of the work's design qualities, or how well the work is ordered, or put together. This understanding enables one to determine if a work has an overall sense of unity.

  • analytic - Having to do with analysis — dividing into elemental parts or basic principles. Reasoning or acting from a perception of the parts and their interrelationships. In philosophy, the opposite of synthetic. (pr. AN-?-LI-t?k)

  • anamorphosis and anamorphic art - elongated "school"An image that appears distorted, because it is constructed on an elongated grid, rendering it unintelligible until it is viewed from a specific, extremely oblique point of view or reflected in a curved mirror, or with some other optical device. "Anamorphosis" is a Greek word meaning transformation, or more literally "formed again." Road signs such as "SCHOOL CROSSWALK" and directional arrows are designed anamorphically — stretched out — when painted on pavement, so that these signs are easily understood by the drivers who must view them obliquely. Do not confuse anamorphosis with metamorphosis.

  • anastole - The Greek name for a hairstyle in which the hair is brushed up from the forehead, arranged wreath-like around the face, and typical in portraits of Alexander the Great (356-323).

  • anatomy - The study of body structure, whether human or animal, including the bones, the muscles, and all the other parts. Knowledge of anatomy is important to drawing and sculpting human and animal figures well.

  • anchoring gaze - The principal direction of gaze — or line of sight — of people who are in conversation. Also see conversation piece and point of view.

  • ancien régime - French for the old order; the feudal, absolute monarchy in France before the French Revolution in 1789. (pr. ahn'see-n ray-jeem') Also see Baroque, Gothic, Middle Ages, Neoclassicism, Renaissance, and Rococo.

  • ancient - Loosely, very old, antiquated or old-fashioned. Often more specifically of the ages before the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE; especially of China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc. Also see Buddhist art, Egyptian art, encaustic, Etruscan art, Greek art, Hindu art, Islamic art, Roman art, and Stone Age art.

  • ancipital - Two-edged.

  • Andachtsbild - German for devotional picture; votive art. A picture or sculpture with a type of imagery intended for private devotion, first developed in Northern Europe.

  • androcentrism - A specifically male anthropocentrism. A typical, though simple example is the use of the pronoun "he" to refer to both genders. Also see Afrocentrism, ethnocentrism, Eurocentrism, feminism, gender issues, and isms and -ism.

  • androgyny and androgynous - Having both male and female characteristics or qualities. The use of androgynous figures in mythology is widespread. In Greek mythology, for example, the minor god Hermaphroditus became both male and female after the nymph Salacis was united with him in one body. The concept of androgyny has been further developed by those following the psychological theory that human personality is invariably made up of both male and female characteristics. The feminist movement has promoted the notion that if males develop their feminine side and women their masculine side, differences could be lessened, and rigid stereotyping avoided.

  • angle - An angle is a figure formed by two lines or edges diverging from or crossing a common point (vertex) — an acute angle being less than 90°, a right angle being 90°, and an obtuse angle being greater than 90° but less than 180° — measured with a protractor. Or, the figure formed by two planes diverging from a common line. "Angle" can refer to the space between such lines or surfaces, and it can also refer to a direction or point of view. Among the kinds of lenses, a wide-angle lens is the opposite of a telephoto lens. Also see aculeate, angle of incidence, align, bevel, bias, chamfer, Daguerreotype, fold, miter, negative, perpendicular, point, positive, straight, tangent, and undercut.

  • angle of incidence - When light (incident light — that from a source of light) strikes an object's surface it forms an angle with an imaginary line known as the "normal," which is perpendicular to the surface. The angle created between the incident ray and the normal ray is referred to as the angle of incidence. Also see absorption, mirror, optical mixing, plane, primary colors, reflected light, wavelength.

  • Anglo-Saxon art - An art style of the fifth to eleventh centuries in England. It is characterized by interlaced motif. Also see Celtic art and Middle Ages.

  • angst - In German, an emotional state of anxiety without a specific cause. In existentialism, the term refers to general human anxiety at having free will, that is, of being responsible for one's actions.

  • angstrom or ångstrom - A unit of measurement of length equal to one hundred-millionth of a centimeter (or 0.0000000001 meter), used especially to measure the wavelengths of visible light and of other forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as ultraviolet radiation and X-rays. Visible light covers the range from violet at 4,000 to red at about 7,000 angstroms. Scientists now prefer to use the nanometer (nm); 1 nm = 10 Å. In everyday terms, a sheet of paper is approximately 1,000,000 angstroms thick. It is named after Anders Jonas Ångström (1814-1874), the Swedish physicist and astronomer who founded the science of spectroscopy and discovered by studying the solar spectrum that there is hydrogen in the sun's atmosphere. Electromagnetic radiation travels in waves. Abbreviated Å. (pr. ANG-str?m or AHNG-str?m) Also see color. angstrom

  • anhydrous - Without water. Also see waterproof and water-soluble.

  • aniconic, aniconism - Aniconism is the conviction that one should or must avoid naturalistic figurative representation. This sort of prohibition can be found in several cultures. As a feature of Islamic art, its intended as as a measure against idolatry. Also see censorship, effigy, icon, iconoclast, iconography, iconomachy, iconophobic, and iconostasis.

  • aniline dyes - Colors made from coal tar. These are generally considered obsolete because they are not colorfast. This class of dyes was stumbled upon by the English chemist William Henry Perkin in 1856, while he was trying to synthesize the drug quinine from coal tar. Perkins's first aniline dye, deep purple, was known in France as mauveine, from which we have the word mauve — a huge commercial success. Also see alizarin.

  • anima - The inner self of a person. In Jungian psychology, a person's unconscious or true inner self — the feminine inner personality in the unconscious of the male, in contrast to the animus, which represents male characteristics within a female personality. Also see feminism and feminist art and gender issues.

  • animal artist - This term could have either of two meanings: an artist who makes art about animals, or an artist who / which is an animal. Monkeys, elephants, and other animals have been "making art" since the end of the 19th century. Approximately 30 elephants currently paint in American zoos, and their works are avidly collected, although rarely if ever by any mainstream art museum. When some of the central questions to consider in the study of art are: "Who is an artist?" "What is serious art?" and "What are the imposed and potential roles of art?" It is important to consider what these animals are capable of doing. Artists and critics who have expressed opinions on the subject of animal artists include Peter Blake, Salvador Dalí, H. W. Janson, Willem de Kooning, Joan Miró, and Meyer Shapiro.

  • animalia - Sculpture of animals, especially referring to the work made by the nineteenth century French Romantic school lead by Antoine Louis Barye (1796-1875). Such a sculptor is called an "animalier", his creatures symbols of the artistic freedom found in the Romantic movement, in keeping with its interest in a return to nature.

  • animism - The belief that everything, whether animate or inanimate, possesses a soul or spirit. It is a fundamental system of belief in the religions of numerous pre-industrial societies. In philosophy, the term can be applied to the view that in all things consciousness, or something mind-like exists. In developmental psychology, an animistic stage in the early thought and speech of the child has been described, notably by Jean Piaget (French, 1896-1980). Also see anthropomorphism.

  • anneal - To heat and then cool metal or glass is to toughen or temper it — to remove internal stresses and make it easier to work when cool. In other words, this heating and slow cooling can strengthen, harden, and reduce brittleness. Mild steel and brass are allowed to cool slowly, while other metals, such as copper, may be quenched in water. Aluminum and glass are annealed by different processes. Also see malleable.

  • annotation - Information added to an image, such as arrows, pointers, words, etc. Annotations to a digital image might be stored in layers separate from the image.

  • anodizing - An electrolytical process in which aluminum is coated with a protective or decorative oxide. This also greatly increases aluminum's ability to permanently hold paints and other coating materials.

  • anomaly - A deviation from the normal or expected form, order, or arrangement. Incorporating one or more anomalies in producing an artwork is among the possible means to achieving emphasis. The plural form is anomolies. The adjectival form is anomolous. Also see contrast, counterpoint, Dada, fantastic, incongruity, and Surrealism.

  • antefix - An upright ornament along the edges or eaves of a tiled roof designed to conceal the joints between the rows of tiles, protecting exposed wooden parts of the architecture from the elements. In ancient times, antefixes were often placed on the roofs of Greek and Etruscan buildings. They were often decorated, and were typically made of terra cotta.

  • anthropocentrism - The attitude that human beings are the central element in the universe. Also see androcentrism, Afrocentrism, ethnic, ethnocentrism, Eurocentrism, iconocentric, and xenophobia.

  • anthropomorphism - The representation of inanimate objects, animals, deities, or other phenomena, whether real or fictitious, in human form, with human characteristics and behaviors. People with pets often form close relationships with them, sometimes conversing with them. Anthropomorphising has appeared in the mythologies of many cultures, as a literary device in fables and allegories, and in many animated films. see thumbnail to rightHere is an anthropomorphic alphabet: human figures forming the uppercase or capital letters of the alphabet.

  • antialias or anti-alias - To smooth out the jagged edges of lines and shapes in a digital images that have been aliased — jagged instead of straight or smoothly curving. The jagged edges of an aliased image are also called jaggies. In many graphics software applications antialiasing can be turned on or off when using "pencil," "eraser," "paint bucket," and "magic wand" tools. Not all text or artwork looks better when it is antialiased. Small text or images sometimes look too blurry when they are antialiased. Antialiasing can substantially increase the file size of images, making their printing go more slowly, and Web pages load more slowly too.

  • anti-art - Art, either Dada or in its tradition, which rejects conventional theories and forms — techniques, materials, and means of display. Marcel Duchamp (French-American, 1887-1968) is credited with introducing the term c. 1914, and its spirit is summed up in his attempt to exhibit a urinal, Fountain of 1917, as well as in L.H.O.O.Q. — a reproduction of the Mona Lisa (La Joconde) on which he drew a mustache in 1919.

  • anti-authoritarian - Showing opposition to obeying authority, and favoring individual freedom.

  • anti-cerne - A white space in the form of a line between two areas of color in a picture; the opposite of a black line. Anti-cernes were often used by the fauve artists.

  • anti-intellectualism - Any point of view which opposes, fears, mistrusts, or shuns reason — logical, rational thought, intelligence, good judgment, sound sense — or intellectuals, or intellectual views.

  • antimony - A silvery white, brittle, yet soft metal, used in alloys to improve the working qualities of other metals, britannia, lead, and pewter, for example. Antimony sulfide was used as the cosmetic known as kohl in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. It is also used in making yellow glazes for ceramics, particularly majolica. Antimony suspended in lead was mined on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius from the Middle Ages, and was the source of an important orange-yellow pigment during the Renaissance called Naples yellow. This was paler than ocher but not as strong as the chrome yellows developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Antimony oxides, not developed until the twentieth century, are also the source of white and vermilion pigments.

  • antiquarianism - Originally, the admiration or study of the material culture of the past, especially of ancient societies, particularly those whose current descendants exhibit quite different customs, as in Greece. To some, the term now has a connotation of commercialism and commodity exchange for profit, rather than for scholarly goals. Also see commodification, Egyptian art, Etruscan art, Greek art, iconoduly, and Roman art.

  • antique - Of ancient times, or an object made in a bygone era. Especially of the ages before the fall of the Western Roman Empire in CE 476. Also, ancient furniture and other artifacts. And, plaster casts of classical sculptures used in drawing classes to study form. The word antique is sometimes used very loosely to refer to any object in order to impart a sense of its being old. Sellers of old stuff — antiques — often use this means of emphasizing their wares' aged qualities. For the purposes of U.S. customs, an object made at least one hundred years prior to the date of its entry into the U.S. Also see antiquarianism, antiquing, and antiquity, Buddhist art, Egyptian art, Etruscan art, Greek art, Hindu art, Islamic art, Roman art, and Stone Age art. Also see allegory and patina.

  • antiquing - Artificially creating an appearance of age to the surface of an object. This has most often been done to furniture, walls, and decorations, but has been done to create new and to simulate old fine art as well. Techniques for antiquing include abrading and otherwise distressing surfaces to simulate wear, and glazing, often with burnt or raw umber, over other colors to simulate the dirtying and discoloring of age. Sometimes refers to the act of shopping for antiques. Also see allegory, antiquarianism, antique, antiquity, art conservation, art restoration, clean up, distort, forgery, new, patina, and time.

  • antiquity - The quality of being very old, especially of the ages before the fall of the Western Roman Empire in CE 476. Also, the remains of ancient times, usually referred to in the plural form, as antiquities. Also see antiquarianism, antique, antiquing, Buddhist art, Egyptian art, Etruscan art, Greek art, heritage, Hindu art, Islamic art, Roman art, Stone Age art, UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.

  • antithesis - A single figure with directly opposing ideas. Also, the second and contrasting part of such a juxtaposition.

  • anxiety - Fear, whether justified or not. Unjustified, anxiety can be produced by pathologies known as phobias. Examples of phobias: gymnophobia, iconophobia, and xenophobia.

  • apadana - The great audience hall in ancient Persian palaces. (pr. APP-?-DAN-?)

  • aperture - An opening. In photography, the circular hole in the front of the camera lens which controls the amount of light allowed to pass on to the film from the lens. On all but very inexpensive cameras the size of the aperture is variable. The degree of variability is indicated by "f" numbers (f/stop). A great way to gain an understanding of apertures is to make and use a pinhole camera.

  • apex - The highest point or summit. Also see aculeate, finial, and tower.

  • aphorism - An adage; a brief statement of a principle, or an opinion held to be true or deeply felt.

  • a posteriori - Latin for "from the latter." In logic, an argument that deduces causes from their effects; inductive reasoning; the converse of a priori.

  • apotropaic - Greek for "turning away," refers to objects designed to ward off evil, as a good luck charm, amulet, or talisman is intended to avert ill fortune. In cultures as varied as those of ancient Greece and contemporary Tibet, apotropaics have usually been employed to work against the "evil eye," and are often themselves images of eyes.

  • appearance - In philosophy, what is visible, or manifest to the senses, but what is ultimately illusory. Appearance is usually contrasted with reality, and so the term often occurs in the schools of philosophy known as idealism and skepticism.

  • apply, application - To apply one material to another is to place it on another surface. Application is such an act of placement, as when a mark is left behind by a brush loaded with paint, by an eyedropper loaded with dye, or a crayon, pencil, or pen. Also, application can refer to a use of learned material in new and concrete situations. Application represents the third level of learning outcomes in the cognitive domain — the level of understanding just beyond comprehension (basic understanding of meaning). This may include the application of such things as rules, methods, concepts, principles, laws, and theories. Objectives of lessons which will increase a student's to apply knowledge can be stated with such behavioral terms as: apply, carve, classify, collect, compute, construct, demonstrate, dramatize, draw, employ, exploit, frame, imitate, make, make use of, manipulate, model, modify, organize, operate, paint, practice, predict, prepare, put in action, put to use, profit by, relate, schedule, sculpt, sequence, show, sketch, solve, try, take up, test out, use, utilize, and wield. The next higher thinking skill is analysis. Application might instead refer to a piece of computer software. Also see Bloom's Taxonomy.

  • applied arts - The arts concerned with making objects with functional purposes, but for which aesthetic concerns are significant. The applied arts may include architecture, interior design, the design of manufactured items, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, textile, glass, furniture, graphics, clocks and watches, toys, leather, arms and armor, musical instruments, etc. Commercial art may be considered a branch of applied art. The applied arts are usually contrasted with the fine arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, fine printmaking, etc.), which are seen as serving no purpose other than providing an aesthetic experience. Most of the applied arts might also be described as design. The distinction between the applied and the fine arts did not emerge strongly until the time of the Industrial Revolution (about 1775-1875), and accompanied a growing secularization of art and the emergence of a need felt by some artists to replace dying spiritual values with purely aesthetic values, setting art apart from the rest of life. Nevertheless, some have emphasized the importance of craft and regard the distinction between the fine and the applied arts as false and undesirable. Even to those who see it as important to make this distinction, many objects make it very difficult because their purposes are so dominated by their aesthetic ones. Also see high art, decorative arts, low art, and raffia.

  • appliqué - A design made by stitching pieces of colored fabric onto a larger piece of cloth. Appliqué is used for wall hangings and as decoration on clothing, quilts and pillows. (pr. APP-l?-KAY)

  • appraisal - A type of analysis and evaluation, especially in an official or professional capacity. In appraising works of art, for instance, an art appraiser studies their various qualities, and ultimately estimates their monetary worth, typically for insurance or taxation reasons, or in establishing a price.

  • appreciate, appreciation, and appreciable - To perceive the quality, significance, monetary worth, etc. of a person or thing. To be fully aware of or sensitive to. Like appraisal it comes from the Latin verb "appretiare" — "to set a price on." It belongs to a family of "perception" synonyms: acknowledge, apprehend, detect, discern, discover, identify, know, note, notice, observe, pick out, realize, recognize, and sense.

  • apprentice - A person who is learning an art, a craft or occupation from one or more masters of that work. This was the prevailing means of entering many professions in Europe from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century.

  • apprenticeship - A specified amount of time in which a person, called an apprentice, becomes bound by legal agreement to work for another, his master, in return for instruction in an art, a craft, or a business. Once an apprentice completes his term of apprenticeship he would be called a journeyman. He would become a master in his turn only when recognized masters judge an example of his work as worthy to have been made by a master — a masterpiece. The apprenticeship system was common across Europe when guilds were strong in the Middle Ages until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution (about 1775-1875). Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519), for example, was apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio (Italian, 1435-1488), in whose work art historians believe they see young Leonardo's work appear and mature. This system has been replaced almost completely by formal schooling and the free-market's gallery system.

  • a priori - Latin for "from what comes before." In logic, an argument that is known to be true, or false without reference to experience; the converse of a posteriori.

  • apsara - In India, a nymph of the sky or air. In Chinese Buddhism, a heavenly maiden. Also see Chinese art and Hindu art.

  • apse - The semicircular or polygonal recess at the end of a Christian church opposite the main entry, or in a wall of a Roman basilica. It was here that the altar was placed.

  • aqua fortis - Latin for nitric acid. In etching, the mordant or solution used to etch the plate, diluted for use with one to five parts water.

  • aquagraph - A monoprint made by painting with a water medium on a metal, glass, or plastic plate and pulling one print from that plate. Additional colors can be printed by aligning the paper to the plate design.

  • aquamanile - An aquamanile is a vessel for pouring water used in the ritual of washing hands in both religious and secular contexts — by priests before Mass (Christian) and in private households before meals. In form, these ewers are often zoomorphic, and may portray either real or imagined creatures, typically significant in religious iconography. The height of production and use of aquamanilia spans from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries.

  • aquamarine - A blue to green, transparent kind of beryl, or simply a pale blue to pale greenish blue color.

  • aquarelle - The technique of drawing or painting with transparent watercolor, or a piece of work made this way. French for "watercolor."

  • aquarelle brush - A particular style of watercolor brush, used flat for large areas and on the edge for fine light.

  • aquatint mezzotint - In etching, a plate is first bitten in a solid aquatint, then a design is worked on top of the aquatint with a scraper and burnisher, producing a result similar to an ordinary mezzotint.

  • aqueduct - A channel built to carry water to towns and cities. In some places these channels were supported by a series of arches. The Romans built many aqueducts, including the Pont du Gard near Nimes, France, and those found in Spain at Tarragona and Segovia.

  • aqueous - Watery. Often used to designate pigmented media in which water is an ingredient in the vehicle, as in gouache, tempera, and watercolors. Such media are water-soluble. Also see miscible, solvent, viscosity, and wetting agent.

  • aqueous humor - Physically essential to sight, a clear, watery fluid found in the anterior chamber of the eye.

  • A.R.A. - Associate of the Royal Academy (or Royal Academy of Arts) (RA). When you see these initials at the end of an artist's signature, you know the signer is a member of Britain's Royal Academy. Also see academy.

  • arabesque - A complicated, intertwined, flowing design of stylized floral and plant motifs loosely based on Arabian decoration. (pr. A-r?-besk)

  • arc - A portion or section of a curved line; a single curve or arch. In strict mathematical terms, a segment of a circle. An example of this shape can be seen in the green background to this page.

  • arcade - A series of arches on column, pier, or pillars. Also, a roofed passageway or gallery, especially with shops on one or both sides. Only in the last century has arcade also come to refer to commercial establishments featuring rows of coin-operated games.

  • archaeology - The scientific study of material evidence, such as burials, architecture, tools, and pottery remaining from past cultures — primarily but not exclusively those of Stone Age and ancient period. Its principal activities include preliminary field surveys, excavation, and the classification, dating, and interpretation of finds. Towards the end of the nineteenth century archaeology became an academic study, making increasing use of scientific techniques and systematic methods. Archaeologists are the people who are trained in making field expeditions to uncover materials in ruins, deserts, jungles, and so on. They locate, excavate, catalog, analyze, and conserve their finds, many of which are displayed in museums. Also see Aegean art, American Indian art, Chinese art, civilization, Cycladic art, Egyptian art, Etruscan art, excavate, Greek art, interdisciplinary, Japanese art, Meroitic art, Pre-Columbian art, Roman art, science and art, and tradition.

  • archaic - This adjective is applied to the early stage in the development of an art style. It is at this stage that the characteristics of the fully developed style are found, although in simpler forms. The term is often used to describe the art of ancient Greek artists whose early sculpture were a step in the direction of more natural figures. The term may also describe work which conveys characteristics of earlier art; old-fashioned. (pr. ?r-KAY-?k)

  • archetype - An original model like which others are formed; an avatar. Can also be an example that is an ideal form of its type; the perfect or typical specimen. Archetypes are recurring motifs in mythology and the arts. According to the theories of psychiatrist Carl Jung (Swiss, 1875-1961), an archetype indicates a mythic character which is present in the unconscious of humanity — crossing all spatial, cultural and historical boundaries. Also see exemplar and realia.

  • architectonic - Architectural qualities, as observed in subjects which are not typically architectural ones. For instance, "architectonic" is used as the name of the second style of classical Roman fresco painting, in which painters covered walls with such architectural elements as columns and porticos, punctuated with illusory windows revealing scenic landscapes. One reason the architectonic style was so effective was it use of linear perspective — long before its reinvention in the Renaissance. This style of fresco was in fashion most of the 1st century BCE.

  • architrave - In classical architecture, the lintel or lowest part of an entablature, sometimes called the epistyle. (pr. ar-KAY-?k)

  • archival image - An image meant to have lasting utility. An archival digital image is generally an image kept off-line in a safe place, and it's often of higher quality than the digital image delivered to the user. (pr. ar-KI:-v?l)

  • arcuated - Of arch-column construction.

  • arc welding - Joining two pieces of metal by fusion through electrical hazard!heating with an electrical arc. In addition, pressure may or may not be exerted, and a filler rod may or may not be used. This welding technique is different than welding using an oxyacetylene torch.

  • argilaceous - Of the nature of clay; clayey. (pr. AR-j?-LAY-sh?s)

  • argon - A non-explosive, colorless, odorless, tasteless, inert gaseous element used in electric light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, and neon POISONOUS!tubes, and as an inert gas shield in arc welding. Atomic symbol Ar, atomic number 18, atomic weight 39.94, melting point -189.2°C, boiling point -185.7°C. Tank sizes available are 131, 330, and 4754 liquid cubic feet. Also see acetylene, carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

  • argument - While commonly any discussion in which there is disagreement, art criticism is a matter of giving reasons which demonstrate the truth of claims about a work. This requires the use of logic. An extended argument consists of a main conclusion supported by premises, some being conclusions of related arguments. Also see a priori, a posteriori, assessment, charette, critique, and syllogism.

  • armature - A skeleton-like framework to give rigid internal support to a modeled sculpture. Such sculptures are typically of either clay or wax. Armature wire used to build an armature is available in various gauges. A basic linear form in wire can be made with poultry screen or padded with wood or paper if appropriate. The medium is modeled directly onto the armature.

  • arrangement - An order or composition. Or, a setup or composition of components in a still life painting or drawing. Arrangement is at the heart of the principles of design, and its consideration determines a work's coherence (unity and variety), focal point, rhythm, etc. As such, there are many parallels to its importance in music. Arrangement is important to all other disciplines as well. In architecture, it is the subject of the traditional Chinese theory and practice of feng shui.

  • arsenic - A highly poisonous metal, usually found in a brittle, POISONOUS!crystalline gray form. It was frequently used in early copper alloy. Elemental symbol As; atomic number 33; atomic weight 74.922; melting point 817°C (at 28 atm pressure); specific gravity 5.73; valence 3, 5.

  • art - For numerous reasons, the most difficult word to define without starting endless argument! Many definitions have been proposed. At least art involves a degree of human involvement — through manual skills or thought — as with the word "artificial," meaning made by humans instead of by nature. Definitions vary in how they divide all that is artificial into what is and isn't art. The most common means is to rely upon the estimations of art experts and institutions. More useful may be to see definitions of aesthetics, the arts, beaux-arts, craft, high art, and low art. Quotations about art, including others' definitions of art.

  • Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI) - This is an international association whose members are over 210 art and creative (read: craft?) material manufacturers. Founded in 1940, ACMI is an authority on art and craft materials. Its principal goal is to assist its members in providing the public with art and craft materials for children and artists that are non-toxic or properly labeled with safe use information whenever the use of a product could present an adverse health effect. ACMI said in 2004 that, "Of the 60,000 art and craft material formulations evaluated to date, 100% of the children's products and 85% of those meant for the adult artist are certified as non-toxic. All products in the program undergo extensive toxicological evaluation and testing before they are granted the right to bear the ACMI certification seals."

  • ACMI's trademarked certification seals — its health & safety labels:

  • art brut - French for "raw art," Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) devised this name in 1945 for the art of children and outsiders (naïve artists and the mentally ill); actually, anyone not producing art for profit or recognition. Because they did not adhere to the cultural norms or fashion effecting most artists, Dubuffet felt there was greater honesty and power inherent in the work of such people. His collection of art brut moved Dubuffet to cultivate such raw artistic elements in his own work, sometimes making pictures with pastes including mud, asphalt, or broken glass. (pr. art broot)

  • art buyer - The person who is a link between an agency and freelance artists; buys work for the agency. Also see art careers, collector, and patron.

  • art center or arts center - Typically a group of buildings devoted to the exhibiting, teaching, and performance of the arts. Buildings may include an art gallery or museum, a performing arts theater, a fine arts library, a music building, and a dance studio.

  • art conservator - In art conservation, a person who applies science to the technical study, preservation and treatment of art objects. A professional art conservator should be consulted about the display, storage, and preservation of special objects; about the preservation of public art and historic buildings and sites; about disaster planning for area prone to earthquakes, fires, or floods; when the surface of an object is either flaking, fading or discoloring; when an object is infested with insects or mold; before taking a textile or work on paper from its frame; and before doing an amateur cleaning or restoration. The immediately preceding article lists several art conservation resources. Also see art careers, cleavage, and preparator.

  • art critic - Among those in art careers, a person who describes, analyzes, interprets, evaluates, and expresses judgments of the merits, faults and value of artworks. One who produces art criticism.

  • art criticism - The description, analysis, evaluation, interpretation, and judgment of works of art. It is a common assumption that criticism is necessarily negative, when actually it can vary in degrees of positive as well as negative remarks. Critical methods vary considerably in their approaches to considering the forms, contents, and contexts of works of art.

  • Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) - The Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) is a non-profit membership organization of the nation's leading galleries in the fine arts. Founded in 1962, the ADAA seeks to promote "the highest standards of connoisseurship, scholarship and ethical practice within the profession." The ADAA members deal primarily in paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and photographs from the Renaissance to the present day. The ADAA has 160 member galleries in more than 25 U.S. cities.

  • art degree - An academic title given by a college or university to a student who has successfully completed a course of study. Sometimes such a degree is conferred as an honorary distinction.

  • art director - Among those in art careers, a person who directs or supervises the work of other artists. Also see applied arts, commercial art, graphic design, and specifications.

  • art district or arts district - A section of a community in which art galleries are situated near other art galleries, art museums, theaters, and music halls.

  • art engagé - French for "art involved in life." Art with a social or political significance. Also see caricature, socialist realism, and social realism.

  • Arte Povera - Italian for "poor art," it was mostly sculptural work made from everyday materials including soil, cement, twigs, newspapers, instead of traditional materials like stone and bronze. This largely Italian movement, named by the critic Germano Celant in 1967, endured through the 1970s, concerned with metaphorical treatments to do with nature, culture, history, and contemporary life. Artists associated with Arte Povera include Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, and Michelangelo Pistoletto. Here's a link to a photo of a Mario Merz piece, Giap Igloo. Also see bricolage.

  • art for art's sake - Any of several points of view related to the possibility of art being independent of concerns that order other disciplines. The term is primarily used regarding artists and artwriters of the second half of the nineteenth century, especially Charles Baudelaire (French, 1821-1867), James A. McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903) and Oscar Wilde (English, 1854-1900), and Edgar Allan Poe (American, 1809-1849). Here's a link to images of Whistler's The Peacock Room, 1876-77, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland, a wealthy ship owner from Liverpool, England. Leyland commissioned Whistler to paint the dining room. Between 1876 and 1877, Whistler brightened the room with golden peacocks, painting every inch of the ceiling and walls to create an elegant setting in which Leyland could display his blue-and-white porcelain as well as Whistler's painting The Princess from the Land of Porcelain.

  • art gum - An eraser that crumbles as it erases, not scratching or discoloring artwork. Also see erasure.

  • artifact - An object produced or shaped by human craft, especially a rudimentary art form or object, as in the products of prehistoric workmanship. Only in the last ten or twenty years works of various native peoples been considered art rather than artifacts, and displayed in museums of art as well as of ethnography. In digital imagery, visual effects introduced into an image in the course of scanning or compression that do not correspond to the image scanned. See collectible, ethnocentrism, material culture, placeholder, realia, and visual culture.

  • artificial - Made in imitation of nature by human beings rather than by nature; simulated. This may be intended and interpreted to carry either positive, negative or neutral ideas. A negative interpretation might imply lack of authenticity. Other synonyms with more specific meanings include synthetic (implying a chemical process) and ersatz (a German word for things that are obviously inferior). The term "artifice" can refer either to a thing which has artificial qualities, or to the means to making it.

  • artisan - A craftsman; a skilled manual worker.

  • artistic temperament - A catch-all reference to artists' more peculiar attitudes, emotions, or behaviors which observers often attribute to being elements of artists' creative activities. Artists invariably do some things which non-artists find eccentric. Nevertheless, the concept of an "artistic temperament" may be too formless to define satisfactorily. And, it's too often used as an evasion of various issues difficult to confront.

  • APT logo, Artist Pension Trust (APT) - An organization offering a plan allowing artists to invest their own works toward a pension plan — eventual retirement income. APT's site says the organization, "is designed to meet specific needs of artists, a group whose career trajectories and employment patterns make existing pension programs inaccessible. APT helps ensure an artist's long-term fanancial secuity, allowing artists to focus on their work and take risks that are critical to their creative development." Here's basically how it works: beginning early in his or her career, a participant in APT contributes one work per year over a twenty year period to the tax-protected fund on the theory that some of the works will increase significantly in market value. All of the artists involved will share the profits, even if their initial promise never translates into increased market value. "It's a way of taking advantage of the capitalistic nature of the market and mix in a healthy dose of socialism to create a hybrid form," said David A. Ross, the former director of the Whitney Museum of Art and then the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, who is the APT's president (quoted in the NY Times, July 20, 2004). APT hopes to establish trusts in ten cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Beijing, and Tokyo, with 250 artists participating in each. Visit their site, and contact them for more information. Also see art careers and artists' organizations.

  • artists' books - Artworks in book form, not books about art, or art made of books. William Blake (English, 1757-1827) was among the first artists to create books with his own pictures and texts. Some artists' books have only pictures or only texts. Marcel Duchamp (French, 1887-1968) made some, beginning in the 1930s. Artists in many countries have produced them since the late 1960s, including Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-), John Baldessari (American, 1931-), Ed Ruscha (American, 1937-), and Anselm Kiefer (German, 1945-).

  • artist's bridge - A tool used to support the hand in order to keep it stable and clear of the working surface while drawing or painting fine passages. Also see mahlstick.

  • artists' organizations - Also known as artist-run organizations, many are more commonly known as alternative spaces: non-profit galleries run by and for artists, which proliferated in American and other cities in the 1970s as independent organizations, considered necessary in an era of increasingly diverse artistic issues, experimentation, commodification, etc. — the museums and commercial galleries were seen as providing exhibition opportunities both too few and too tied to commodification. Alternative spaces championed feminism and ethnic diversity by presenting work by women artists and artists of non-European descent. By the early 1980s the nature of such organizations had diversified. Recent art school graduates could still find storefront venues for their installation, conceptual, video and performance art endeavors, but some alternative spaces had evolved into highly structured institutions with large staffs and funding from foundations, and government entities such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Representing them in Washington, DC, is the National Association of Artists' Organizations (NAAO). Also see academy, American Watercolor Society (AWS), art careers, Artist PensionTrust (APT), College Art Association (CAA), National Art Education Association (NAEA), National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH),

  • artist's proof - One of a small group of prints set aside from an edition for an artist's use; a number of printer's proofs are sometimes also done for a printer's use. An artist's proof is typically one of the first proofs from a limited edition of prints, for the artist's own copyright use, and marked as an A.P., and not numbered. Artist's proofs generally draw a higher price than other impressions. The equivalent in French is épreuve d'artiste, abbreviated E.A.

  • art movement - An artistic style or tendency seen in the intentions or works of a number of artists, because there is a striking similarity among the techniques, philosophy or goals they have embraced, or in the attitudes which they espouse in a (more or less) organized effort. Art movements have each thrived for a limited time — measured in a few months, years or decades. Postmodernism has produced a dearth of movements because its adherents practice such a divergence of styles.

  • art restoration - The work of repairing damage to artworks, bringing them back to their original condition. Unlike art conservation, this can admit the addition of elements which were not actually pieces of the original, but which are known to look just like them. Inpainting a portion of a painting that is damaged or missing, for instance.

  • the arts - Visual art, music, theater, and dance.

  • Arts Education Partnership (AEP) - The Arts Education Partnership (formerly the Goals 2000 Arts Education Partnership) is an American national coalition of arts, education, business, philanthropic and government organizations that demonstrates and promotes the essential role of the arts in the learning and development of every child and in the improvement of America's schools. The Partnership includes over 140 organizations that are national in scope and impact. It also includes state and local partnerships focused on influencing education policies and practices to promote quality arts education. Partnership organizations affirm the central role of imagination, creativity and the arts in culture and society; the power of the arts to enliven and transform education and schools; and collective action through partnerships as the means to place the arts at the center of learning. Contact:

  • art therapy - The therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.

  • artwork - A general term referring to any artistic production. Sometimes, like oeuvre, it can also signify an entire body of works. Related terms include artifact, commodity, object, piece. Also see masterpiece and signature.

  • art world or artworld - Members of an art-centered group of people. Characteristic of artworlds are its people, places, activities, ideas, and times in history. The artworld that speakers first acknowledged includes everyone involved in art. Although this set of art-centered people continues to be referred to this way, another set that is frequently acknowledged is the one called "mainstream," generally referring to the contemporary network of art specialists who are most influential. An artworld might also be as broadly focused as the European artworld, or the twentieth century artworld. But others can be much more narrowly focused, as in the current ice-sculpting artworld in Chicago, the artworld of Romanian art conservators, or the traditional pottery-making artworld of the Cotswolds.

  • asbestos - A fibrous, fire-proof mineral used in WEAR A DUST MASK!gloves, aprons, POISONOUS!and mats for its heat-resistance. Contact with asbestos has been found to present a much greater health hazard than previously thought, and should never be used in schools. Find substitutes. If you must work with it, wear a protective mask at minimum.

  • ascender - The part of the lowercase letters that project above the middle guideline, as in b, d, f, h, k, l, and t.

  • ashlar - In architecture, squared, hewn stone laid in regular courses. Also see masonry.

  • aspect ratio - This is the ratio (proportion) of a shape's width to its height. Computer and video monitors (television screens) can be proportioned for widescreen material (16:9) or for traditional TV viewing (4:3).

  • asphaltum - In etching, a liquid that is used on plate as a soft ground, and on the backs of plates to protect them from the mordant. In lithography, asphaltum is used to chemically process the drawing. Also, an old color which was found to be destructive to painting.

  • assemblage sculpture - A three-dimensional composition made of various materials such as found objects, paper, wood, and textiles.

  • assessment - Analyzing and determining the the nature and quality of students' achievement through means appropriate to the subject. "Assessment" has come to us from the Latin word assidere, which means, “to sit with.” That is very apt indeed. In art education there are many instruments used in assessment: rubrics, check-lists, games, and tests are among them. Contrary to the opinions of some, a "testicle" is not, nor ever has been, a humorous question on a test. Also see art therapy, bias, effort, examination, interesting, masterpiece, monitor, Praxis, and webucation.

  • ASTM International (the former American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)) - ASTM International is a voluntary standards development organization — a source for technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services, in the areas of design, manufacturing and trade.

  • Asturian art - A ninth century Gothic style with Moorish derivation used in Spanish churches in the Asturias region. Also see architecture and Islamic art.

  • Asuka - A period in Japanese art history from 552 - 645, which is the first part of Japan's Early or Classical period of Buddhist art. The Asuka period was preceded by the Kofun perod (about CE 200 - 500), and was followed by the Hakuho or Early Nara Period (645-710).

  • asymmetry, asymmetrical balance - Asymmetry is when one side of a composition does not reflect the design of the other. Asymmetrical balance is the kind of balance (one of the principles of art) in which the parts of a design are organized so that one side differs from the other without destroying that composition's overall harmony. Consequently, when an asymmetrical design is disturbingly off balance, the result is disharmony. Also known as informal balance, asymmetry is the opposite of symmetry.

  • atectonic - In sculpture, describes shapes or forms that tend to reach out into open space. Also see boss, projection, and rugosity.

  • atelier - French. An artist's or an artisan's studio; a workshop. Sometimes refers to a studio where an artist trains for his profession.

  • atlant, atlantid, or atlas - A muscular male nude, either carved or painted, acting as a column or pillar, carrying an architrave or other architectural element. This is the male counterpart of a caryatid. Named after Atlas, the Titan (giant) who in Greek mythology was condemned to carry the earth and the heavens on his shoulders. The atlant, employed in both Roman and Greek architecture, was revived in Baroque architecture and painting. The Romans called such figures telamones. The plural form of atlant is atlantes.

  • atrium - In architecture, an inner courtyard, often colonnaded or given a glass ceiling, and often at the entrance of a public building. (pr. AY-tree-?m)

  • attention - Concentration of thought upon a subject. A close or careful observing or listening. Focusing one's ability or power to concentrate mentally. Giving observant consideration. Artists refer to attentive seeing as gazing, and give much consideration to the gaze of the audience for their works. Artists anticipate that most attention will be drawn to the focal point of a work, but that the quality of a viewer's attention depend upon such factors as his/her consciousness, knowledge, and interest, along with such other factors as the context of that work's exhibition.

  • attitude - A mental position (feeling or emotion) concerning a fact or a state; a state of mind; a point of view or an outlook. Attitudes are relatively enduring views on people, behavior, events, or things. Attitudes are expected to change as a result of experience, in contrast to personality, which, as another mental construct, is much less apt to alter over time.

  • attribute - An object often associated with a person, character, or office. Examples are the crown jewels of a king, the trident of Neptune, and the caduceus of a physician. (pr. AT-tr?-byoot)

  • attribution - The act of regarding as the work of a certain artist an unsigned work, on the basis of its style, subject matter, symbolism, or some other physical evidence. An attribution may also be made to a work's place or time of origin, or of its provenance.

  • audience - Any viewer, reader, or listener, either alone or with others. This often refers to those people for whose gaze a work is intended, although at present the identity of those viewers is largely unknown.

  • audio guide or audio tour - A recorded message to guide a viewer through a museum exhibit. Also called audio guides are electronic devices rented from a museum, either held like a telephone to an ear, or, as shown, earphones are connected to a player carried over a shoulder. MP3 players have become increasingly common means of delivering audio tours. Podcasts are made either by the museum's staff (and such companies as Acoustiguide and Antenna Audio) or by others. Some podcasts can be downloaded from museums' Web sites. Also see design, music, and new media.

  • auditory - Having to do with hearing.

  • auger - A tool for drilling deeply into wood, an auger is a long metal shaft with a helical drill and cutting blades at one end.

  • aureole - Similar to a gloriole or glory, halo, or nimbus, an aureole is a array of light around the head of a saint or deity. The word stems from the Latin corona aureola, meaning golden crown.

  • auteurism - The belief that the director of a film is of primary importance as the creator of the final product. Examples of directors whose work has been included in this group are Charlie Chaplin (English-American, 1889-1977), Alfred Hitchcock (English, 1899-1980) and Woody Allen (American, 1935-). Also see cinema.

  • authentic - Being trustworthy as genuine; original; the real thing.

  • author - Any creator, or originator of works in any art form.

  • authorial ignorance - The idea that the entire or true meaning of works of art actually elude their makers.

  • authorial irrelevance - The idea that the audience's understanding of the meaning of an art work ought not be effected by an author's biography, social context, or stated intentions.

  • authorial responsibility - The idea that the audience has no responsibility for a work's success or failure, but that it rests entirely upon the artist's efforts. This attitude has largely been rejected by postmodernist art critics.

  • autobiographical art - Art which is made to document or take advantage of events in the artist's life, or which is otherwise especially personal to the artist. Also see self-portrait.

  • autocritical - Self-critical. Also see art criticism and critique.

  • autographic ink - In lithography, a kind of greasy ink.

  • autography - In graphic arts, the process by which the pen and greasy ink drawing is transferred from paper to stone. In lithography, reproduction of a print on autographic paper. See autographic ink.

  • automata - The plural form of automaton.

  • automatism - A process of making mechanically, randomly, or by unconscious free association (rather than under the control of a conscious artist), after establishing a set of conditions (such as types of materials, etc.) within which a work is to be carried out. Also called automatic drawing, painting, sculpture, or writing. Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893-1983), André Masson (French, 1896-1987), and "Matta" Roberto Matta Echaurren (Chilean-American, 1912-) employed this method.

  • automaton - Any thing that can move or act by itself — a mechanical thing which automatically performs certain actions in response to preset controls, such as a metronome, a toy with clock-works, a revolving model of the planetary system, etc. The plural form is automata.

  • autoportrait - French for self-portrait. (pr. OW-toh-POHR-tray)

  • avant-garde - French for vanguard. Artists and their work which stand in the forefront of a movement or of new ideas, often in opposition to established ideas and traditions; art that's ahead of its time, innovative, experimental, heterodox. The modern era has invariably had a flourishing avant-garde, but many have said it is no longer possible in a postmodern era. The bourgeoisie, once alienated by the avant-garde, rarely question any longer the presentation of any avant-garde's productions by their public institutions.

  • avatar - In Hinduism, an incarnation of a god.

  • A.W.S. or AWS - Abbreviation for the American Watercolor Society.

  • axial plan - In architecture, a plan in which the parts of a building are organized longtitudinally, or along a given axis. Also see central plan and length.

  • axis or axis line - An imaginary straight line which indicates movement and the direction of movement. It can be observed in the painting War Series: Another Patrol by Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917-). Also, especially in architecture, an imaginary straight line about which a work, parts of a work, or a group of works are visually or structurally arranged.

  • axonometric projection - In mechanical drawing, includes isometric, dimetric, and trimetric projection. Axonometric projection is used to represent three-dimensional objects, not for an illusion of reality, but to show dimensions and other geometric information.

  • azuriteazurite - A mineral used as a blue pigment. An ore of copper related to malachite that, when ground up, makes a deep blue pigment with a greenish tinge. Azurite was an important pigment in ancient Egypt, often used for wall paintings. By the Renaissance, it was used for underpainting the far more costly ultramarine.

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