Art Glossary of Terms
The Art History Archive

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Art Glossary of Terms - Art Lexicon KA to KZ

  • K - Abbreviation for degrees kelvin.

  • ka - In ancient Egypt, immortal human substance; the concept approximates the Western idea of the spirit or soul. One of Egypt's hieroglyphs is a ka, a figure with two bent arms. (pr. kah)

  • kachina - Any supernatural being important in the religion of the Hopi and Zuni Indians of Arizona, USA, represented in painted figurines (kachina dolls) and in costumes of ritual impersonators wearing masks and costumes. Also spelled katsina.

  • kagle - A rough, highly abstracted African mask of the Dan people.

  • kakemono - In Japanese art tradition, a painting mounted for hanging vertically.

  • kakejiku - In Japanese art tradition, a hanging scroll used for mounting pieces of calligraphy.

  • kakemono-e - In Japanese art tradition, a print made as a substitute for a kakemono.

  • Kamakura - A period in Japanese art history from 1185-1333. It was preceded by the Heian period (794-1185) and followed by the Muromachi/Ashikaga period (1392-1573).

  • kanshitsu - In Japanese art tradition, a technique of building up layers of lacquer reinforced with hemp over a clay core to form hollow sculpture.

  • kantharos - In ancient Greece, two-handled drinking cup. Also spelled cantharos. Another type of two-handled drinking cup is a kylix. Among the other types of Greek vases are the alabastron, amphora, hydria, krater, kyathos, lekythos, oinochoe, pelike, phiale, pinax, pithos, and pyxis. Also see vessel.

  • karat - A unit of weight for gemstone, one karat is equal to one fifth of a gram or 200 milligrams. Also spelled carat.

  • karma - In Buddhist and Hindu belief, the ethical consequences of a person's life, which determine his or her fate.

  • keeper - A student's artwork, which can be kept by the student because it has been made with enough of the qualities required by the teacher. If the keeper is ceramic, this assessment permits a piece to be fired as well as taken home by the student. Such a procedure can be useful in limiting waste, and in attaining various design standards.

  • kelvin - A unit of absolute temperature often used in photography to measure the color temperature of a source of light. Abbreviated K, kelvins can be converted to degrees Celsius by subtracting 273. Certain tungsten lamps are designed to burn at specific absolute temperatures (usually 3200 or 3400 K), guaranteeing that compatible photographic films will render the color they illuminate quite accurately.

  • kerf - A slit, notch, or cut made by an ax, saw, blade, or cutting torch, or the width of such a space made by such tools. Sometimes, the first mark of this sort which establishes where the tool could go from there. Historically a kerf was made in wood, but today, a slit, notch, or cut made in metal, plastic, or another comparable material might also be called a kerf. A series of (usually parallel) kerfs are sometimes placed in a material in order to bend it, relieve stress, or prevent distortion. Kerfs have been used in bookbinding. This word, sometimes (although rarely) spelled "cerf," came to us from the same prehistoric word from which now have the word "carve." See corrugate, crosscut saw, circular saw, declivity, hacksaw, miter, mortise, pleat, and ripsaw.

  • kern and kerning - In typography, a kern is the projecting portion of a character that overlaps the edge of an adjacent letter. Kerning is the technique of adjusting the spacing between letters, usually to give them the appearance of more even (consistent) spacing. A typographer might also speak of this as adjusting the "letter space." The original sense of kerning limited this adjustment to closing the space enough to make letters' edges overlap. Letters most often benefiting from kerning in this original sense include i, l, and t. In the example see thumbnail to rightnote the space between the A and the V before and after kerning, and the effect it has had on making the . When letter space between italic letters is adjusted, the spaces preceding f, v, and w, are likely to need kerning because the forward slope results in too much space on the base line. Some ligatures, including "ś", were formed by kerning. A ligature is a single character made up of two or more letters joined together as a standard element in a set of type ó e.g. ś (a+e) and ∆ (A+E). Also see graphic design, imbrication, leading, lettering, text, and typeface.

  • ketubah - In Jewish art tradition, a mariage contract, describing the obligations of the husband and wife. Especially among Sephardim (Jews of Spanish-Portuguese origin), the Ketubah has often been highly ornamented, decorated with intricate and colorful designs. Although many Jewish communities throughout the centuries have decorated their ketubot, Italian Jews during the 17th and 18th centuries stood out for cultivating the art of ketubah illumination. Italian ketubot commonly featured rich floral ornamentation and images from the Bible as well as from Greek and Roman mythology. They often depicted biblical personalities whose names were identical with those of the bride and groom, or they used images to identitfy their individual attributes (virtue, charity, etc.). The symbol of the spread out hands of the high priest denoted that the groom was of the priestly family (Kohen). Among the ketubah's provisions is the exact amount of money to be paid to the bride in the event of her bridegroom's death or of his divorcing her. An alternate spelling is ketubbah. The plural form of this Hebrew word is ketubot.

  • key - A small interlocking device in the seam of a mold, enabling the mold to be precisely reassembled. The term may also refer to the slight roughening of a surface which allows a painted finish to adhere effectively.

  • keystone - The central and highest stone (voussoirs) in an arch. It cannot fall out of place because it is wedge-shaped, with the widest part of the wedge at the top. It is the last stone to be set in place during the construction of an arch. By pressing equally on either side it holds the arch together.

  • kg or kg. - Abbreviation for kilogram.

  • khutbah - In Islamic worship, a sermon and a declaration of allegiance to a community leader. (pr. koot'bah)

  • kickwheel - A potter's wheel which is driven by kicking a revolving cement disk. The major alternative is a wheel driven by an electric motor.

  • kiln - A special WEAR SAFETY GLOVES!oven or furnace that can reach very high temperatures and is used to bake, or fire clay. Kilns may be electric, gas, or wood-fired. The one pictured here is an electric model. (pr. kiln or kill)

  • Kiln-Sitter - A trademark of W.P. Dawson Inc. for a mechanical control designed to cut off electricity to a kiln when a desired temperature has been reached. At that temperature the pyrometric cones placed in the Kiln-Sitter bends, or, in digital versions, a touch-pad is used to program the firing of the kiln. As an additional safety feature, every Kiln-Sitter also has a timer that shuts off power to the kiln when the time set by the operator has past.

  • kiln wash - A refractory mixture, usually kaolin or flint, which is mixed with water and painted on kiln shelves to prevent glaze from adhering. In Britain this is called bat wash, because a kiln shelf is called a bat. Also see dry foot.

  • kilogram - A unit of weight measurement equal to 1000 grams. To convert kilograms into pounds (US), multiply them by 2.20462. Abbreviated kg.

  • kinesiologist - A scholar of motion who often uses photography to study the discrete phases of a particular movement. Also see cinema, horologist, kinetic, and science and art. (pr. ke-nee'zee-ah"luh-jist)

  • kinesthetic - The sensory experience of the body's movement. Physical awareness of the body's position in space. Also see dance, interdisciplinary, and music.

  • kinetic - Expressing movement. In art, kinetic refers to sculpture that moves, such as a mobile. (pr. ki-ne'tick)

  • kiss of death - When a paint brush is placed so that its brush-end is down, and it is abandoned long enough so that its bristles are permanently bent, it is often called the kiss of death!

  • kneaded eraser - An eraser that can be manipulated into any shape in order to remove pencil and many other marks cleanly. Also called a putty rubber. Also see art gum eraser.

  • knowledge - The remembering of things previously learned. This may involve the recall of a wide range of material, from specific facts to complete theories; involving all that is required in the bringing to mind of appropriate information. Knowledge represents the lowest level of learning outcomes in the cognitive domain. Objectives of lessons which will increase a student's knowledge can be stated with such behavioral terms as: arrange, cite, choose, check, define, describe, find, group, hold, identify, indicate, label, list, locate, match, memorize, name, narrate, observe, offer, omit, outline (stating a format), pick, point to, quote, recall, recite, recognize, record, relate, repeat, report, reproduce, say, select, show, sort, spell, state, tally, tell, touch, transfer, underline, and write. The next higher thinking skill is comprehension.

  • Kofun - A period in Japanese art history from about 200 CE - 500 CE. The Kofun period was preceded by the Yayoi period (c. 200 BCE - 200 CE), and followed by the Asuka period (552-645) which was the earliest or "classical" period of Buddhist art.

  • kohl - A cosmetic preparation, such as powdered antimony sulfide, used especially in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries as eye makeup. To the right is the "Eye of Horus" as seen on a fragment from an Egyptian coffin, designed to resemble the way kohl was used to darken the rims of the eyelids.

  • Kolinsky - Fur of the Siberian mink, hairs from which are used for the finest "sable" brushes. Also see brush.

  • kore - A Greek statue of a clothed maiden. Greek, literally, for "girl". (pr. koh'ray)

  • kouros - A Greek statue of a male youth who may have been a god or an athlete. Greek, literally, for "young man". (pr. koo'raus)

  • Kunstkabinett and Kunstkammer - Most literally, the German word Kunstkabinett means a "cabinet of curiosities," and a Kunstkammer is a "chamber of curiosities," exhibition spaces in which odd and wondrous rarities were brought together for private contemplation and pleasure. The words are German, but they are also used by speakers and writers of English because so many of the earliest (16th century) and best examples were created in Germany. Although the objects on display in these spaces were art objects, if some or all of the objects were marvels of nature, then they were instead called Wunderkabinetts and Wunderkammern. These precursors of the museum were developments of the Renaissance. The museum, on the other hand, was a creation of the Enlightenment.

  • kunststŁckemachen - To juggle; and, more literally, to make a work of art.

  • kyathos - A cup or dipper with a single high vertical handle. Among the other types of Greek vases are the amphora, hydria, krater, kylix, lekythos, oinochoe, pelike, phiale, pinax, pithos, pyxis, and rhyton.

  • kylix - In Greek and Roman antiquity, a shallow drinking cup with two horizontal handles, often set on a stem terminating in a foot. The plural form is kylikes. The earlier kylikes have a deep bowl and a low conical foot. Sometimes spelled cylix. Another type of two-handled drinking cup is a kantharos. (pr. ki:'licks) Among the other types of Greek vases are the alabastron, amphora, hydria, krater, kyathos, lekythos, oinochoe, pelike, phiale, pinax, pithos, pyxis, and rhyton.