|Art Glossary of Terms
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Art Glossary of Terms - Art Lexicon NA to NZ
Nabis - An avant-garde group of French painters and poets, active 1888-99, who were persuaded by the advice Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903) gave Paul Serusier (French, 1863-1927) in 1888 at Pont-Aven to reject naturalistic representation, and instead, paint in flat areas of pure color. Also influenced by Odilon Redon (French, 1840-1916) and other members of the Symbolist movement, the Nabis felt that a painting should not imitate reality but parallel nature, creating a world unto itself. They stressed the imortance of subjective and sometimes mystical perceptions. Along with painting, they worked in theater design, book illustration, posters and stained glass, and were to various extents, indebted to contemporary Japanese prints. Piérre Bonnard (French, 1867-1947) and Edouard Vuillard (French, 1868-1940) were probably the best painters of the group and eventually reverted to a modified style known as Intimisme. Other members included Aristide Maillol (French, 1861-1944), Maurice Denis (French, 1870-1943), Paul Ranson (French, 1864-1909), Ker-Xavier Roussel (French, 1867-1944), Félix Vallatton (French, 1865-1925), Henri-Gabriel Ibels (French, 1867-1936), Jozsef Rippl-Ronai (French, 1867-1944), and Sérusier. It was Sérusier who suggested the name Nabis, from the Hebrew word Nebiim, meaning "prophets."
naive art or naïve art - The style of naive painting is characterized by a careful, simplifying approach, non-scientific perspective, bright colors, and often, an enchantingly literal depiction of imaginary scenes. Although not following any particular movement or aesthetic, naive painters have been a continuing international phenomenon and influence since the beginning ot the twentieth century. The term usually refers to works produced by artists (also called naifs or naïfs) who had no formal training. Some trained artists, however, have deliberately affected a naive style. Among the artists whose work may be called naive, Henri Rousseau (French, 1844-1910) is the most famous. His nickname, "Le Douanier," refers to his employment as a toll-collector when he took up painting as a spare-time occupation. Rousseau's simplicity and naivety were notorious, his paintings childlike, non-naturalistic, and brightly colored. His pictures are appealing in their directness and depth, and in some ways are very sophisticated, their design and colors worked out in great detail. Their apparent affinity with non-Western art and their bold expressive qualities made them appealing to the early modernists searching for new forms of expression.
namban - In Japanese art, a picture of foreigners.
naming stage - Of Victor Lowenfeld's Stages of Artistic Development, naming is the fourth and final sub-stage of the first stage, the scribble stage. The Scribble stage typically occurs at 2-4 years old. At the Naming substage the child tells stories about the scribble. There is a change from a kinesthetic thinking in terms of motion to imaginative thinking in terms of pictures. This is one of the great occasions in the life of a human. It is the development of the ability to visualize in pictures. Also see preschematic stage (4-6 years old), schematic stage (6-9), dawning realism stage (9-11), and the pseudorealistic stage (11-13), and title.
naphthalene - A toxic, crystalline material used as a fumigant for moths and larvae. See art conservation.
Naples yellow - A particular yellow pigment.
Nara - A period in Japanese art history from 710-794. The Nara period was preceded by the Hakuho period (sometimes called the Early Nara period) from 645-710, and followed by the Heian period from 794-1185.
narthex - In architecture, a porch or vestibule of a church, generally colonnaded or arcaded and preceding the nave.
nashiji - In Japanese art tradition, the pearskin effect in oriental lacquerware, created by sunken scattered metal filings.
Naturalism or naturalism - A style in which an artist intends to represent a subject as it appears in the natural world — precisely and objectivly — as opposed to being represented in a stylized or intellectually manipulated manner. Although naturalism is often used interchangeably with the term realism, there is a difference between them. The realism of Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877) is more interested in the honest depiction of unpretentious subjects, while the naturalism of Ernest Meissonier (French, 1815-1891) is more a visually accurate depiction of subjects which in other hands might well have been depicted pretentiously.
nave - In the architecture of a church, the major, central area where the congregation gathers. It leads from the main entrance to the altar and choir, and is usually flanked by side aisles. Also see cathedral, clerestory, column, Gothic, labyrinth, Middle Ages, pier, trabeation, triforium, and vault.
necking - A cylinder at the bottom of the Greek Ionic capital between the echinus and the flutes that masks the junction of capital and shaft.
necropolis - A large burial area; literally, a city of the dead. (pr. neh-krop'o-lis) Also see Egyptian art and sarcophagus.
needle file - A thin, pointed jeweler's file. Also see jewelry.
negative - An image produced in a photographic emulsion on a sheet of film, paper or glass by exposure to light and to development in photosensitive chemicals. This process reverses all values and colors of light and dark areas of the image to which the emulsion was originally exposed, light areas appearing dark (opaque) and shadows appearing light (transparent). Negative is the opposite of positive, especially when positive represents the values and colors of an image much as they would appear in reality. Negative can also be a synonym for "no," and as in judgment, can signify disapproval.
negative space - Empty space in an artwork, a void.
Neo-Expressionism - Broadly used, this may refer to all expressionist art since the original movement known as Expressionism arose in Germany between 1905 and 1925. Abstract Expressionism is an example of a movement which may be referred to as neo-expressionist. Neo-expressionist art stems from Wassily Kandinsky (Russian-German, 1866-1944), its antithesis from the Neo-Plasticism of Piet Mondrian (Dutch, 1872-1944). Used more narrowly, this term sometimes refers specifically to the primarily German and Italian expressionist art revival of the 1970s and early 1980s. Rejecting both conceptual and minimalist modes, these neo-expressionists returned to gestural, figurative painting. Often steeped in the German history, paintings by A.R.Penck (1939-) and Anselm Kiefer (1945-) are full of symbolism referring to issues repressed by Germans.
Neolithic - The New (or later) Stone Age.
Neo-Plasticism - Also called De Stijl. An art movement advocating pure abstraction and simplicity — form reduced to the rectangle, and color to the primary colors, along with black and white. Piet Mondrian (Dutch, 1872-1944) was the group's leading figure. He published a manifesto titled Neo-Plasticism in 1920. Another member of this movement, painter Theo van Doesberg (Dutch, 1883-1931) started a journal named De Stijl in 1917, which continued publication until 1928, spreading the theories of the group. It also included the painter George Vantongerloo (Belgian,1886-1965), and the architects J.J.P. Oud (1890-1963) and Gerrit Rietveld (Dutch, 1888-1965). Their work exerted tremendous influence on the Bauhaus and the International Style. (pr. de-style')
netsuke - In Japanese art, a belt toggle (literally "root for fastening"), often carved ivory or wood, and traditionally used to secure a purse or small container suspended on a silk cord from the sash of a kimono, because most kimono were without pockets. Introduced in the late 17th century, their heyday waned in the late 19th century, with the acceptance of Westernized styles of clothing. Netsuke represent a wide variety of subjects, with many in the form of animals, flowers, characters from religion, or mythology, No or Kabuki theater, usually no more than three inches high. (pr. net"se-kee')
neutral - A color not associated with a hue. Neutral colors include browns, blacks, grays, and whites. A hue can be neutralized by adding some of its complement to it. (pr. noo'trull)
new - Having been made or come into existence only a short time ago. And, perhaps: recent, or fresh, or not previously known, or different from the old, or rejuvenated, or original if it's the first one. Newness is a quality particularly highly prized by adherents to Modernism.
newsprint - The type of paper on which newspapers are typically printed. This is a very inexpensive paper, manufactured from wood pulp, popular for use by students and for the making of sketches and preliminary drawings. It takes charcoal, soft lead pencil, and litho crayon well. Since it turns brown and becomes brittle on relatively short aging, it should not be considered for permanent work. Newsprint is available in pads, single sheets, and rolls.
New Wave cinema - A cinema style developed in the 1950s and 1960s that characteristically attempted to subvert viewer expecations by using ambiguity, surprise, fuzzy camera work, and abrupt changes in space, time, and mood. The French equivalent for this term is La Nouvelle Vague.
nibsnib - The point of a pen through which ink flows in order to make marks. There are various shapes and sizes commercially available for drawing and writing (lettering, calligraphy). Each must fit into a handle. Nibs have most commonly been made of metal, but have also been made of quill (feather), reed, bamboo, and plastics, among other materials. Also see India ink or Indian ink, and sepia ink.
nice - Pleasing, agreeable, or attractive in appearance, or courtesy and polite, or respectable, or subtle. So loosely positive a term as nice should be used as sparingly as possible. Also see aesthetics, beauty, cute, description, kitsch, praise, and pretty.
niche - In architecture, an ornamental recess (concavity) in the thickness of a wall, especially for the display of a statue, bust, vase, or other erect ornament. Anything literally or figuratively resembling a niche. A niche is sometimes terminated by a cartouche, but more commonly by a canopy, and with a bracket or corbel for the figure, in which case it might be called a tabernacle. "Niche" is originally a French word. It was derived from Italian nicchio, meaning a shellfish or mussel, because many niches are more or less shell-like in form.
nichrome - A nickel-based alloy able to withstand high temperatures.
nickel - A silver-white, hard, malleable, barely ductile, rust-resistant metal, used mainly in alloys and for plating.
niello - A soft, black alloy of sulfur with copper (copper sulphide), gold (gold sulphide), silver (silver sulphide), or lead (lead sulphide), used to ornament metal objects. Designs incised on the objects are filled with the alloy (usually as a powder mixed with flux), which is then fused with the metal by application of heat. Also, to decorate using this process, or the objects decorated with it. Chiefly a late medieval and early Renaissance process. (pr. nee-el'oh)
night-blind and night blindness - Night blindness is nyctalopia, a reduced ability to see in faint light. English speakers have used this term since the 18th century, as an equivalent for the more scientifically technical term, "nyctalopia," in use since the 17th century. A person who is affectected by night blindness is night-blind. (pr. nik'tuh-loh"pee-uh) Also see colorblind, crepuscular, dark, day for night, nocturne, perception, photoreceptors, retina, and tenebroso or tenebrism.
Nike - The ancient Greek goddess of victory, often identified with Athena, and by the Romans with Victoria. She is usually represented as a winged woman with windblown draperies.
nimbus - A halo -- a circle of radiant light around the heads of God, Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint. A type of aureole, gloriole, or glory. It indicates divinity or holiness, though originally it was placed around the heads of kings and gods as a mark of distinction. Also see Gothic, Middle Ages, and votive.
Nirosta - A stainless steel trademark or brand name which applies to a variety of stainless steels that are produced by Krupp Thyssen Nirosta GmbH (KTN), which is headquartered in Krefeld, Germany. Since stainless steel is actually steel alloyed with chrome and nickel, the exact percentages of these ingredients are what is trademarked. The Nirosta trademark was registered in 1922 in Germany by Krupp. KTN is a part of the company Krupp Thyssen Stainless, which is in turn part of Thyssen Krupp Steel (under the Krupp Group). KTN is one of the world's leading producers of stainless steel. [This information contributed by David Semak, Clayton, CA.]
nirvana - In Buddhism and Hinduism, a blissful state brought about by absorption of the individual soul or consciousness into the supreme spirit.
nise-e - In Japanese art, a portrait in sketchy outline. Also see mitsuda-e.
nishiki-e - In Japanese art, a polychrome print. Also see benizuri-e.
nitric acid - A mineral acid used as an oxidizing agent in etching. Also see aqua fortis.
nitrogen - A colorless, odorless, tasteless, inert, and non-explosive gas, N2, that is relatively inactive chemically; it occupies about 3/4 (by volume) of dry air. Its importance lies chiefly in its compounds, which include nitrous oxide, nitric acid, ammonia, fertilizers, proteins, etc. Tank sizes available: 20, 40, 80, 113, and 225 cubic feet. Atomic symbol N, atomic number 7. Also see acetylene, argon, carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen, and oxygen.
noise - In digital imaging, data or unidentifiable marks picked up in the course of scanning or data transfer that do not correspond to the original. Also see chaos.
nomenclator and nomenclature - A book containing collections or lists of words. And one who gives names to or invents names for things. "Nomenclator" comes to us directly from Latin, in which it means "name caller" (from "nomen, meaning "name," and the verb "calare," meaning "to call"). In ancient Rome, the nomenclator's job was to call out the names of people as they approached a candidate during a political rally. His purpose may have been either to make the politician look good (as though he himself remembered everyone personally) or perhaps to apprise him of more names than he was ever expected to remember himself. In modern times the job title names one who creates new names for things. "Nomenclator" is applied especially to those who help create a "nomenclature" — a system of terms for a particular discipline. (pr. noh'mun-klay-tur) Also see lexicon, text, and title.
nonagon - A closed two-dimensional polygon bounded by nine straight-line segments. The formula with which to find an equilateral nonagon's area is 6.1818 times the length of one side squared. Also see mathematics, radial, shape, and vertex.
nonferrous - Not composed of or containing iron. Nonferrous metals are often used in order to avoid iron's potential for rusting or magnetization.
nonobjective art - Artworks having no recognizable subject matter (not recognizable as such things as houses, trees, people, etc.) Also known as non-representational art. Also see Abstract Expressionism, abstraction, abstract art, and aleatory and aleatoric, likeness, realism, and representation.
Northern and Southern Dynasties - A period of Chinese history which lasted from 310-589 CE.
nostalgia - A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past. The condition of being homesick; homesickness. Those who are nostalgic are likely to favor traditions over the future's potential to be the site of better things. Everyone would like to escape the present for some qualities remembered from (or associated with) times past. Nostalgia is that yearning for whatever it is that makes the present less desirable. Modernists were the most thoroughly anti-nostalgic group of people, whereas postmodernists pursue newness without being embarrassed by their embrace of references to the past. (pr. nos-tal'juh)
nuance - A subtle difference, distinction, or variation; a subtle quality. Or a sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate gradations of a meaning (as of an attitude or expression) or of a form (as of its values, textures, or shades, tints, or tones of color, etc.) "Nuance" came to English in the late 18th century, having been "nubes" in Latin, then "nue" in Middle French, each meaning "cloud." In later French, "nue" developed into "nuer" meaning "to make shades of color." (pr. noo'ahns) Also see brainstorming, creativity, irony, and letterform.
numbered - Refers to labeling on a print of its place in the order of its production, when it is part of an edition of a limited quantity of impression. Also see limited edition and multiple. Also see sequence.
nyctalopia - Night blindness. "Nyctalopia" comes to us from the Latin word "nyctalops," which means "suffering from night blindness." It is ultimately derived from the Greek word "nyktalops," which was formed by combining the word for "night" ("nyx") with the words for "blind" and "eye" ("alaos" and "ops," respectively). English speakers have been using "nyctalopia" to refer to reduced ability to see in faint light or at night since the 17th century; and have used the equivalent "night blindness" since the 18th century. (pr. nik'tuh-loh"pee-uh) Also see crepuscular, day for night, nocturne, perception, photoreceptors, retina, and tenebroso or tenebrism.
nylon and Nylon ® - A type of polymer produced by a chemical process, capable of being pulled into fibers commonly made into such materials as fabrics and cords, which are noted for their strength and elasticity.