A&E Guide: Glossary Of Art

Lara Mansour   |   07 - 04 - 2018

From abstract to zoopraxiscope, here’s a comprehensive guide of art terminology, techniques and movements.


Abstract Art

This is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms, and gestural marks to achieve its effect.

Gilbert Soest



Baroque was the dominant style in art and architecture of the seventeenth century, characterised by self-confidence, dynamism, and a realistic approach to depiction.

Sir Joshua Reynolds



The terms classic or classical came into use in the seventeenth century to describe the arts and culture of the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome and is referred to as classicism.

Nan Goldin


Documentary Photography

This is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects, and events, and is often used in reportage.

Oskar Kokoschka



Expressionism refers to art in which the image of reality is distorted in order to make it expressive of the artist’s inner feelings or ideas.

Barbara Kruger


Feminist Art

Feminist art is art by artists made consciously in the light of developments in feminist art theory in the early 1970s.

Harold Cohen


Generative Art

The term generative art is predominantly used in reference to a certain kind of computer-based art. It is art made using a predetermined system that often includes an element of chance.

Frank Stella


Hard Edge Painting

The term ‘hard-edge painting’ was coined by Californian critic Jules Langster in 1959 and is characterised by monochromatic fields of clean-edged colour which reinforced the flatness of the picture surface.

Salvador Dalí



The term illusionism is used to describe a painting that creates the illusion of a real object or scene, or a sculpture where the artist has depicted figure in such a realistic way that they seem alive.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler



The term is generally said to have been coined by the French critic Philippe Burty in the early 1870s. It described the craze for Japanese art and design that swept France and elsewhere after trade with Japan resumed in the 1850s.

Jeff Koons



Kitsch is the German word for trash, and is used in English to describe particularly cheap, vulgar, and sentimental forms of popular and commercial culture.

Frank Stella



A printing process based on the fact that grease and water don’t mix, where the image is applied to a grained surface such as a flat stone or metal plate using a greasy medium, so that the ink will adhere, while the non-image areas are made ink-repellent.

Georges Braque



Modernism refers to the broad movement in Western arts and literature that gathered pace from around 1850 and is characterised by a deliberate rejection of the styles of the past, emphasising instead innovation and experimentation in forms, materials and techniques in order to create artworks that better reflected modern society.

John Constable



Until the early nineteenth century both landscape and the human figure in art tended to be idealised or stylised according to conventions derived from the classical tradition. In the nineteenth century there was a trend towards representing things in a more realistic way.

Robert Delaunay



Orphism was an abstract, cubist influenced painting style developed by Robert and Sonia Delaunay around 1912. In the Delaunays’ work patches of subtle and beautiful colour are brought together to create harmonious compositions.

Sir John Everett Millais



The Pre-Raphaelites were a secret society of young artists, and one writer, founded in London in 1848. They were opposed to the Royal Academy’s promotion of the ideal as exemplified in the work of the Renaissance master Raphael, and believed in an art of serious subjects treated with maximum realism.

Sandro Botticelli



The cultural and artistic events of Italy during the period 1400 to 1499 are collectively referred to as the Quattrocento from the Italian for the number 400, in turn from millequattrocento, which is Italian for the year 1400.

Philip Mercier



Light, sensuous, intensely decorative French style developed in the early eighteenth century following the death of Louis XIV and in reaction to the Baroque grandeur of Versailles.

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi



A variety of stencil printing, using a screen made from fabric, either silk or synthetic, stretched tightly over a frame.

Edward Collier


Trompe L’Oeil

French phrase meaning ‘deceives the eye’ used to describe paintings that create the illusion of a real object or scene.



Underground Art

These days the term underground art is used to describe a subculture of art, like graffiti art or comic strip art. Since the late 1990s the internet has become a forum for underground art thanks to its ability to communicate with a wide audience for free and without the support of an art establishment.

Wyndham Lewis



The vorticists were a British avant-garde group formed in London in 1914 with the aim of creating art that expressed the dynamism of the modern world.

Joseph Mallord William Turner



Refers both to the medium and works of art made using the medium of watercolour, a water-soluble paint with transparent properties.



A printing technique that involves carving text in relief upon a wooden block, which is then inked and applied to paper. This method of wood-block printing originated in Japan and China in the 8th and 9th centuries and appeared in Europe in the 14th century.

Damien Hirst



This is a label for Young British Artists and is applied to a loose group of British artists who began to exhibit together in 1988 and who became known for their openness to materials and processes, shock tactics and entrepreneurial attitude.


19th-century motion-picture device, designed by Edweard Muybridge, in which light is projected through rotating glass disks applied at the rim with a changing sequence of images, creating the illusion of movement.



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