Art terms explained
In this glossary we’ve explained some common art terms, and plan to add more terms and more detail. Use the Website feedback page to suggest additional terms to be explained.
a kind of found art that uses manufactured objects. The term was first used to describe the work of Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968). His 1914 work known as Egouttoir – or sometimes Porte-bouteilles – (bottle rack or dryer) was not altered or added to in any way and is referred to as an unassisted readymade, whereas his 1913 work Bicycle wheel been ‘assisted’ in its presentation by the inclusion of a stool.
the term can mean to depict things as they are, without idealising or making abstract. It is also a 19th-century art movement, particularly strong in France, which rebelled against traditional historical, mythological and religious subjects and instead depicted scenes from life. Artists include Gustave Courbet (1819–1877). See also idealise, abstract art and naturalism.
has several meanings in art. In printmaking, it is any form of printing in which raised areas are inked and printed while recessed areas are not (eg woodcut, linocut). It is also a type of sculpture in which the forms project from, or are cut into, the background. There are three degrees of types of relief: high, low and sunken. In high relief, the forms stand out from the background. In low relief (also known as bas-relief), they stand out but are shallow. In sunken relief (also called intaglio), the backgrounds are not cut back and the highest points are level with the original surface.
literally rebirth in French. A revival of cultural awareness and learning that took place during the 14th and 15th centuries in Europe, mostly Italy, which included an emphasis on human beings, their environment, science and philosophy and a renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman art and design. Artists include Raphael (1483–1520), Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519).
an exhibition of a selection of artworks that are representative of an artist’s life work. See also survey.
a style of art and architecture that developed in France in the early 1700s in reaction to baroque and then spread throughout Europe. It is characterised by elaborate decoration combined with a sense of elegance, lightness and playfulness.
primarily a term for the style of architecture common in Europe in the 11th to 12th centuries, it is also used for the art of the same period.
in art, romanticism is characterised by an emotionally intense and personal approach. Historically, the term (often with a capital R) describes a movement in literature, visual arts, architecture and music in the late 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, which rose in reaction to the 18th-century Age of Reason. It emphasised emotion and imagination (rather than logic) and nature in its untamed state. Artists include Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), William Blake (1757–1827), JMW Turner (1775–1851), Théodore Géricault (1791–1824).