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genre painting

paintings that depict scenes from everyday life. Can refer in particular to this type of painting in the Netherlands in the 17th century. See also genres.


categories based on subject matter. The traditional genres of painting were history painting, (somewhat confusingly) genre painting, portraiture, still life and landscape – historically ranked in that order of importance, from most to least.


the Italian word for a calcium sulphate-based foundation for painting and gilding since medieval times, but subsequently generalised to include any preparation composed of animal glues and calcium filler. In Italy, gesso continues to be made of calcium sulphate in the form of gypsum or anhydrite. Neither of these materials sets or hardens in water, as does gypsum 'plaster’. In northern Europe, gesso was more often made of calcium carbonate and glue, or a mixture of calcium sulphate and calcium carbonate.

gilders tip

a special wide brush used to apply gold leaf as it is too thin to be handled with bare hands.

gilders water

a water-based solution used in water gilding to wet a bole foundation before gold leaf is applied. Ethanol in this solution reduces the surface tension of the water and allows the leaf to be 'sucked down’ onto the surface. A small amount of gelatine in the solution helps the leaf to stick to the substrate in matte water gilding.


a term describing the techniques and finish achieved using real or imitation gold leaf. Gilding methods are determined by the foundation materials, which lie underneath the gold leaf. See water gilding and oil gilding. Traditional gilding requires a substrate of gesso, which is sanded until it achieves a smooth silk-like surface.

glass plate

in photography, a flat sheet of glass coated with an emulsion of either collodion or albumen, used for making negatives or positives.

gold leaf

alloys of gold beaten into extremely thin leaves (0.3 – 0.5 micrometers). The colour of the leaf is determined by the amount of copper and silver, and varies from white, 12-carat (50% gold, 50% silver, by weight) through greenish and reddish alloys (more copper content) to natural 24-carat pure gold leaf.

gold size

a substrate for oil gilding consisting of copal resin and linseed oil with the addition of a siccative.


primarily a term for the style of architecture common in Europe from the 12th to 16th centuries, it is also used for the art of the same period, including the sculpture used to decorate churches and painting, which took on a more naturalistic form than the Romanesque style before it. In the late 14th century, a style of court art known as International Gothic developed in France. The period known as the Gothic Revival dates from the mid 1700s. The term is sometimes used in a more general sense (often with a lowercase g) to mean barbarous or crude or to describe a style that is dark, foreboding, mysterious, desolate, with an element of violence or the supernatural.


a heavy opaque watercolour paint producing a less wet appearance and a more strongly coloured picture than ordinary watercolour.


generally means any kind of public mark, writing or sign. It gained a high profile in New York in the early 1980s and by the middle of the decade had moved from the street to the art world, with artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) and Keith Haring (1958–1990). An English street artist going by the name Banksy is probably the most famous graffiti artist in the world today.