abstract – A term generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.
abstract expressionism – The term applied to a new style of abstract art developed by Americans painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s. Working after WWI, the Abstract Expressionists began to rely on their own particular experiences and visions which they painted as directly as they could. The style is often characterized by gestural brushstrokes or mark-making, and the impression of spontaneity of expression and individuality.
Abstract Expressionism was officially recognized in the 1951 Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America.” The term embraces artwork of diverse styles and degrees of reference to content or subject.
The Abstract Expressionists experimented with unstable, indeterminate, dynamic, open, and “unfinished” forms directly exploiting the expressiveness of the painting’s medium to suggest the particular creative action of the artist – their active presence and temperament. Abstract Expressionist art is often large in scale
Abstract Expressionism can be divided into two tendencies:
aesthetic – Relating to or characterized by a concern with beauty or good taste (adjective); a particular taste or approach to the visual qualities of an object (noun).
analytical cubism – (1908-12) Dominated the first four years of the Cubist movement. It is characterized by monochromatic, topsy-turvy canvases full of overlapping, geometric forms. The arrangement of these fragments form the subject, which is often unrealistically depicted from multiple angles at once.
atmospheric perspective – A means of representing distance and recession in a painting based on the way the atmosphere affects the human eye. Outlines become less precise, small details are lost, hues become noticeably bluer, and colors in general become paler.
automatism – In art, automatism refers to creating art without conscious thought, accessing material from the unconscious mind as part of the creative process. Surrealist artists used the technique of automatism to explore fear, desire, fantasy, eroticism and symbolism. They often expressed and pondered images and ideas through writing and making art. Artists who employed automatism investigated the true abstraction of their subconscious, and relied heavily on chance.
complementary colors – Colors which are directly opposite each other on the color wheel.
collage – Derived from the French verb coller, meaning “to glue,” collage refers to both the technique and the resulting work of art in which fragments of paper and other materials are arranged and glued or otherwise affixed to a supporting surface.
composition – The formal arrangement of the elements that make up a work of art, such as line, color and texture.
contrapposto – An open-form sculpture in which the figure’s upper torso twists in one direction while the lower part twists in the opposite direction. Contrapposto was developed in the fifth century BC by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos as means to express the genuine movement of the human body.
cubism – An artistic style that features subject matter broken down into fractured forms as if you are looking at an object or figures from multiple viewpoints at once. Pioneered by both Picasso and Georges Braque and renowned as one of the most important art movements, Cubism is separated into two primary phases: Analytical and Synthetic.
didactic – Didactic works of art are intended to convey instruction and information and/or convey a sometimes moral lesson.
divisionism – (also called pointillism) In painting, a systematic use of optical mixtures. Instead of mixing pigments on the palette, the artist applied pure colors, in small dots or dashes; seen at the right distance, the fragmented areas of vivid color dots produced the effect of color areas more subtle and rich than could be achieved by conventional techniques.
fauvism – Fauvism is the name applied to the work produced by a group of artists (which included Henri Matisse and André Derain) from around 1905 to 1910, which is characterized by intensely vivid, non-naturalistic and exuberant colors and fierce brushwork. The name les fauves (‘the wild beasts’) was coined by the critic Louis Vauxcelles when he saw the work of Henri Matisse and André Derain in an exhibition, the salon d’automne in Paris, in 1905.
figurative – Representing a form or figure in art that retains clear ties to the real world.
foreshortening – The technique of depicting an object or figure at an angle to the picture plane by means of perspective.
genre scene – A type of painting that depicts scenes of everyday life.
impressionism – Beginning in 1872 with Monet’s painting Impression: Sunrise, and through to around 1900, the Impressionists created works that aimed to capture the visual impression made by a scene. The Impressionist artists pursued their own personal directions in theme, technique, and style, but shared the impressionist palette, came under the influence of Japanese prints, and were effected by the camera and photography. The use of bright, fragmented, pure color and a preoccupation with the effects of light were among the hallmarks of Impressionism.
hue – The name of the color the eye thinks it is seeing. It is the greenness of green and the redness of red.
iconography – The visual images and symbols used in a work of art or the study or interpretation of these. As a branch of art history, iconography studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images: the subjects depicted, the particular compositions and details used to do so, and other elements that are distinct from artistic style.
impasto – The texture produced by the thickness of pigment (paint) in a painting.
kitsch – A low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using popular or cultural icons. 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. Kitsch is regarded as a modern phenomenon, coinciding with social changes in recent centuries such as the Industrial Revolution, urbanization, mass production, modern materials and media such as plastics, radio and television, the rise of the middle class and public education, all of which have factored into a perception of oversaturation of art produced for the popular taste.
linear perspective – The most common type, uses real or suggested lines converging on a vanishing point or points on the horizon or at eye-level, and linking receding planes as they do so.
linear style – An artistic style that obtains its effects through line rather than color or light and in which the edges of forms and planes are sharply defined.
medium – The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used. For example, painting is a medium, and water color paint is a more specific medium.
momento mori – A memento mori is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. The expression 'memento mori' developed with the growth of Christianity, which emphasized Heaven, Hell, and salvation of the soul in the afterlife.
narrative art – Narrative art is art that tells a story, either as a moment in an ongoing story or as a sequence of events unfolding over time. Some of the earliest evidence of human art suggests that people told stories with pictures.
neo-impressionism – is a term coined by French art critic Félix Fénéon in 1886 to describe an art movement founded by Georges Seurat. Seurat’s most renowned masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, marked the beginning of this movement when it first made its appearance at an exhibition of the Salon des Indépendant) in Paris. Around this time, the peak of France’s modern era emerged, and many painters were in search of new artistic methods. Followers of Neo-Impressionism, in particular, were drawn to modern urban scenes as well as landscapes and seashores. Science-based interpretation of lines and colors influenced Neo-Impressionists’ characterization of their own contemporary art.
The pointillist (divisionist) technique is often mentioned in this context, because it was the dominant technique in the beginning of the Neo-impressionist movement.
Some argue that Neo-Impressionism became the first true avant-garde movement in painting. The Neo-Impressionists were able to create a movement very quickly in the 19th century, partially due to its strong connection to anarchism, which set a pace for later artistic manifestations. The movement and the style were an attempt to drive “harmonious” vision from modern science, anarchist theory, and late 19th-century debate around the value of academic art. The artists of the movement “promised to employ optical and psycho-biological theories in pursuit of a grand synthesis of the ideal and the real, the fugitive and the essential, science and temperament.”
oeuvre – The complete works of a painter, composer, or author regarded collectively. For example, “the complete oeuvre of Van Gogh.”
painterly style – A painterly work is one in which outline is not stressed; rather, outline is one element of a whole that is based in movement and the interplay of elements such as light and shade.
palette – A palette is a smooth, flat surface on which artists set out and mix their colors before painting, often designed to be held in the hand. It is also the range of colors used by an artist in a painting.
palette knife – A palette knife is a blunt tool with a flexible steel blade used for mixing or applying paint. It is primarily utilized for mixing paint colors, paste, etc. Palette knives are useful for applying clean patches of color onto blank canvas or over an existing dry layer of paint. Palette knives may also be used directly on the painting surface to create both the illusion of texture and texture itself. This extra dimension emphasizes the lushness and physicality of the paint itself.
perspective – The method of representing a 3-dimensional object, or a particular volume of space, on a flat, 2-dimensional surface. The term perspective refers to an entire scene, while perspective applied to a single object within a scene is called foreshortening.
picture plane – The imaginary plane represented by the physical surface of a painting – the canvas or paper, etc. It is the plane separating the imaginary space of a painting and the real space of the spectator.
pointillism – (divisionism) In painting, a systematic use of optical mixtures. Instead of mixing pigments on the palette, the artist applied pure colors, in small dots or dashes; seen at the right distance, the fragmented areas of vivid color dots produced the effect of color areas more subtle and rich than could be achieved by conventional techniques.
pop art – Art which makes use of the imagery of consumerism and mass culture, with a finely balanced mixture of irony and celebration. Pop art began in the 1950s with various investigations into the nature of urban popular culture, notably by the members of the Independent Group at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) in London. Pop Art was at its height in the U.S. during the 1960s, where it came as a reaction to Abstract Expressionism and in fresh response to Dadaist notions. The basic concept was that mass-produced consumer goods were taken as the materials of a new art and a new aesthetic of expendability.
pop surrealism – Also known as Lowbrow art, describes an underground visual art movement that arose in the Los Angeles, California area in the late 1960s. It is a populist art movement with its cultural roots in underground comix, punk music, tiki culture, graffiti, and hot-rod cultures of the street. There are still some art critics that are in doubt that Pop Surrealism is a legitimate art movement and they are uncertain as to the status of this movement in relation to the fine art world, however Pop Surrealism and Lowbrow became so popular that some art critics started to pay attention to this movement. Today many pop surreal artists exhibit their works in galleries specialized in pop culture art all over the world.
post-impressionism – General term for the work of the major artists of Western Europe, not closely linked stylistically, who developed away from Impressionism between the years 1880 and 1914. Like many artists in the 1880s, the Post-Impressionists looked for ways to express meaning beyond surface appearances, to paint with the emotions and the intellect as well as the eye. They were interested in the workings of colors and the process of seeing it. Chief among them were Cézanne, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Van Gogh.
primary color – Primary colors include red, blue and yellow. Primary colors cannot be mixed from other colors. They are the source of all other colors.
realism – In its specific sense, realism refers to a mid-nineteenth century artistic movement characterized by subjects painted from everyday life in a naturalistic manner; however, the term is also generally used to describe artworks painted in a realistic almost photographic way.
repoussoir – An object or figure placed in the immediate foreground of a pictorial composition whose purpose it is to direct the viewer’s eye into the picture. Generally, therefore, repoussoirs are placed towards the left- or right-hand edge of the composition.
representational – Blanket term for art that represents some aspect of reality, in a more or less straightforward way.
saturation – Also called brilliance, saturation refers to the intensity of a color.
silk-screens – A variety of stencil printing, using a screen made from fabric (silk or synthetic) stretched tightly over a frame. Silk or another fine fabric is stretched tightly over a frame making a screen. Next, a stencil of paper, acetate, or other material is cut to make a design and adhered to the screen. Printing paper is then placed beneath the stenciled screen and ink is pushed through the screen with smooth even pressure using a rubber squeegee. Ink passes through the screen in the open areas of the stencil thus, printing the design on the paper below. For a design of more than one color, different stencils are cut for each color and are printed in layers that must be perfectly aligned.
secondary colors – A secondary color is a color made by mixing of two primary colors.
social justice art – Encompasses a wide range of visual and performing arts that aim to raise critical consciousness, build community, and motivate individuals to promote social change.
still life – One of the principal genres (subject types) of Western art – essentially, the subject matter of a still life painting or sculpture is anything that does not move or is dead. In the hierarchy of genres (or subject types) for art established in the seventeenth century by the French Academy, still life was ranked at the bottom – fifth after history painting, portraiture, genre painting (scenes of everyday life) and landscape. Still life and landscape were considered lowly because they did not involve human subject matter.
surrealism – An artistic and literary movement led by French poet André Breton from 1924 through World War II. Drawing on the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud, the Surrealists sought to overthrow what they perceived as the oppressive rationalism of modern society by accessing the sur réalisme (superior reality) of the subconscious. In his 1924 “Surrealist Manifesto,” Breton argued for an uninhibited mode of expression derived from the mind’s involuntary mechanisms, particularly dreams, and called on artists to explore the uncharted depths of the imagination with radical new methods and visual forms. These ranged from abstract “automatic” drawings to hyper-realistic painted scenes inspired by dreams and nightmares to uncanny combinations of materials and objects.
synthetic cubism – Unlike Analytical Cubist works, paintings rendered in the Synthetic Cubist style were simplified, polychromatic, and inspired by collage art. Like the former phase of the movement, however, these paintings convey an interest in abstraction.
technique – The technical process that an artist employs.
value – Refers to the darkness or lightness of a color (hue). It is the amount of the light reflected by a hue.
veristic surrealism – Best defined as “representational” surrealism, this style was designed to portray the dream world in rich detail. Veristic surrealism stresses the importance of depicting the unconscious as concretely as possible. Artists stayed true to their visions, portraying them with academic realism, photographic precision, and clarity.
wet-on-wet technique – Also called alla prima (Italian, meaning at first attempt), a painting technique in which layers of wet paint are applied to previously administered layers of wet paint.
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-Johnny DePalma, Owner / Curator
-Janelle Graves, Art Historian / Museum Educator