Miscellaneous Art Terminology 

Academy: This term refers to the institutional school established for the classical training of artists during the 17th and 18th centuries. 

Acanthus: This term refers to a type of decorative element found in architecture derived from the acanthus leaves found in the Mediterranean.

Aesthetics: The word aesthetic or aesthetics refers to the philosophy of visual beauty.

Allegory: An allegory is an image that illustrates a particular concept, idea or story within a work of art.

Alloy: An alloy is a mixture of metals without any chemical combination.

Applied art: Applied art refers art designed for functional purposes, but also maintains aesthetic attributes. It could also be called "decorative art" or "design."

Art for Art’s Sake: This phrase describes the type of art created for no moral or social reasons, but purely for aesthetic pleasure.

Artist's Proof: In an edition, the artist's proof typically refers to the first print pulled by the artist, taken to see the current state of the plate during the production process.

Avant-garde: This phrase signifies artists and concepts that are remarkably new and radical in nature for the present time. 

Background: Within the space of a work of art, the background is the area of the image farthest from the picture plane. The opposite of background is foreground.

Calligraphy: The art of highly ornamental handwriting.

Chiaroscuro: This term refers to the strong contrast between light and dark that gives a work a sense of drama or mystery.

Cloisonné: A process involving the affixing wires to a metal surface to form a design, and then filling those areas with different colored enamels.

Complementary Color: Complementary colors are the primary and secondary colors opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple are all complementary colors.

Contour: This term refers to the outline defining a specific form.

Contrapposto: This phrase refers to a specific stance where the human body has a weight shift borne on one leg.

Deckle Edge: Deckle edges are irregular and ragged edges on hand-made paper.

Emulsion: Emulsion is the mixture of two liquids.

Enamel: Enamel is colored glass bonded to a metal surface by firing.

En grisaille: En grisaille denotes an entirely gray monochromatic composition.

Figure drawing: Figure drawing is a type of drawing that depicts the human form.

Figure painting: Figure painting is a type of painting that depicts the human form.

Figure-ground relationship: This phrase refers to the way objects and figures are related within the picture plane.

Focal point: The focal point of an image is the area in a composition to which the eye returns most naturally.

Folio: This term refers to a large sheet of paper that becomes four separate pieces of a book when folded and cut.

Foreground: The foreground is the area that is closest to the picture plane in a two-dimensional work of art.

Foreshortening: According to the rules of perspective, foreshortening is an illusion created on a two-dimensional surface where objects seem to recede or project into space.

Formalism: Formalism is the analysis and writing of artistic form and the use of formal elements rather than content.

Formline: This term refers specifically to Native American art where a line defines a specific space or form.

Frontispiece: This term refers to an illustration directly opposite or preceding the title page of a book. 

Frieze: A frieze is the middle element of an entablature between the architrave and the cornice. The frieze is typically decorated with sculpture, painting or moldings. 

Genre: Genre refers to a type or category of artistic form, subject, technique, style or medium.

Genre Scene: A genre scene can be found in paintings, prints or works on paper, and depicts scenes from everyday life, domestic interiors, parties, inn scenes and street scenes.

Gesso: Gesso is made from glue, gypsum and/or chalk forming the ground layer of wood paneling or the priming layer of canvas.

Gesturalism: This very expressive type of painting is identifiable because each line signifies the artist's physical gesture and emotion at the moment the paint was applied to the painting’s surface.

Gilding: Gilding is the application of gold leaf or gold pigment for decorative purposes.

Glazing: Glazing refers to the outermost layer found on ceramics that protect them from water and give them a decorative quality. 

Gold Leaf: Gold leaf is paper thin, hammered gold that is used for gilding, as a surface treatment.

Ground line: Ground line is the baseline that denotes the plane in which a figure stands in a work of art.

High relief: High relief is a type of sculpture in which the design is carved deeply enough suggesting that the parts are detached from the background.

History/Historical Painting: A historical painting is directly based on historical, mythological or biblical references. It is considered one of the noblest forms of art and conveys an intellectual idea in an extravagant manner.

Hue: Hue refers to pure color.

Icon: Icons are any material representation of a sacred figure or event. 

Iconoclasm: This term refers to the banning or destruction of icons and religious art.

Iconography: This term refers to the study and interpretation of the subject matter of art. 

Impasto: Impasto is the heavy application of paint to a surface so that it stands out in relief.

Incising: Incising is a technique in which a design is cut into a hard surface using a sharp tool.

Inlay: Inlay refers to the process of setting materials into the surface of an object composed of a different material.

Installation: This term refers to a type of mixed media artwork which typically occupies a large portion, an entire room, or gallery space. 

Japonisme: This term refers to the influence of Japan on European art, especially during the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements.

Kiln: A kiln is an oven which heats to exceptionally high temperatures, typically used for the firing of clay and casting of glass.

Low relief: Low relief is a type of sculpture in which the figures project less than half their true depth from the background.

Mannerist: Mannerist art can be identified by elongated forms, unusual colors and lighting, and irrational spatial relationships. 

Miniature: A miniature is a detailed painting or drawing completed on a very small scale.

Monochrome/Monochromatic: Monochrome or monochromatic refers to any work done in gradations of a single color.

Monolith: A monolith is a sculpture or piece of architecture created from a single block of stone.

Montage: This term refers to a design created by overlapping materials creating the final image.

Mosaic: A mosaic is a design created by affixing small pieces of color, or tesserae, made of marble, glass or ceramic to a base. 

Motif: This term refers to the subject of a painting or a distinct element found in a work of art. 

Mural: A mural is any type of painting created directly on a wall surface.

Narrative: Narrative refers to a story which is told through a work of art.

Naturalism: Naturalism refers to the tendency to depict trivial aspects of ordinary life during the 19th century throughout Europe.

Non-objective: Non-objective works of art contain no representation of figures or objects.

Original: This term refers to a work of art created by the artist, as opposed to a print, which was created in multiples, or a copy by another artist or school.

Œuvre: This term refers to the total output of works by a given artist.

Painterly: Painterly refers to works characterized by large brushwork and patches of color.

Palette: Palette refers to the specific range of color chosen by the artist in a particular work.

Perspective: This term refers to the system of representing objects in three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. 

Picture Plane: This phrase denotes the spatial plane corresponding to the actual surface of the painting.

Pigment: A pigment is the coloring agent in paint or dye.

Plein air: When a work is created plein air, it means it has been painted outdoors.

Pointillism: In painting, pointillism is the systematic use of small dots to create an optical illusion.

Porcelain: Porcelain is a hard, translucent, white ceramic fired at high temperatures.

Portrait format: This phrase refers to a work of art that is higher than it is wide. 

Posthumous: A posthumous print was created after an artist's death.

Pottery: Pottery includes all wares made of clay except porcelain.

Primary Colors: The primary colors, blue, red and yellow, are the colors from which all others are derived. Primary colors also cannot be broken down into other colors.

Recto: Recto refers to the front of a single sheet of paper. 

Reduction: A reduction is a copy of a work on a smaller scale.

Relief: A relief is a kind of sculpture in which all or part of the material projects from a flat surface.

Repoussé: Repoussé is a type of design created by metal hammering on the back of a work.

Representational: This term refers to art which reflects reality. 

Salon: A salon denotes an independent group exhibition, and is a term specific to France.

Scale: Scale refers to the size or measurement of a piece.

School: School refers to a group of artists working under a specific master or that possess certain qualities pertaining to a particular artist.

Sfumato: Sfumato is the haze of an image within a painting.

Silhouette: A silhouette is any profile portrait cut from black paper or painted in solid black.

Sketch: A sketch is a rough preliminary version of a composition.

Still Life: This term refers to a depiction of a static group of objects.

Tenebrism: Tenebrism is a technique that emphasizes the strong shadows and night effects.

Tesserae: Tesserae are small pieces of marble, glass or ceramics used to make a mosaic.

Vanishing Point: In perspective, the vanishing point is the point in which a set of lines converge.