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.
originating from the Greek words meaning ‘image writing’, the images or symbols used in a work of art to convey meaning, in religious art in particular.
represent something in an ideal form – improving on nature – rather than as it is in reality.
in a general sense, a technique in art of capturing an artist’s or viewer’s impression of a scene or mood. Specifically (usually with a capital I), an enormously influential, late 19th-century art movement, originating in France. A small group of artists, including Claude Monet (1840–1926), August Renoir (1841–1919), Alfred Sisley (1839–1889), Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) and Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), developed a new approach to painting, particularly of light in the landscape. Associated with rapid brushwork, discrete brushmarks, atmospheric colour, the use of pure rather than blended colours, the avoidance of black, and the practice of painting outdoors.
an artwork usually created for a particular exhibition space. Installations are generally shown for a limited period of time and then dismantled. The artworks are often recorded through video, photography and other documentation such as written texts.
in printmaking, a general term for printing from a metal plate (eg etching, engraving, aquatint, mezzotint or drypoint) in which incised or etched lines receive ink rather than the surface of the plate. A printing press with a heavy, flat bed between rollers forces damp paper into the inked-up etched or incised areas, leaving a distinguishing platemark or indentation of the metal plate in the paper. Intaglio prints can also be identified by the ink, which sits up very slightly on the surface of the paper. The term can also be used for a type of sculpture: see relief.