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Introduction to art

jpg Pablo Picasso

jpg Edgar Degas

jpg Robert Hughes

jpg Edmund Capon

jpg Banduk Marika

jpg Andy Warhol

jpg Paul Gauguin

jpg Auguste Rodin

jpg Joseph Beuys

jpg Yoko Ono

jpg Paul Cézanne

jpg Fernand Léger

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The word ‘art’ has been in use in English from about the 13th century. Originally, it meant skill and was widely applied to everything from mathematics to medicine. By about the 16th century, its meaning had narrowed and the word was being applied more particularly to those skills to do with painting, drawing, engraving and sculpture. By the 18th century, the distinction between artist and artisan, between fine art and useful craft, had grown stronger. These days, artists can use any means and any material available to make art.

As the usage of the word ‘art’ has changed, so have its boundaries. Something not considered ‘art’ one day may be called art the next, and vice versa.

To help you navigate the rich and ever-changing world of art:

  • Looking at art suggests ways to engage with art, including on a visit to the Gallery
  • Art terms explained gives simple explanations of art terminology, including periods and movements, styles and techniques
  • How the Gallery works shows how we collect, display and look after art, and answers many of the questions our visitors often ask
  • Learn more provides introductions to Australian, Asian, Western and contemporary art and photography, basic conservation advice and links to a range of Gallery resources to expand your knowledge
  • Take a tour includes audio descriptions and images of some of the key artworks in our collection and exhibitions – a great place to start – and lists the many different free tours available at the Gallery