Fine Art Glossary

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ABC art: a 1960's art movement and style that attempts to use a minimal number of textures, colors, shapes and lines to create simple three-dimensional structures. Also known as minimalism.


Abstract: art that looks as if it contains little or no recognizable or realistic forms from the physical world. Focus is on formal elements such as colors, lines, or shapes. Artists often "abstract" objects by changing, simplifying, or exaggerating what they see.

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism: art that rejects true visual representation. It has few recognizable images with great emphasis on line, color, shape, texture, value; putting the expression of the feelings or emotions of the artist above all else.


Accent: to stress, single out as important. As applied to art it is the emphasis given to certain elements in a painting that allows them to attract more attention. Details that define an object or piece of art.


Accession: a process of increasing an art collection by addition; something added to what you already have ("the art collection grew through accession").


Free From errors, Mistakes or distortion

Acid Burn

Brown discoloration on paper, resulting from acidic matting or mounting materials.


Water-based plastic paint consisting of pigments bound in an acrylic resin mixture. Can be thinned with water while wet, but becomes tough and water resistant once dry.

Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint: a fast-drying synthetic paint made from acrylic resin. Acrylic is a fast-drying water-based "plastic" paint valued for its versatility and clean up with soap and water.

Adhesive Failure

 Occurs when the adhesive deteriorates to the point of collapse. Can be found in works on paper (e.g., prints that have been mounted or collaged).

Aerial perspective

Aerial perspective: refers to creating a sense of depth in painting by imitating the way the atmosphere makes distant objects appear less distinct and more bluish than they would be if nearby. Also known as atmospheric perspective.

Aerial view

Aerial view: refers to viewing a subject from above, looking downward. Also called "birds-eye view".

Albumen Print

An albumen print is created by the process developed by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard in 1850, which uses egg whites and photographic chemicals to produce a print on paper from a negative.


Alkyd: Synthetic resin used in the manufacturing of paints and varnishes. An alkyd is a mixture of alcohol and acid and must be thinned with solvent or paint thinner. Alykds dry faster than oils but not as fast as acrylic paints.

Alla prima

Alla prima: the method of oil painting in which the desired effects of the final painting are achieved in the first application of paint as opposed to the technique of covering the canvas in layers with the final painting being achieved at the end.

Analogous colors

Analogous colors: any set of three or five colors that are closely related in hue(s). They are usually adjacent (next) to each other on the color wheel.

Applied art

Applied art: the use of the principles and elements of design to create functional pieces of works of art.

Approximate symmetry

Approximate symmetry: the use of forms which are similar on either side of a central axis. They may give a feeling of the exactness or equal relationship but ar sufficiently varied to prevent visual monotony.


In this intaglio method of printmaking, a porous ground coats a metal plate, which is then immersed in acid allowing an even biting of the plate. The resulting image has a grainy and textural effect. 


Art: the completed work of an artist which is the expression of creativity or imagination, or both that portrays a mood, feeling or tells a story; works of art collectively.

Art brut

Art brut: French for "raw art", the art of children and outsiders (naive artists and the mentally ill); actually, anyone not producing art for profit or recognition

Art deco

Art deco: a style of design and decoration popular in the 1920's and 1930's characterized by designs that are geometric and use highly intense colors, to reflect the rise of commerce, industry and mass production

Art nouveau

Art nouveau: a decorative art movement that emerged in the late nineteenth century; art characterized by dense asymmetrical ornamentation in sinuous forms, it is often symbolic and of an erotic nature.


Artist: a practitioner in the arts, generally recognized as a professional by critics and peers.

Asymmetrical balance

Asymmetrical balance: placement of non-identical forms to either side of a balancing point in such a way that the two sides seem to be of the same visual weight.

Atmospheric perspective

Atmospheric perspective: a technique used by painters for representing three-dimensional space on a flat two-dimensional surface by creating the illusion of depth, or recession within a painting or drawing. Atmospheric perspective suggests that objects closer to the viewer are sharper in detail, color intensity, and value contrast than those farther away. As objects move closer to the horizon they gradually fade to a bluish gray and details blur, imitating the way distant objects appear to the human eye. Also called aerial perspective.


Autochrome refers to the color “screen-plate” process developed by the Lumière brothers in 1903. It was the principal color photography process until it was replaced by color film in the mid-1930s.



Balance: a feeling of equality in weight, attention, or attraction of the various elements within a composition as a means of accomplishing unity.

Biological Degradation

Any interruption in the original material due to current or previous biological infestation or insect damage, such as holes or remaining dust-like material.

Birds-eye view

Birds-eye view: seeing from a point of view from an altitude or from a distance; a comprehensive view in a downward direction; also called an "aerial view".

Bitmap image

Bitmap image: a pixel-based image (.BMP) with one bit of color information per pixel, also known as a bitmapped image. The only colors displayed in a bitmapped image are black and white. Its quality decreases when the image is enlarged.


Occurs when moisture penetrates a varnished surface, causing cloudy areas to appear.

Bright brush

Bright brush: refers to a brush that has the same shape as a "flat" however the hairs are not as long as those on the flat brush. (See illustration.)

Bristol board

Bristol board: a high quality heavy weight drawing paper, sometimes made with cotton fiber prepared or glued together, usually with a caliper thickness of 0.006" and up, used for many types of two-dimensional artwork, including lettering.

Broken / Separated Element

A broken element is part of an item that has been fractured into two or more parts. A separated element is part of an item that has been disconnected.


Brush: a tool used to apply paints and inks to a surface, consisting of hairs, or bristles held in place by a ferrule attached to a handle. The quality of the hair determines the brush’s quality and cost. Each type of brush has a specific purpose, and different fibers are used for different mediums.


Brushstroke: The mark left by a loaded (filled) brush on a surface. Brushstrokes can be distinguished by their direction, thickness, TEXTURE, and quality. Some artists purposefully obscure individual brushstrokes to achieve a smooth surface. Other artists make their brushstrokes obvious to reveal the process of painting or to express movement or emotion.


Brushwork: the distinctive technique in which an artist uses to apply paint with a brush onto a medium, such as canvas.



Developed in 1930, the c-print is the most universal type of color photograph, created using at least three emulsion layers of light sensitive silver salts. Each layer is sensitized to a specific primary color. As a result, each layer records different information for the color make up of an image.


Calligraphy: a distinctive style of artistic handwriting created by using special pen nibs that allow a calligrapher to vary the thickness of a letter's line elements; an elegant, decorative writing, developed to an art form itself, used to enhance the artistic appeal and visual beauty of handwritten papers and manuscripts.


A calotype is a photomechanical method for reproducing photographic images. While it is no longer practiced as a commercial process, it was considered the height of fine art photography beginning in the 1970s.


Canvas: a heavy, closely woven fabric; an oil painting on canvas fabric; the support used for an acrylic or oil painting that is typically made of linen or cotton, stretched very tightly and tacked onto a wooden frame. Linen is considered far superior to the heavy cotton for a canvas.

Canvas Re-stretched

When the original canvas of a painting has been tightened on its original stretchers, or taken off of its original stretchers and placed on new ones.

Canvas Relined

When the original canvas of a painting has been damaged or weakened, the piece is removed from its stretchers, backed in linen or canvas, and placed on its original stretchers or on new ones.

Carbon Print

First produced in 1864 by Joseph Wilson Swan, a carbon print is a photographic print created by immersing a carbon tissue in a solution of potassium bichromate, carbon, gelatin and a coloring agent.

Center of interest

Center of interest: an emphasized are of the composition


Ceramics: the art of making objects of clay and firing them in a kiln. Wares of earthenware and porcelain, as well as sculpture are made by ceramists. Enamel is also a ceramic technique. Ceramic materials may be decorated with slip, engobe, or glaze, applied by a number of techniques, including resist, mishima, and sanggam. Pots made can be made by the coil, slab, some other manual technique, or on a potter's wheel.

Chalk pastels

The most widely used form of pastel, soft chalk pastels are brightly-colored and easily blended. 


Charcoal: Compressed burned wood used for drawing.


A partial split in the woods grain. Occurs when there is uneven shrinkage, which most commonly extends across the rings of annual growth. These lengthwise separations usually result from stress due to air or kiln-drying.

Chine Colle

A chine colle print is created by affixing layers of thinner sheets of paper to a heavier sheet, and then making an intaglio impression. The thinner top sheets take the impression much more easily than a heavier paper, creating a sense of depth in the printed image, both physically and visually.


CMYK: the abbreviation for cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y) and black (K). It is the colors used in a four color printing process.


Collage: introduced by the Cubists, the technique of creating a work of art by adhering flat articles such as paper, fabrics, string or other materials to a flat surface such as a canvas whereby a three-dimensional result is achieved.

Collodion Negative

A collodion negative is produced by the colorless, high quality duplication process developed by Frederick Scott Archer and Gustave Le Gray in 1850.


Color: a visual attribute of things that results from the light they emit or transmit or reflect; the visual response to the wavelengths of light, identified as red, blue, green, etc.; primary and secondary colors; warm, cool, and neutral colors, color value; hue; and intensity.

Color permanence

Color permanence: refers to a pigment's lasting power. Tubes and other containers of paint are sometimes labeled with a code indicating a color's degree of permanence.

Letter code

Degree of color permanence






Less than permanent, though fairly durable



Color separation

Color separation: A traditional photographic process of separating artwork into component films of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in preparation for printing to ultimately create a full-color printed product. Recent computer innovations have obviated the need for separated film negatives in certain applications.

Color wheel

Color wheel: a round diagram that shows the placement of colors in relationship to each other. It is from the color wheel that “color schemes” are defined (see illustration).color wheel

Commercial art

Commercial art: refers to art that is made for the purposes of commerce. The term is somewhat obsolete and is currently being replaced in many colleges with the term "Visual Communication."


Commission: refers to the act of hiring someone to execute a certain work of art or set of artworks.

Complementary colors

Complementary colors: two colors directly opposite one another on the color wheel. When placed next to one another, complementary colors are intensified and often appear to vibrate. When mixed, brown or gray is created. Red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and violet have the greatest degree of contrast. Red-violet and yellow-green, red-orange and blue-green, and yellow-orange and blue-violet are also complementary colors.


Composition: the arrangement of the design elements within the design area; the ordering of visual and emotional experience to give unity and consistency to a work of art and to allow the observer to comprehend its meaning.

Computer graphics

Computer graphics: refers to visual images made with the assistance of computers. Computer graphics are often made with software called drawing, painting, illustrating and photographic programs or applications.


Contrast: the difference between elements or the opposition to various elements.

Cool color

Cool color: colors whose relative visual temperatures make them seem cool. Cool colors generally include green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, and violet.

Corrosion / Pitting

 Corrosion is a chemical reaction between a material (usually metal) and its environment, which produces a deterioration of the material's properties. In some instances, corrosion can occur in a small or confined area in the form of pits on a metal surface. Pitting is an extreme, concentrated attack on a material which may take months, or even years, to become visible.


The network of fissures or cracks in a finish layer such as varnish, lacquer, or shellac, due to age degradation, expansion and contraction from climate changes, and other causes.


Craquelure: A network of fine cracks on a paintings surface, typically due to elemental expansion, contraction , and age.


In ceramics, a mismatch in the thermal expansion between the glaze of an item and its physical body often causes small hairline cracks of the glazed surface, which can potentially compromise the pieces structural integrity.


Occur when a material has been folded or bent, creating a line or ridge on the surface without breaking or tearing.


Cropping: the cutting out of extraneous parts of an image, usually a photograph; excluding part of a photo or illustration to show only the portion desired or to fit a given space requirement.


Cubism: art that uses two-dimensional geometric shapes to depict three-dimensional organic forms; a style of painting created by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 20th century whereby the artist breaks down the natural forms of the subjects into geometric shapes and creates a new kind of pictorial space.


Cyanotype is an older printing method which uses a monochrome photographic process to produce a cyan-blue print.



The Daguerreotype was the first commercial photographic process. Named for Louis-Jacques Monde Daguerre, it is a positive print on a light-sensitive copper plate.

Decorative arts

Decorative arts: collective term for such art forms as ceramics, enamels, furniture, glass, ivory, metalwork and textiles, especially when they take forms used as interior decoration.


Decoupage: the Victorian craft of cutting out motifs from paper gluing them to a surface and covering with as many layers of varnish as is required to give a completely smooth finish.

Depth of field

Depth of field: in photography, the area in front of and behind the focused point that is sharp. A shallow depth of field is used in portraits to provide a soft backdrop, whilst a greater depth of field is useful for landscapes to ensure everything from the foreground to the background is in focus. Shorter (wide angle) lenses and smaller apertures increase depth of field.


Design: the arrangement of the design elements to create a single effect. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity.


Designing: the process of relating the elements whether they are similar or contrasting and visually arranging an interesting unity with them using the design principles.


Any reduction of quality, use or aesthetics due to physical impairment.

Digital print

Digital photography refers to electronically captured images composed of digital values, or pixels. Iris prints, giclee prints, and digital archival prints are three examples of popular digital printing methods.


Dominance: the emphasis placed on a particular area or characteristic of a work, with other areas or aspects given subordinate or supporting roles.

Double exposure

Double exposure: a technique used in film and photography to expose two images onto one negative, or sheet of photographic paper.

Double loading

Double loading: refers to loading a brush with two colors side by side. This is a technique typical of tole and other kinds of decorative painting. Also known as "side loading".


Drawing: the act of representing an image on a surface by means of adding lines and shades, as with a pencil, crayon, pen, chalk, pastels, etc. Also refers to an illustration that has been drawn by hand.

Dye Destruction Print

Dye destruction prints are characterized by their vibrant color. These prints are created using three emulsion layers, each one specifically sensitized to a different primary color and containing a dye relevant to that color. During the process, different information is recorded from each layer creating the final image in which three layers are perceived as one.

Dye Transfer Print

Dye transfer prints are created from three separate negatives by photographing the original negative through red, green, and blue filters. The result is a richly colored image on gelatin coated paper.



Easel: an upright support (generally a tripod) used for displaying something. It is most often used to hold up an artist's canvas while the painter is working or to hold a completed painting for exhibition.


Economy: the deletion of non-essential details to reveal the essence of a form.

Egg tempera

Egg tempera: A medium created by mixing pure, ground pigments with egg yolk. This was a very common medium before the invention of oil paints.

Elements of design

Elements of design: those qualities of a design that can be seen and worked with independently of its figurative content. They include line, form, value, texture, color, and shape.


Emphasis: the stress placed on a single area of a work or a unifying visual theme.

En plein air

En plein air: French for "in open air," used to describe paintings that have been executed outdoors, rather than in the studio.


The process of painting by mixing dry pigments with molten wax and varying amounts of Damar varnish. Hot wax painting is easily manipulated, resulting in a variety of textures and color combinations.


Etching: an impression made from an etched plate; an intaglio process in which an image is scratched through an acid-resistant coating on a metal plate. The plate is then dipped in acid which eats into the exposed surface.


Exhibition - A public showing of a piece or a collection of objects. Also called an exhibit.


Expressionism: Post-World War I artistic movement, of German origin, that emphasized the expression of inner experience rather than solely realistic portrayal, seeking to depict not objective reality but the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in the artist.


Fading / Bleaching

Loss of brightness and/or brilliance of color. Occurs when excessive ultra-violet light exposure causes the surface of the piece to become discolored and loose brilliance.


Ferrule: refers to the metal or plastic device that that aligns and anchors paintbrush bristles or hairs in an adhesive. The ferrule is attached to the handle by crimping or by binding wires. (See illustration.)


Filbert: brushes used to create soft edges, blend colors, and has the shape of a flower petal or leaf. (See illustration.)


Filigree: a technique used to produce fine intricate patterns in metal. Often used for metal beads, clasps, and bead caps.

Fine art

Fine art: art created for purely aesthetic expression, communication, or contemplation. Painting and sculpture are the best known of the fine arts.

Fine Arts

Works of art that are created specifically for their aesthetic value, such as painting and sculpture.


Fixative: a liquid, similar to varnish, which is usually sprayed over a finished piece of artwork to better preserve it and prevent smudging. Artwork media requiring fixative include drawings done in pencil, charcoal, and pastel.

Flat brush

Flat brush: a brush with a flat shaped end like a screwdriver. (See illustration.)

Foam core

Foam core: a strong, stiff, resilient, and lightweight board of polystyrene laminated with paper on both of its sides used as backing for art prints before framing. Also referred to as "foam board".

Focal point

Focal point: a specific area, element or principle that dominates a work of art; the area in a work which the eye is most compellingly drawn. The viewer's eye is usually drawn there first.

Folk art

Folk art: Art of people who have had no formal, academic training, but whose works are part of an established tradition of style and craftsmanship.


Font: a complete set of characters in a particular size and style of type. This includes the letter set, the number set, and all of the special character and diacritical marks you get by pressing the shift, option, or command/control keys.


Fontography: The field of font design. A person who designs fonts is a "fontographer".


Foreshortening: A form of perspective where the nearest parts of an object or form are enlarged so that the rest of the form appears to go back in space; To shorten an object to make it look as if it extends backwards into space.


Form: the volume and shape of a three-dimensional work, perhaps including unfilled areas that are integral to the work as a whole.


Reddish-brown mold spots that appear on paper and textiles due to water exposure or high levels of humidity.


Fractal: a mathematically generated pattern that is reproducible at any magnification or reduction. A geometric pattern that is repeated at ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and/or surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry. (See illustration.)


Frame: something made to enclose a picture or a mirror; enclose in a frame, as of a picture.


Fresco: The technique of blending wet plaster with water based paint. As the plaster dries it becomes a lasting surface base. The term applies to the technique as well as the painting itself.

Fugitive colors

Fugitive colors - short-lived pigments capable of fading or changing, especially with exposure to light, to atmospheric pollution, or when mixed with certain substances.



Gallery: a room or series of rooms where works of art are exhibited.


Gesso: A mixture of plaster, chalk, or gypsum bound together with a glue which is applied as a ground or coating to surfaces in order to give them the correct properties to receive paint. Gesso can also be built up or molded into relief designs, or carved.


GIF: an acronym for "Graphic Interchange Format", an image format type generated specifically for computer use. Its resolution is usually very low (72 dpi, or that of your computer screen), making it undesirable for printing purposes.

Gild the lily

Gild the lily: a phrase meaning to add unnecessary ornamentation to something already beautiful.


Gilding: the application of a gold finish. It can be achieved by applying gold leaf, or by using metallic powders.


Glaze: a thin layer of translucent acrylic or oil paint applied to all or part of a painting, to modify the tone or color underneath. Glazing is the process of using this technique.

Gold leaf

Gold leaf: an extremely thin tissue of gold used for gilding.


Gouache: a type of watercolor paint, made heavier and more opaque by the addition of a white pigment (chalk, Chinese white, etc.) in a gum arabic mixture. This results in a stronger color than ordinary watercolor.

Graphic art

Graphic art: two-dimensional art forms such as drawing, engraving, etching and illustration in their various forms.

Graphic design

Graphic design: the applied art of arranging image and text to communicate a message. It may be applied in any media, such as print, digital media, motion pictures, animation, product decoration, packaging, and signs. Graphic design as a practice can be traced back to the origin of the written word, but only in the late 19th century did it become identified as a separate entity.


Graphite: a soft, black, lustrous mineral made of carbon used in lead pencils, paints, crucibles, and as a lubricant.


Grayscale: refers to the range of gray tones between black and white (see illustration).


Grid: refers to a series of crossed lines that meet to form a boxed pattern used in the predetermined placement of photographs and graphic elements on a page. A series of non printing horizontal and vertical rules assist in creating and maintaining a grid for page layout (see illustration).

Grid enlarging: the process of using a grid to enlarge an image; for copying very precisely, another image, on the same or a different scale, usually larger; used in scaling an image by drawing (see illustration).

Grisaille: Monochrome painting generally employing shades of gray executed in a black pigment and an inert white pigment in oil, gouache or tempera; a stained glass window incorporating muted tones as opposed to bright colors.


Grille: (pronounced "zee-clay") a printmaking process usually on an IRIS inkjet printer to make reproductions of a photograph of a painting; the printer can produce a very wide range of colors resulting in prints that are of very high quality.



Halftone: The reproduction of a continuous tone original, such as a photograph, in which detail and tone value are represented by a series of evenly spaced dots of varying size and shape.


Harmony: the unity of all the visual elements of a composition achieved by the repetition of the same characteristics or those which are similar in nature.

Horizon line

Horizon line: in a painting, a level line where land or water ends and the sky begins. Vanishing points, where two parallel lines appear to converge, are typically located on this line. A horizon line is used to attain the perspective of depth.

Horizontal balance

Horizontal balance: the components that are balanced left and right of a central axis.


Hue: the name of the color, such as red, green or yellow. Hue can be measured as a location on a color wheel, and expressed in degrees; the main attribute of a color which distinguishes it from other colors.



Icon: an artistic visual representation or symbol of anything considered holy and divine, such as God, saints or deities. An icon could be a painting (including relief painting), sculpture, or mosaic. Also refers to a little picture on a computer screen that represents the various functions of the computer. Generally the user clicks on an icon to start an application or function.


Illustrate: to create designs and pictures for books, magazines, or other print or electronic media to make clear or explain the text or show what happens in a story.


Illustration: a visualization such as drawing, painting, photograph or other work of art that stresses subject more than form. The aim of an Illustration is to elucidate or decorate a story, poem or piece of textual information (such as a newspaper article) by providing a visual representation of something described in the text.

Illustration board

Illustration board: heavy paper or card appropriate as a support for pencil, pen, watercolor, collage, etc.


Illustrator: a graphic artist who specializes in enhancing written text by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text. Also refers to a computer illustration program developed by Adobe Systems, Inc.

Implied line

Implied line: a line in a work that is subtlety perceived by the viewer but has no physical form; the overall flow of one line into another in a work, with continuation from one area to the next suggested by their common direction and/or juxtaposition.


Impressionism: a loose spontaneous style of painting that originated in France about 1870. The impressionist style of painting is characterized chiefly by concentration on the general impression produced by a scene or object and the use of unmixed primary colors and small strokes to simulate actual reflected light.


Any chip, dent, gouge, tear, abrasion, or loss occurring from force.

Industrial design

Industrial design: the design of the mass-produced products of our everyday environment, from sinks and furniture to computers.

Ink / Wash

Also known as East Asian brush painting, ink/wash painting was developed in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Artists typically grind their own ink by combining water with densely packed ink sticks on a grinding stone. Ink/Wash paintings require a highly skilled artist since brushstrokes cannot be erased.


Application of stain, typically to a wooden surface, in the area of a loss to re-establish an item's visual continuity.

Intaglio Methods

Intaglio includes the engraving, etching and drypoint methods of printmaking, and is produced via cuts made in a metal surface. These incised areas are then filled with ink and rolled through a press, thus transferring an image to paper. All intaglio prints have platemarks.



JPEG: an acronym for "Joint Photographic Experts Group" is a commonly used standard method of compressing photographic images on the Web. JPEG graphics are capable of reproducing a full range of color while still remaining small enough for Web use.

Justified type

Justified type: in typography, Text spaced out between words to create columns with both edges flush or evenly aligned. With narrow columns, justification can create awkward gaps. However, with wide columns, justification can add elegant symmetry.


Juxtaposition: the act of placing or positioning items in the image area side by side or next to one another to illustrate some comparison.



Kern: in typography, to reduce space between two or three characters so those characters appear better fitted together. Also referred to as kerning.


Kiln: (pronounced "kill") refers to an oven in which pottery or ceramic ware is fired.



Lacquer: refers to a clear or colored finish material that dries to a hard, glossy finish. Usually applied with a sprayer, lacquer dries too quickly for smooth application with a brush, unless it is specially formulated.


Landscape: a painting, drawing or photograph which depicts outdoor scenery. They typically include trees, streams, buildings, crops, mountains, wildlife, rivers and forests.

Late Additions

When an artist authorizes a print re-strike with or without changes to the original plate.


Leading: in typography, (rhymes with heading) the space between lines of type, often measured from the baseline of one line to the baseline of the next, and less frequently measured from ascender to ascender. Dates back to hot metal days when strips of lead were inserted between lines of type to provide line spacing.

Life drawing

Life drawing: drawings of a human figure. Usually of nude figures so that the artist can understand how the muscles look and how light, tone and shadow reflect around the body.

Light table

Light table: refers to a table made especially for working with negatives, viewing transparencies and slides, and pasting up artwork, that has a translucent top with a light shining up through it.


Likeness: refers to the similarity in appearance or character or nature between persons or things.

Limited edition

Limited edition: a limit placed on the number of prints produced in a particular edition, in order to create a scarcity of the print. Limited editions are signed and numbered by the artist. Once the prints in the edition have been sold out, the digital file is then destroyed by the Giclée Printmaker in order to maintain the integrity of the limited edition. The image will not be published again in the same form.


Line: an actual or implied mark, path, mass, or edge, where length is dominant.

Linear perspective

Linear perspective: a system for creating the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. The system is based on a scientifically or mathematically derived series of actual or implied lines that intersect at a vanishing point on the horizon. Linear perspective determines the relative size of objects from the foreground of an image to the background.

Linseed oil

Linseed oil: the most popular drying oil used as paint medium. The medium hardens over several weeks as components of the oil polymerize to form an insoluble matrix. Driers can be added to accelerate this process.


Lithography: uses the principle that oil and water don't mix as the basis of the printing process; a method of printing using plates whose image areas attract ink and whose non image areas repel ink. Non image areas may be coated with water to repel the oily ink or may have a surface, such as silicon, that repels ink.

Local color

Local color: an objects true color; the actual color as distinguished from the apparent color of objects and surfaces; true color, without shadows or reflections.


Lowercase: in typography, small letters of a typeface, as opposed to the capital letters, or uppercase letters. Derived from the location of the type cases in which typographers used to store metal or wood letterforms.



In the architecture of castles, an opening in the floor of an overhanging gallery through which defenders dropped stones and boiling liquids on attackers.


Long cords knotted to form a pattern. This is an old craft revived to great popularity in the 1960s and 1970s.


 Spotted; stained; blotched. Or, defiled; impure. The opposite of immaculate.


color also known as fuchsia and hot pink; a moderate to vivid purplish red or pink, named after the town ofspheres of cyan, magenta, yellow, and blackMagenta, in northwest Italy. Magenta is one of the four colors in the four color process for reproduction color in printcalled CMYK. The CMYK process creates the color spectrum using cyanmagenta, yellow, and black.

magic lantern

precursor to the modern slide projector, an optical instrument having either a way to use sunlight or a candle (and later an oil lamp, "oxy-hydrogen limelight," or "arclight") and a lens through which an image painted or printed on aglass plate was projected and enlarged. Early in the 15th century an Italian named Giovanni de Fontanadescribed a lantern to which a picture was attached in such a way that it would project the picture onto a wall. The first magic lanterns to employ lenses were developed in the mid-17th century. Historians disagree about who was the first to invent the device. It appears to have been the product of a number of small improvements. By the early 19th century numerous itinerant projectionists traveled around Europe with magic lanterns and collections of slides, putting on shows wherever they could draw a paying audience. Multiple projectors allowed for the dissolving of one image into another. Some slides boasted special effects. Some had extra layers that could be moved across each other. One of these, very popular with children, was see thumbnail to leftThe Rat-Swallower. One rat after another could be made to appear to jump into the open mouth of a sleeping man! A narrativesequence could be presented, such as the one created in England about 1812 to tell the story a battle between a British warship and a French one. A narrator told the audience how it happened while the pictures were projected, ending on an image of the French ship in flames. (Remind you of the 2003 movie Master and Commander?) In the middle of the 19th century, with the invention of photography and the availability of magic lanterns for use in one's home, the number of magic lantern slides produced increased tremendously. Commercially available sets of slides often featured photographs of famous places and celebrities, or actors performing allegories. The popularity of magic lanterns ended with the invention of cinematography at the end of the 19th century.

Magic Realism Painting(1943-1950s):

 This term refers to the genre in which artists depicted extreme realism in the most ordinary subject matter. Also, magic realism is often associated with the Post-Expressionist movement.

Make An Offer (MAO)

The Make An Offer feature allows a Seller to receive price-based offers from buyers, which can be accepted at the discretion of the Seller. This feature is only available for Purchase Now listings, and once a Buyer's Offer has been accepted by the Seller, the listing ends. Each offer is binding, just like a bid, and good for 48 hours. When an Offer is accepted, all remaining buyers are automatically declined by the Make an Offer system.

Mannerism (1520-1600)

 painting, prints, works on paper. Mannerism refers to the style developed during the 16th Century, characterized by its focus on space and light, dramatic use of color and distorted space and perspective. It began around the end of the High Renaissance and lasted until the arrival of Baroque in 1600


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


Markings are any kind of notation done by the artist on a work of art.


Any identifying features found on an item for sale (e.g., signature, stamp, manufacturers mark, silver mark).

Mat Burn

Improper use of acidic wood based matting materials will cause a "burn" or discoloration of the print where the acidic mat material contacts it. The acids will leech into the print causing the paper to turn brown or gray and to deteriorate.

Medieval (476-1453)

 painting, works on paper, sculpture. Medieval art covers over 1000 years of art history through Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It covered a variety of media and included many major art movements such as Early Christian Art, Celtic Art, Pre-Romanesque art and Carolingian art, among others. 


The material/materials an artist utilized in creating a work of art, such as oil paint, acrylic or bronze. The material that a work was created on, such as canvas or wood, is also considered part of the medium. For example, one might say that the medium of an oil painting is "oil on canvas."

Metaphysical (1917-1920)

 painting, works on paper. Metaphysical refers to the art movement created by Italian artists Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carra. Painters focused on a realist approach to dream-like views of Italian cityscapes. It also helped paved the way for the development of Dada and Surrealism.


In this method of printmaking the artist creates a dark base on a metal plate using a cutting instrument called a "rocker." Then, using a scraper, the artist burnishes the plate in the areas in which he desires to achieve a lighter color. Finally, the artist inks the plate and rolls it through a press topped with a piece of paper to create the final image. 

Mid-Century and Contemporary Design

 Functional and ornamental pieces specifically from the middle of the 20th century to date, such as furniture and ceramics - typically designer signed.


painting, prints, works on paper, sculpture. Militaria refers to artifacts or replicas of military items which are collected for their historical significance such as helmets, uniforms, armour, coins or awards.

Military Art

all media. This term refers to art documenting military scenes.


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

Miniature painting

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

Minimalism (1960s-1970s):

 painting, prints, works on paper, sculpture. This term refers to the simplicity found in the use of basic shapes to create an image of great beauty. Minimalism was mostly three-dimensional, but Frank Stella’s paintings were a hallmark of this movement. Other important minimalists include Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris and Richard Serra.

Missing Element

Part of an item that has been lost.

Mixed Media Painting

A mixed media painting employs multiple media to create a final piece. For example, a work on canvas that combines paint, ink, and collage is considered a mixed media painting.

Modern (1880-1945):

all media. The term Modernism generally refers to new forms of art that are more appropriate to the present time. Modern art has been identified as the succession of art movements by critics since Realism and culminating in abstract art up to 1945. By that time, Modernism had become a dominant idea of art and the Modernist viewpoint was theorized by the American art critic Clement Greenberg.

Mono-Ha (1960s-1970s):

Mono-Ha (1960s-1970s): sculpture. Mono-ha refers to the Japanese group of artists working in the 1960s and 1970s, who used both natural and man-made materials in their work. They are best known for actually rearranged materials to achieve a final product instead of creating works from scratch. 

Monochrome/ Monochromatic

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


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


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

Montage / Photomontage

This term refers to a single image formed from assembling many existing images such as photographs or prints.


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


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


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


Oil Paint

Technique developed during the 15th and 16th centuries in which slow-drying paint is made by mixing color pigments with an oil base.

Oil pastels

Oil pastels have similar characteristics to chalk, or soft, pastels. However, they are difficult to blend and have a more buttery consistency.


Paint Loss

Paint Loss: The absence of paint in areas where it was previously located, due to age and other influences.


The practice of applying pigment combined with a binding agent to a surface such as paper, canvas, wood, glass or other.

Painting Varnished

Painting Varnished: During the restoration process, the restorer will often varnish the surface of an oil or acrylic painting to protect the image from dirt, dust, smoke, grease, or other pollutants.


The result of natural or artificial oxidation on a surface, which produces corrosion, texture, or a thin layer of color that can range in hue. In bronze sculpture, patina specifically refers to the alteration of the surface by the sculptor with acid or other chemicals.


The art of recording images by capturing light on surfaces sensitized by a chemical process.

Print / Casting Year

Works of art produced in an edition, such as prints, sculpture, and photography can have a second applicable date. For example, a photograph might have been taken in 1932, but printed or re-printed in 1975 from the original negative.

Print / Casting Year:

 Works of art produced in an edition, such as prints, sculpture, and photography can have a second applicable date. For example, a photograph might have been taken in 1932, but printed or re-printed in 1975 from the original negative.


The history or exact record of ownership for a work of art. The provenance of a work of art helps museum staff, curators, gallerists and auction houses determine valuation and authenticity.


 Any publication in which either the specific work of art or artist was noted. 


The printer or foundry that produces an artist's work in multiples (i.e., an edition). For example, Atelier Mourlot of Paris, France, was the publisher for Pablo Picasso's prints.


Remains of Hinges

Works on paper, prints, and photographs are often attached to a mat with paper hinges and a chemically neutral, non-staining, and permanent adhesive. Each hinge is attached to the piece and the back board, allowing easy removal from the board should the necessity arise. 


An item that has been repurposed no longer performs its original function, and retains only aesthetic value.

Requires Cleaning

An item requires cleaning if there is an accumulation of unrelated matter on its surface (e.g., dirt, dust, grime, fungus, mold, wax).


The process of halting the decay of a work of art and/or returning it to its original state.

Rippled Paper

When environmental influences cause disruptions, ridges, or buckling of paper.


Salt Print

The earliest form of photographic positive paper, salt prints were the most common print type until the invention of the albumen. Developed in 1840 by William Fox Talbot, they were created by soaking a sheet of paper in a salt solution and coating it with silver nitrate. This created a light sensitive paper which typically produced sepia prints with a matte surface.


An item's height, width and depth noted in either inches or centimeters.


Excessive cleaning. Occurs when a piece has experienced exorbitant intervention from a restorer or conservationist, removing a portion of the original media. 


Occurs when foreign materials react with the surface of an item and create discoloration or spotting.


Literally meaning “ink painting,” Sumi-e paintings are monochromatic and typically associated with the practice of Zen Buddhism. This elegant form of painting was developed in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Surface Abrasions

Visible result of wearing, grinding, scratching, or tearing of a surface due to friction.

Surface Soiling

Accumulation of dirt, or other materials, upon the face of an item, including fingerprints.


Tears / Holes

Openings in a surface caused by forcibly pulling the piece apart.


A medium that was prevalent in Orthodox paintings during Southern Europe’s Middle Ages. The artist combines egg yolk, egg white, and oil to bind a range of pigments on a rigid support such as wood paneling.


The name by which a work of art is formally known.


Toning is the darkening or aging of paper over time, and exposure to humidity and the pollutants in the atmosphere. The toned area is surely acidic, and an indication that the rest of the sheet is probably becoming acidic. Toning appears even on pages or plates in bound books. It starts usually along the 3 unbound edges of a sheet, and slowly creeps inward.

Trimmed Margins

When the margins of a two dimensional work of art have been reduced. Typically occurs during the framing process.



Refers to the back or underside of a sheet of paper.


Water Damage / Warping

 Includes any type of damage caused by contact with water or humidity such as staining, warping or loosening of material.


Painting that is characterized by colorful pigments dissolved in water to produce a translucent image.


The term woodburytype refers to the photomechanical process in which continuous tone is created in slight relief. In this process, a gelatin film is exposed under a photographic negative and hardened according to the amount of light. The film is then placed in hot water removing all unexposed gelatin, dried, and pressed into a sheet of lead. As a result, an intaglio plate is created, filled with pigmented gelatin, and pressed onto paper producing a final image.



 The year a work of art was created.

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