Shelf of Art Jargon

by Tushar Rustagi
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Words that make you understand Art better

(Picture Credits:; Over-Culture)

Every simple picture has the linen of ideas and words of efforts, which make it look the way you watch and absorb! But ever imagined, what do those words consist of? There are plenty of technicalities when we wear down the covering of the piece of writing that was written to give wheels to your love for art. But when it comes back to us, to understand what actually those biggie words mean, we back out and skip a few lines to understand the crux of the passage written! Now that is not the correct way to absorb, neither it is towards your passionate respect towards the subject. Sometimes, whilst we are ignoring few lines and words, we miss out on important information as well, about the subject and might miss important opportunities/chances. Basically, we find it difficult to tackle jargon in the world of art. What is jargon? Words that are technical in nature, fits perfectly in the sentence but are not known by everyone. The following post will help you with the companionship of some basic and common art jargon (terms) and how you can help pour some of the other terms, into your building of vocabulary. These words are a mix of all the terms that are used in the form of movement, styles, language, description, techniques, photography-art, etc.
Abstract – A 20th century style of painting in which nonrepresentational lines, colors, shapes, and forms replace accurate visual depiction of objects, landscape, and figures. The subjects often stylized, blurred, repeated or broken down into basic forms so that it becomes unrecognizable. Intangible subjects such as thoughts, emotions, and time are often expressed in abstract art form.
Aesthetics – 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).

(Picture Credits:; Aesthetics Digital Art)

Art Nouveau – A painting, printmaking, decorative design, and architectural style developed in England in the 1880s. Art Nouveau, primarily an ornamental style, was not only a protest against the sterile Realism, but against the whole drift toward industrialization and mechanization and the unnatural artifacts they produced. The style is characterized by the usage of sinuous, graceful, cursive lines, interlaced patterns, flowers, plants, insects and other motifs inspired by nature.
Baroque – A term meaning extravagant, complex; applied to a style in art and architecture developed in Europe from the early seventeenth to mid-eighteenth century, emphasizing dramatic, often strained effect and typified by bold, curving forms, elaborate ornamentation, and overall balance of disparate parts.
Batik – A wax-resist dyeing technique that is often used to make highly patterned cloth.

(Picture Credits:; Batik Art)

Binder – A component of paint that creates uniform consistency or cohesion.
Canon – A group of artistic, literary, or musical works that are generally accepted as representing a field.
Caricature – A rendering, usually a drawing, of a person or thing with exaggerated or distorted features, meant to satirize the subject.
Cityscape – An image with urban scenery as its primary focus; an urban environment.
Classicism – The principles embodied in the styles, theories, or philosophies of the art of ancient Greece and Rome.
Commission – To request, or the request for, the production of a work of art.
Conceptual art – Art that emerged in the late 1960s, emphasizing ideas and theoretical practices rather than the creation of visual forms. In 1967, the artist Sol LeWitt gave the new genre its name in his essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” in which he wrote, “The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product.”

(Picture Credits:; Conceptual Art)

Constructivism – Developed by the Russian avant-garde at the time of the October Revolution of 1917, the goal of this idealistic movement was to make art universally understandable and essential to everyday life.
Contour – The outline of something.
Cubism – An art style developed in 1908 by Picasso and Braque whereby the artist breaks down the natural forms of the subjects into geometric shapes and creates a new kind of pictorial space. In contrast to traditional painting styles where the perspective of subjects is fixed and complete, cubist work can portray the subject from multiple perspectives.
Curator – A person whose job it is to research and manage a collection and organize exhibitions.
Dadaism – An art style founded by Hans Arp in Zurich after WW1 which challenged the established canons of art, thoughts and morality etc. Disgusted with the war and society in general, Dadaist expressed their feelings by creating “non-art.” The term Dada, nonsense or baby-talk term, symbolizes the loss of meaning in the European culture. Dada art is difficult to interpret since there is no common foundation.

Collage (1919) von Hannah Höch [1889 - 1978]Bildmaß 114 x 90 cmInventar-Nr.: NG 57/61Systematik: Geschichte / Deutschland / 20. Jh. / Weimarer Republik / Kulturleben / Kunst und Literatur

(Picture Credits:; DadaismArt)

Daguerreotype – A photographic technique invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in 1839. A daguerreotype uses a silver or silver-coated-copper plate to develop an image in a camera obscura. The image is formed when the light-sensitive plate is exposed to light through a camera lens. A daguerreotype was a unique, direct positive image that could not produce copies.
Draftsman – A person who draws plans or designs, often of structures to be built; a person who draws skillfully, especially an artist.
DryPoint – A type of intaglio printmaking process that involves using an abrasive or sharp-pointed tool to scratch lines into the surface of a metal plate. The term may also refer to the process or to the tool used.
Ductile – The ability to alter a material’s shape under tensile stress, such as stretching or pulling.
Emulsion – A combination of two or more liquids that do not blend easily on their own, such as oil and water. For example, painters can use egg yolk to emulsify oil paint and water.
Etching – A type of print made by scratching marks onto the surface of a metal plate (usually copper, zinc, or steel) that has been treated with an acid-resistant waxy ground. When the plate is  placed into a vat of acid, the acid bites through the exposed portions of the plate. The plate is inked, and an image is created by running the plate and paper through a printing press.
Existentialism – A philosophical attitude emerging from the early 20th century, associated especially with Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, which stresses the free will of the individual in determining his or her relationship to the external word.
Expressionism – An art movement of the early 20th century in which traditional adherence to realism and proportion was replaced by the artist’s emotional connection to the subject. These paintings are often abstract, the subject matter distorted in color and form to emphasize and express the intense emotion of the artist.
Fauvism – The style of painting practiced by les Fauves (French for “wild beasts”) in the early 20th century, associated especially with Henri Matisse and André Derain, whose works emphasized strong, vibrant color and bold brushstrokes over realistic or representational qualities.
Foreground – The area of an image—usually a photograph, drawing, or painting—that appears closest to the viewer.
Frottage – Technique of reproducing a texture or relief design by laying paper over it and rubbing it with some drawing medium, for example pencil or crayon. Max Ernst and other Surrealist artists incorporated such rubbings into their paintings by means of collage.

(Picture Credits:; Frottage using charcoal strokes)

Gouache – An opaque watercolor paint; a painting produced with such paint.
Iconography – Subject matter in visual art, often adhering to particular conventions of artistic representation, and imbued with symbolic meanings.
Impasto – An Italian word for “paste” or “mixture”, used to describe a painting technique where paint (usually oil) is thickly laid on a surface, so that the texture of brush- or palette-knife strokes are clearly visible.
Impressionism – An art movement founded in France in the last third of the 19th century. Impressionist artists sought to break up light into its component colors and render its ephemeral play on various objects. The artist’s vision was intensely centered on light and the ways it transforms the visible world. This style of painting is characterized by short brush strokes of bright colors used to recreate visual impressions of the subject and to capture the light, climate and atmosphere of the subject at a specific moment in time. The chosen colors represent light which is broken down into its spectrum components and recombined by the eyes into another color when viewed at a distance (an optical mixture). The term was first used in 1874 by a journalist ridiculing a landscape by Monet called Impression – Sunrise.
Installation – A form of art, developed in the late 1950s, which involves the creation of an enveloping aesthetic or sensory experience in a particular environment, often inviting active engagement or immersion by the spectator.
Institutional critique – An art term describing the systematic inquiry into the practices and ethos surrounding art institutions such as art academies, galleries, and museums, oftenchallenging assumed and historical norms of artistic theory and practice. It often seeks to make visible the historically and socially constructed boundaries between inside and outside and public and private.
Jury – A committee, usually of experts, that judges contestants or applicants in a competition or exhibition.
Juxtaposition – An act of placing things close together or side by side for comparison or contrast.

(Picture Credits:; Contrasting Life)

Lacquer – Any of various clear or colored synthetic organic coatings that typically dry to form a film.
Lithography – A printmaking technique based on the repulsion of oil and water, in which an oily substance is applied to a stone or other medium to transfer ink to a paper surface.
Merz – A term invented by the artist Kurt Schwitters to describe his works made from scavenged fragments and objects.
Mexican Muralist movement – This art movement began in Mexico in the early 1920s when, in an effort to increase literacy, Education Minister José Vasconcelos commissioned artists to create monumental didactic murals depicting Mexico’s history on the walls of government buildings. Artists of the Mexican Muralist movement include José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Minimalism – An artistic movement of the 1960s in which artists produced pared-down three-dimensional objects devoid of representational content. Their new vocabulary of simplified, geometric forms made from humble industrial materials challenged traditional notions of craftsmanship, the illusion of spatial depth in painting, and the idea that a work of art must be one of a kind.
Monoprint – One-of-a-kind print conceived by the artist and printed by or under the artist’s supervision.
Motif – A distinctive and often recurring feature in a composition.
Mural – A large painting applied to a wall or ceiling, especially in a public space.

(Picture Credits:; Mural by Drew Brophy)

Muse – The guiding spirit that is thought to inspire artists; source of genius or inspiration (noun).
Nastaliq – A traditional form of calligraphy used mostly for Persian, Urdu, and Malay manuscripts.
Naturalism – Faithful adherence to nature; factual or realistic representation.
Neo-Impressionism – A term applied to an avant-garde art movement that flourished principally in France from 1886 to 1906. Led by the example of Georges Seurat, the Neo-Impressionists renounced the spontaneity of Impressionism in favor of a measured painting technique grounded in science and the study of optics. Neo-Impressionists came to believe that separate touches of interwoven pigment result in a greater vibrancy of color than is achieved by the conventional mixing of pigments on the palette.
Neoclassical – A style that arose in the second half of the eighteenth century in Europe with the increasing influence of classical antiquity on the development of taste. It was based on first-hand observation and reproduction of antique works and came to dominate European architecture, painting, sculpture, and decorative arts.
Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) – A representative style of art that was developed in the 1920s in Germany by artists including Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, and George Grosz. Artworks in this style were often satirical in nature, sending a critical eye upon contemporary taste and the post-war society of Germany. In both content and style, artists of this movement directly challenged and broke away from the traditions of the art academies they had attended.
Papier-collé – French for “glued paper,” a collage technique using cut-and-pasted papers.
Papier-mâché – French for “chewed-up paper,” a technique for creating three-dimensional objects, such as sculpture, from pulped or pasted paper and binders such as glue or plaster.
Photogravure – A printmaking process in which a photographic negative is transferred onto a copper plate.
Photomontage – Photo collage

(Picture Credits:; Photomontage)

Pictorialism – An international style of photography in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, characterized by the creation of artistic tableaus and photographs composed of multiple prints or manipulated negatives, in an effort to advocate for photography as an artistic medium on par with painting.
Plate in art – A signed print is one signed, in pencil or ink, by the artist and/or engraver of the print. A print is said to be signed in the plate if the artist’s signature is incorporated into the matrix and so appears as part of the printed image.
Pliable – Capable of being shaped, bent, or stretched out.
Pointillism – A technique of painting developed by French painters Georges-Pierre Seurat and Paul Signac, in which small, distinct points of unmixed color are applied in patterns to form an image.
Pop Art – A style of art which seeks its inspiration from commercial art and items of mass culture (such as comic strips, popular foods and brand name packaging). Pop art was first developed in New York City in the 1950’s and soon became the dominant avant-garde art form in the United States.

(Picture Credits:; Pop-ART)

Post-Impressionism – A term coined in 1910 by the English art critic and painter Roger Fry and applied to the reaction against the naturalistic depiction of light and color in Impressionism, led by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat. Though each of these artists developed his own, distinctive style, they were unified by their interest in expressing their emotional and psychological responses to the world through bold colors and expressive, often symbolic images. Post-Impressionism can be roughly dated from 1886 to 1905.
Primitive Art – A term initially used to refer to the arts of all of Africa, Asia, and Pre-Columbian America, later used mostly to refer to art from Africa and the Pacific Islands. By the late 20th century the term, with its derogatory connotations, fell out of favor.
Rayograph – A term invented by Man Ray to describe what is conventionally known as a photogram, or photographic print made by placing objects and other elements on photosensitive paper and exposing it to light.
Rococo – A style of art, particularly in architecture and decorative art, that originated in France in the early 1700s and is marked by elaborate ornamentation, including, for example, a profusion of scrolls, foliage, and animal forms.
Realism – A style of painting which depicts subject matter (form, color, space) as it appears in actuality or ordinary visual experience without distortion or stylization.
Romanticism – An art style which emphasizes the personal, emotional and dramatic through the use of exotic, literary or historical subject matter.
Screenprinting (also Silkscreening) – A printing technique in which areas of a silkscreen, comprised of woven mesh stretched on a frame, are selectively blocked off with a non-permeable material (typically a photo-emulsion, paper, or plastic film) to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be printed. Ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface with a squeegee, creating a positive image.
Strobe – Fast bursts of intermittent light used to illuminate moving subjects.
Suprematism – A term coined by Russian artist Kazimir Malevich in 1915 to describe a style of painting that conforms to his assertion that art expressed in the simplest geometric forms and dynamic compositions reigned supreme over earlier forms of representational art.
Surrealism – An art style developed in Europe in the 1920’s, characterized by using the subconscious as a source of creativity to liberate pictorial subjects and ideas. Surrealist paintings often depict unexpected or irrational objects in an atmosphere of fantasy, creating a dreamlike scenario.

(Picture Credits:; Surreal Art)

Symbolism – An art style developed in the late 19th century characterized by the incorporation of symbols and ideas, usually spiritual or mystical in nature, which represent the inner life of people. Traditional modeled, pictorial depictions are replaced or contrasted by flat mosiac-like surfaces decoratively embellished with figures and design elements.
Tempera – A type of paint in which pigment is mixed with a water-soluble binder, such as egg yolk.
Typography – The art and technique of designing and/or arranging type letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, and of printing from them.
Vernacular photography – Images by amateur photographers of everyday life and subjects, commonly in the form of snapshots. The term is often used to distinguish everyday photography from fine art photography.
Vignette – A brief, evocative description, account, or scene.

(Picture Credits:; Vignette!)

Viscosity – The thickness of a liquid. In painting, the viscosity of oil paints is altered by adding a binder (such as linseed oil) or a solvent (such as turpentine).
Wax-print cotton – Cotton fabric printed on both sides in a wax-resist dye process.
Also, few links are mentioned below to give a broader category of similar words. Watch out and learn:
If the above text is too long to read? Find the link of the video below, to understand and read the words:
Now that you are prepared to indulge yourself more into the world of art, act smart and read smart and un-adopt the habit of skipping lines because it has unknown words. And if you feel that we don’t have the perfect glossary of words in the world of art, or you feel that we lack some words that you know of, then let us know by dropping a comment in the following section or drop us a mail with the list of the respective words. And if you think that we did a good job, then share this post on your social platforms to distribute and teach your known ones about the same.
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