Art Terminology

Use the following terminology to critically analyze works of art in terms of form and content, medium and style.

Terms From Living with Art, Mark Getlein unless otherwise noted

Describing Art:
Aesthetics- the branch of philosophy that studies art and the nature of beauty
Representational- art representing or presenting again the visible world in such a way that we recognize a likeness
Naturalistic- faithful to the visual experience, records how forms are revealed by light and shadow, how bodies reflect an inner structure of bone and muscle, how fabrics drape over bodies and objects, and how gravity makes weight felt
Abstract- forms of the visual world are purposely simplified, fragmented or otherwise distorted

Wassily Kandinsky, Harmony Squares With Concentric Rings, 1913
Stylized- describes representational art that conforms to a pre-set style or set of conventions for depicting the world

Nefertari Presenting the Offering, 1314-1200 B.C., Egyptian Art, Mural Painting, Valley of the Kings, Thebes, Egypt

Nonrepresentational- descriptive of art that does not represent or otherwise refer to the visible world outside itself

Piet Mondrian, Tableau No. 2/Composition No. VII, 1913

Style- style of a particular artist or school or movement; refers to characteristics or group of characteristics that we recognize as constant, recurring or coherent
Content- what a work of art is about
Composition- the organization of lines, shapes, colors, and other art elements in a work; more often applied to two-dimensional art- the broader term is design
Context- the personal and social circumstances surrounding the making, viewing and interpreting of a work of art; the varied connections of a work of art to the larger world of its time and place
Subject matter- the objects or events that the work depicts
Icon- In Byzantine and later Orthodox Christian art, an image of a holy person such as Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or a saint. Generally small in scale and painted in a highly stylized manner on a gold ground over a wooden support, icons are often themselves held to be sacred. From Microsoft Word (Encarta): a picture or symbol that is universally recognized to be representative of something
Andreas Ritzos, The Mother of God Enthroned, Patmos Monastery, 2nd half of 15th c.
Iconography-the traditional or conventional images or symbols associated with a subject and especially a religious or legendary subject 

Visual Elements- Line, Shape, Mass, Light, Value, Color, Texture, and Space- the ingredients an artist has available in making any work of art.
Line- a path traced by a moving point
Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing 630, 1990 (left) and Wall Drawing 614, 1989 
Contour- the perceived edges of a three-dimensional form such as the human body
Contour lines- the lines we draw to record boundaries
Egon Schiele, Crouching Woman, 1917
Direction and movement- our eyes follow lines to see where they are going. Artists use this tendency to direct our eyes around an image and to suggest movement. Most of us have instinctive reactions to the direction of line, which are related to our experience of gravity. Flat horizontal lines seem placid, like the horizon line or a body in repose. Vertical lines like those of an upright body or a skyscraper jutting up from the ground may have an assertive quality; they defy gravity in their upward thrust. But the most dynamic lines are the diagonals, which almost always imply action.
M.C. Escher (1898-1972), Mobius Strip II, The Hague
Shape- a two-dimensional area having identifiable boundaries created by lines, color, a shift in texture, or value changes, or some combination of these
Wasily Kandinsky, Composition X, 1939 
Figure- the shape we detach and focus on
Ground- the surrounding visual information the figure stands out from, the background
Vase/Face Illusion
Positive Shapes- the shapes we perceive as figures
Negative Shapes- the shapes of the ground

Richard Avedon, Juan Patricio Lobato, Carney, Rocky Ford, Colorado, August 23, 1980
Mass- a three-dimensional form that occupies a volume of space, often implying bulk, density and weight
Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach
Lucian Freud, Woman with an Arm Tattoo, 1996 
Geometric shapes and masses- approximate the regular, named shapes and volumes of geometry such as square, triangle, circle, cube, pyramid and sphere
Frank Stella, Tahkt-I-Sulayman Variation II, 1969
Organic shapes and masses- are irregular and evoke the living forms of nature
Yellena James, Allusion
Value- refers to the relative lightness or darkness (ex. red- value ranges from the palest pink to the darkest maroon)
Value Scale
Hatching- a technique for suggesting value in which areas of closely spaced parallel lines are laid down
Crosshatching- a technique for suggesting value in which sets of parallel lines are laid across a first set
Albrecht Durer, Self-portait, 1500
Stippling- a technique for suggesting value in which a pattern of closely spaced dots or small marks are used to create a sense of three-dimensionality on a flat surface
Jacques Bellange French (active 1600-1620), The Annunciation (Detail)
Color- a function of light; reflected light rays
Color wheel- taking the colors separated out by Newton’s prism- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet > adding the transitional color (ex. red-violet, which does not exist in the rainbow) > arranging these colors in a circle
Itten Color Wheel
Primary colors- red, yellow and blue- (theoretically) they cannot be made by any mixture of colors
Secondary colors- orange, green and violet- each is made by combining two primary color
Tertiary colors- the product of a primary color and an adjacent secondary color (ex. mixing yellow and green yields yellow-green)
Complementary- colors directly opposite one another on the color wheel, such as, red and green, blue and orange, violet and yellow
Warm colors- colors on the red-orange side of the wheel.
Cool colors- colors on the blue-green side of the wheel
Palette- may refer to the wooden board on which artists traditionally set out their pigments, but it also refers to the range of pigments the artist selects, either for a particular painting or characteristically
Color properties- hue, value and intensity
Hue- the name of the color according to the categories of the color wheel
Tint- a color lighter than the hue’s normal value (pink is a tint of red)
Shade- a color darker than the hue’s normal value (maroon is a shade of red)
Intensity- also called chroma or saturation- refers to the relative purity of a color
Color harmonies- the selective use of two or more colors in a single composition 
Color schemes: monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complementary, triadic, tetradic
Monochrome/ Monochromatic- “mono”=one. A color scheme using only one hue in a range of different values.
Analogous-Colors closely related and adjacent on the color wheel. Variations of one color family by the addition of neighboring colors on the wheel (ex. Yellow, yellow-orange, orange).
Complementary- a color scheme incorporating opposite hues on the color wheel. They accentuate each other in juxtaposition and neutralize each other when mixed.
Split Complementary- a color and the two colors on either side of its complement.
Color Triad- three colors spaced equally apart on the color wheel forming a triangle (your chosen triad colors will always have three other colors between them on the color wheel).
Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 10, 1939-1942

Color Tetrad- Four colors selected to create harmony. Either: four equally spaced hues that are two sets of complements or four hues that are two sets of split complements (for example: select a complementary pair and instead of using them, use their neighbors).

Restricted Palette- artists limit themselves to a few pigments and their mixtures, tints, and shades
Camille Rose Garcia, Escape Velocity
Texture- refers to a surface quality; a perception of smooth or rough, flat or bumpy, fine or coarse
Camille Rose Garcia, Artic Cavern Hideaway
Actual texture- literally tactile- a quality we could experience through touch
Maurizio Savini, Chewing gum sculpture
Pattern- any decorative, repetitive motif or design
Strawberry Thief Chintz, Designed by William Morris (1834-1896) for Morris & Company, 1883
Space- a dynamic visual element that interacts with the lines and shapes and colors and textures of a work of art that give them definition
Picture plane-  An imaginary flat surface that is assumed to be identical to the surface of a painting. Forms in a painting meant to be perceived in deep three-dimensional space are said to be “behind” the picture plane. The picture plane is commonly associated with the foreground of a painting.
Linear perspective- based in the systematic application of two observations:
• forms seem to diminish in size as they recede from us
• parallel lines receding into the distance seem to converge, until they meet at a point (vanishing point) on the horizon line where they disappear
Arthur Leipzig, Brooklyn Bridge, 1946
Foreshortening- the visual phenomenon whereby an elongated object projecting toward or away from a viewer appears shorter than its actual length, as though compressed
Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound, 1611–12
Atmospheric perspective- developed during the Renaissance it is based on the observation that distant objects appear less distinct, paler, and bluer than nearby objects due to the way moisture in the intervening atmosphere scatters light
Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818
Emphasis, Balance, Rhythm, Contrast, Movement, Harmony or Unity, Pattern, Variety, Proportion, Repetition- the principles of art are the rules of art. These rules need to be considered when making a piece of art. Master artists use the ELEMENTS of art to effectively express the PRINCIPLES of art in their artwork.
Emphasis-to make one part of an artwork dominant over the other parts. It makes an element or object in a work stand out. To use emphasis in an artwork is to attract the viewer's eyes to a place of special importance in an artwork.
Focal point- when the emphasis is on a relatively small, clearly defined area
Subordination- certain areas of the composition are purposefully made less visually interesting, so that the areas of emphasis stand out
Francisco Goya, The Shootings of May Third, 1808
Balance- arranging elements so that no one part of a work overpowers, or seems heavier than any other part. Two different kinds of balance are symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetrical (or formal) balance is when both sides of an artwork, if split down the middle, appear to be the same (sometimes the symmetry is so perfect that the two sides of a composition are mirror images of one another).
Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait, 1940
El Sol y la Vida, 1947
Rhythm- indicating movement by the repetition of elements. Rhythm can make an artwork seem active.
Marcel Duchamp,"Nude Descending a Staircase (No2)", 1912 
Some different kinds of rhythm are:
* Regular rhythm - a repetition of elements that are evenly spaced.
Sol LeWitt, Open Geometric Structure 2-2,1-1, 1991
* Irregular rhythm - elements that are repeated but not exactly.
James Kelewae, Grafitti Art
* Progressive rhythm - as elements repeat, they increase or decrease in size.
Piet Mondrian, Ocean and Pier
Contrast- to show difference and diversity in an artwork by combining elements to create interest. Contrast is to provide an artwork with something interesting to break the repetitions.
Hans Hoffman, Indian Summer
Movement- creating the illusion of action or physical change in position. Leading viewers to sense action, OR, the path the viewer's eye follows throughout a artwork. Movement is used in art to give the feeling of action and to guide the viewer's eyes throughout the artwork.
Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830
Harmony or Unity- the quality of wholeness or oneness that is achieved through the effective use of the elements and principles of art. The arrangement of elements and principles to create a feeling of completeness.
Vincent van Gogh, "Starry Night", 1889
Conceptual- through a unity of ideas

Keith Arnatt
Variety- difference provides interest.
Hans Hofmann, "Rising Moon"
Proportion- refers to size relationships between parts of a whole, or between two or more items perceived as a unit.

Edward Hopper, Chop Suey, 1929
Scale- size in relation to standard or “normal” size (normal size is the size we expect something to be)

Ron Mueck, In Bed

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