Art Terminology

DADA

Dada was an art movement formed during the First World War in Zurich in negative reaction to the horrors and folly of the war. The art, poetry and performance produced by dada artists is often satirical and nonsensical in nature. Dada artists felt the war called into question every aspect of a society capable of …

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DE STIJL

De Stijl was a circle of Dutch abstract artists who promoted a style of art based on a strict geometry of horizontals and verticals. Originally a publication, De Stijl was founded in 1917 by two pioneers of abstract art, Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. De Stijl means style in Dutch. The magazine De Stijl …

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DECADENCE

Decadence generally refers to an extreme manifestation of symbolism which appeared towards the end of the nineteenth century and emphasised the spiritual, the morbid and the erotic. The term came into use in the 1880s with, for example, the French journal Le Décadent published in 1886. Decadents were inspired partly by a disgust at the …

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DECALCOMANIA

Decalcomania is a blotting process whereby paint is squeezed between two surfaces to create a mirror image. The most common example of decalcomania involves applying paint to paper then folding it, applying pressure and then unfolding the paper to reveal a mirror pattern. Decalcomania is most commonly associated with the surrealist painters Max Ernst and …

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DÉCOLLAGE

Décollage is a French word meaning literally to unstick, generally associated with a process used by artists of the nouveau réalisme (new realism) movement that involved making art from posters ripped from walls. Although the first time the term décollage appeared in print was in the Dictionnaire Abrégé du Surréalisme in 1938, it is usually …

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DECONSTRUCTION

Deconstruction is a form of criticism first used by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the 1970s which asserts that there is not one single intrinsic meaning to be found in a work, but rather many, and often these can be conflicting. A deconstructive approach to criticism involves discovering, recognising and understanding the underlying and unspoken …

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DEGENERATE ART

Degenerate art is the English translation of the German phrase Entartete Kunst which is the label the National Socialist (Nazi) party, under its leader Adolf Hitler, applied to art they did not approve of, in an attempt to bring art under their control. All modern art was considered ‘degenerate’ by the National Socialist (Nazi) party. …

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DER BLAUE REITER

Der Blaue Reiter was a German expressionist group originating in Munich in 1909. Der Blaue Reiter translates in English as The Blue Rider. A number of avant-garde artists living in Munich had founded the Neue Kunstler Vereiningung, or New Artist Association (N.K.V.). The most important of these were the Russian born Wassily Kandinsky and the …

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DIASPORA

Diaspora is a term used to describe movements in population from one country to another and is often cited in discussions about identity. In relation to art, the term diaspora is used to discuss artists who have migrated from one part of the world to another, (or whose families have), and who express their diverse …

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DIGITAL ART

Digital art is a term used to describe art that is made or presented using digital technology. The first use of the term digital art was in the early 1980s when computer engineers devised a paint program which was used by the pioneering digital artist Harold Cohen. This became known as AARON, a robotic machine …

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DIPTYCH

A diptych is an artwork consisting of two painted or carved panels. These can be attached together or presented adjoining each other. In medieval times, panels were often hinged so that they could be closed and the artworks protected. Altarpieces, paintings placed on or behind the altar of a Christian church as a focus for …

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DIRECT CARVING

Direct carving is an approach to making carved sculpture where the actual process of carving suggests the final form rather than a carefully worked out preliminary model. This new approach was introduced by Constantin Brancusi from about 1906. Before that carved sculpture had always been based on a preconceived model. Often it was then actually …

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DIVISIONISM

Divisionism is a late nineteenth century painting technique that involved using tiny adjacent dabs of primary colour to create the effect of light The technique was inspired by optical theory and associated with neo-impressionist artists such as Georges Seurat. See definition for neo-impressionism

DOCUMENTARY ART

Documentary art is a term associated with the artists who documented the harsh realities of British life during the Depression in the 1930s. In a decade dominated by mass unemployment and social deprivation, a new radicalism took hold of European politics and artists responded to these events by adopting a realist style that was easily …

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DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY

Documentary photography is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events, and is often used in reportage. Until the mid-twentieth century, documentary photography was a vital way of bearing witness to world events: from shoot-from-the-hip photographs of the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capa to the …

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DRAWING

Drawing is essentially a technique in which images are depicted on a surface by making lines, though drawings can also contain tonal areas, washes and other non-linear marks. Ink, pencil, crayon, charcoal and chalk are the most commonly used materials, but drawings can be made with or in combination with paint and any other wet …

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DRYPOINT

Drypoint is a printmaking process in which a design is drawn on a plate with a sharp, pointed needle-like instrument. An intaglio technique, drypoint is usually done on copper plates as the softer metal lends itself to this technique. (Intaglio refers to any printmaking process which involves making incisions or indents in a plate, so …

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DUSSELDORF SCHOOL OF PHOTOGRAPHY

The Dusseldorf School of Photography refers to a group of photographers who studied at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in the mid 1970s under the influential photographers Bernd and Hiller Becher. Known for their rigorous devotion to the 1920s German tradition of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), the Bechers’ photographs were clear, black and white pictures of industrial …

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DYE DESTRUCTION PRINT

A dye destruction print (Cibachrome print, Ilfochrome print) is a print made using a photographic printing process in which colour dyes embedded in the paper are selectively bleached away (destroyed) to form a full-colour image. The paper used for this process has at least three emulsion layers and each layer is sensitised to a primary …

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