Art Terminology

FAIRY PAINTING

Fairy painting is particularly associated with the Victorian period, art that depicts fairies and other subjects from the supernatural. A fascination with fairies and the supernatural was a phenomenon of the Victorian age and resulted in a distinctive strand of art depicting fairy subjects drawn from myth and legend and particularly from Shakespeare’s play A …

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FANCY PICTURE

Fancy picture refers to a type of eighteenth century painting that depict scenes of everyday life but with elements of imagination, invention or storytelling. The term ‘fancies’ was first used in 1737 by art chronicler George Vertue to describe paintings by Philip Mercier. Typical titles were Venetian Girl at a Window or series The Five …

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FANTASTIC REALISM

The term fantastic realism refers to the work of a group of painters working in the late 1950s in Vienna who combined the painterly precision of the old masters with an interest in modern art movements and psychoanalysis. Johann Muschik first used the term ‘Phantastischer realismus’ (Fantastic Realism) in the late 1950s to describe the …

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FAUVISM

Fauvism is the name applied to the work produced by a group of artists (which included Henri Matisse and André Derain) from around 1905 to 1910, which is characterised by strong colours and fierce brushwork. The name les fauves (‘the wild beasts’) was coined by the critic Louis Vauxcelles when he saw the work of …

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FEDERAL ART PROJECT

The Federal Art Project was an American government programme to give work to unemployed artists during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project was one of a succession of art programmes set up under the American President Roosevelt’s New Deal policy to combat the Depression. In 1933 Roosevelt set …

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FEMINIST ART

Feminist art is art by artists made consciously in the light of developments in feminist art theory in the early 1970s. In 1971 the art historian Linda Nochlin published a groundbreaking essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? In it she investigated the social and economic factors that had prevented talented women from …

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FIGURATIVE ART

Figurative art describes any form of modern art that retains strong references to the real world and particularly to the human figure. The term has been particularly used since the arrival of abstract art to refer to artists that retain aspects of the real world as their subject matter, though in a general sense figurative …

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FILMAKTION

Filamaktion were a loose-knit group of experimental British filmmakers who worked and performed together in the early 1970s. Endorsing a more active, participatory experience of cinema, Filmaktion re-imagined the possibilities for film projection as a live event. Because of their improvisational and participatory approach, the artists rejected conventional cinemas in favour of more immersive environments, …

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FIN DE SIÈCLE

Fin de Siècle is a French phrase meaning ‘end of century’ and is applied specifically as a historical term to the end of the nineteenth century and even more specifically to decade of 1890s. Fin de Siècle is an umbrella term embracing symbolism, decadence and all related phenomena (e.g. art nouveau) which reached a peak …

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FLÂNEUR

Flâneur is a French term meaning ‘stroller’ or ‘loafer’ used by nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire to identify an observer of modern urban life. Baudelaire identified the flâneur in his essay The Painter of Modern Life (1863) as the dilettante observer. The flâneur carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, …

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FLUXUS

Fluxus is an international avant-garde collective or network of artists and composers founded in the1960s and still continuing today. Founded in 1960 by the Lithuanian/American artist George Maciunas, Fluxus began as a small but international network of artists and composers, and was characterised as a shared attitude rather than a movement. Rooted in experimental music, …

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FORESHORTENING

Foreshortening refers to the technique of depicting an object or human body in a picture so as to produce an illusion of projection or extension in space. The artist records, in varying degrees, the distortion that is seen by the eye when an object or figure is viewed at a distance or at an unusual …

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FORM

In relation to art the term form has two meanings: it can refer to the overall form taken by the work – its physical nature; or within a work of art it can refer to the element of shape among the various elements that make up a work. Until the emergence of modern art, when …

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FORMALISM

Formalism is the study of art based solely on an analysis of its form – the way it is made and what it looks like. Formalism describes the critical position that the most important aspect of a work of art is its form – the way it is made and its purely visual aspects – …

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FORMLESSNESS

Formlessness is a concept, first introduced by French writer-philosopher Georges Bataille, who argued that art should be brought ‘down in the world’ from its elevated status to its base materialism – and that this debased state should be celebrated as a tool for creativity. Formlessness was a concept first introduced by Bataille in 1929, when …

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FOUND OBJECT

A found object is a natural or man-made object, or fragment of an object, that is found (or sometimes bought) by an artist and kept because of some intrinsic interest the artist sees in it. Found objects (sometimes referred to by the French term for found object ‘objet trouvé’) may be put on a shelf …

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FRESCO

Fresco is a mural painting technique that involves painting with water-based paint directly onto wet plaster so that the paint becomes an integral part of the plaster. Developed in Italy from about the thirteenth century and fresco was perfected during the Renaissance. Two coats of plaster are applied to a wall and allowed to dry. …

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FROTTAGE

Frottage is a surrealist and ‘automatic’ method of creative production that involves creating a rubbing of a textured surface using a pencil or other drawing material. The technique was developed by Max Ernst in drawings made from 1925. Frottage is the French word for rubbing. Ernst was inspired by an ancient wooden floor where the …

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FUMAGE

Fumage is a technique in which an image is created by painting with smoke from a lighted candle into a ground of wet paint. The technique was invented by the Austrian surrealist artist Wolfgang Paalen in the late 1930s and results in a hazy cloudy image suggestive of dreams and apparitions. The Messenger, created in …

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FUTURISM

Futurism was an Italian art movement of the early twentieth century that aimed to capture in art the dynamism and energy of the modern world. Futurism was launched by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909. On 20 February he published his Manifesto of Futurism on the front page of the Paris newspaper Le …

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