Art Terminology

TABLEAU

Tableau is used to describe a painting or photograph in which characters are arranged for picturesque or dramatic effect and appear absorbed and completely unaware of the existence of the viewer. The term was first used in the eighteenth century by French philosopher Denis Diderot to describe paintings with this type of composition. Tableau paintings …

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TACHISME

Term used to describe the non-geometric abstract art that developed in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s characterized by spontaneous brushwork, drips and scribble-like marks. Tachisme was the European equivalent to abstract expressionism in America. The name derives from the French word ‘tache’, meaning a stain or splash (e.g. of paint). The introduction of the …

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TEMPERA

The technique of painting with pigments bound in a water-soluble emulsion, such as water and egg yolk, or an oil-in-water emulsion such as oil and a whole egg. Some tempera paints are made with an artificial emulsion using gum or glue. Traditionally applied to a rigid support such as a wood panel, the paint dries …

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THE ANCIENTS

The Ancients were a group of artists who formed around the visionary artist and poet William Blake in the last years before his death in 1827. The Ancients was the name the group gave to themselves. The implication of the name was that as the Industrial Revolution burgeoned they were looking back to a better …

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THE BLACK AESTHETIC

The black aesthetic is a cultural ideology that developed in America alongside the civil rights movement in the 1960s and promoted black separatism in the arts. The theorist Larry Neal proclaimed in 1968, that the Black arts were the ‘aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept’, and argued that young writers and artists …

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THE BLK ART GROUP

Formed in Wolverhampton, England, in 1979, The Blk Art Group was an association of young black artists who, inspired by the black arts movement, raised questions about what black art was, its identity and what it could become in the future. Introduction to The Blk Art Group All of the members of the group were …

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THE CLIQUE

The Clique was an informal society formed in around 1837 by a group of friends while they were students at the Royal Academy Schools in London. The group had no specific aim other than to improve their work, although they favoured literary and historical subjects. Weekly meetings were held at which a subject was chosen …

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THE MANY FACES OF POSTMODERNISM

Anti-authoritarian by nature, postmodernism refused to recognise the authority of any single style or definition of what art should be. It collapsed the distinction between high culture and mass or popular culture, between art and everyday life. Because postmodernism broke the established rules about style, it introduced a new era of freedom and a sense …

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THE NEW VISION

The New Vision was a photography movement which developed in the 1920s directly related to the principles of the Bauhaus. Introduction to the New Vision Following the first mechanized conflict of the First World War, artists began to reclaim the mechanisms of image-making in the contemporary industrialised world. The 1920s and 1930s was an experiemental …

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THE PHOTO-SECESSION

Group of American photographers who believed that photography was a fine art. Founded by Alfred Stieglitz in New York in 1902, the name was invented by him as a way of affiliating the photographers with the modernist secession movements in Europe. The other members were Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen and Clarence H. …

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THE SEVEN AND FIVE SOCIETY

Formed in London in 1919 The Seven and Five Society was initially a traditional group and can be seen as a British manifestation of the return to order that followed the First World War. The group’s first exhibition was held in 1920. The exhibition catalogue explained that the society was not formed ‘to advertise a …

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THE UNCANNY

A concept in art associated with psychologist Sigmund Freud which describes a strange and anxious feeling sometimes created by familiar objects in unfamilar contexts. The term was first used by German psychiatrist Ernst Jentsch in his essay On the Psychology of the Uncanny, 1906. Jentsch describes the uncanny – in German ‘unheimlich’ (unhomely) – as …

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TIME-BASED MEDIA

Refers to art that is dependent on technology and has a durational dimension. Usually time-based media are video, slide, film, audio or computer based. Part of what it means to experience the art is to watch it unfold over time according to the temporal logic of the medium as it is played back. Early examples …

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TONE

The lightness or darkness of something – this could be a shade, or how dark or light a colour appears. In painting, tone refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a colour (see also chiaroscuro). One colour can have an almost infinite number of different tones. Tone can also mean the colour itself. For …

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TRANSAVANGUARDIA

Italian neo-expressionist group formed in the late 1970s. The Transavanguardia movement was part of the international phenemenon of a revival of expressionist painting in the late 1970s and 1980s. The term, which literally means ‘beyond the avant-garde’, was coined by the critic Achille Oliva in his texts for an exhibition he organised in 1979 in …

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TRIPTYCH

An artwork in three panels. The panels can be attached together or presented adjoining each other. Although traditionally applied to painting or relief-carved panels, the term has also been used refer to artworks in other media which are formed of three panels or screens, such as video.

TROMPE L’OEIL

French phrase meaning ‘deceives the eye’ used to describe paintings that create the illusion of a real object or scene.

TROPICÁLIA

Tropicália is used to describe the explosion of cultural creativity in Rio de Janerio and São Paulo in 1968 as Brazil’s military regime tightened its grip on power. Many of the artists, writers and musicians associated with tropicália came of age during the 1950s during a time of intense optimism when the cultural world had …

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