abstract (adj)
not recognizable; lacking pictorial representation or narrative content but using color, form, and texture for expressive or decorative purposes

Abstract Expressionism (n)
an art movement, also known as the New York School, characterized by monumental canvases and a bold new visual vocabulary and technique that emerged in New York after World War II; the first American style to have worldwide impact. Inspired by Surrealism's emphasis on the unconscious, Abstract Expressionist artists sought spontaneous personal expression through dynamic applications of paint. Innovative approaches included the dripped, poured, or splattered pigment of Jackson Pollock, the use of housepainters' brushes, and the application of stained color with sponges or soaked cloths.

Art Deco (n)
design movement from the mid-1920s through World War II (1939–45) characterized by geometric, streamlined shapes and the use of industrially produced materials, such as aluminum, enamel, glass, and metal. Most commonly seen in furniture design, decorative arts, and architecture, Art Deco was named after the International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, held in Paris in 1925.

Ashcan School (n)
a group of early 20th-century American painters, who presented the commonplace and unglamorous realities of city life in images of athletes, boxers, immigrants, prostitutes, and street urchins. The group was also called the Eight, a name derived from its one and only group exhibition in New York in 1908. Some members of the Eight, however, departed from urban realism to concentrate on Impressionist themes of the upper-middle class or to work in styles related to European movements.

avant-garde (adj)
unconventional or experimental; ahead of its time; often used to describe progressive art, literature, or music

Baroque (adj)
of or relating to the style of art and architecture prevalent in Europe during the 17th century and first half of the 18th century, characterized by extravagant theatrical forms of presentation including the dramatic manipulation of space, creation of vivid illusions, use of opulent color, and sharp contrasts of light and dark

bird’s-eye view (n)
a view from above, as though a bird were looking down while in flight

body art (n)
a type of art that uses the human body as its medium. Body art may be performed before the public or made in private and presented in photographs or films. In body art, the body often presents the ways in which humanity as a whole is oppressed or victimized.

collage (n)
derived from the French verb coller ("to glue"): a work of art made by sticking pieces of paper, newsprint, photographs, fabric, or other items onto a flat backing. Collages often include painted passages.

columnar (adj)
shaped like a column or other rigid, upright support

composition (n)
the arrangement of elements, such as colors, shapes, and space in a work of art

Cubism (n)/ Cubist (adj)
an early 20th-century art movement led by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and Georges Braque (1882–1963) that used abstract, fragmented shapes to depict several views of the same subject simultaneously, emphasizing the basic geometry or structure of the subject; of or relating to Cubism

Cultural Revolution (n)
mass campaign in China that was begun in the mid-1960s by Chinese Communist party chairman Mao Zedong to renew the spirit that brought Communism to power in the late 1940s. Allied with the army and recruited from the nation’s youth, revolutionary Red Guards attacked elements of culture that were viewed as Western, intellectual, or middle-class. The revolution resulted in widespread disorder, violence, and slow economic growth for the country and lasted until Mao’s death in 1976.

easel painting (n)
a small painting on canvas, often executed on an easel and usually intended to be framed and hung on a wall, although it may be displayed on an easel

Fauvism (n)
movement that flourished in France among a group of young artists, among them Henri Matisse, from 1898 to 1908. Fauvist art is characterized by pure, brilliant color, which is often applied straight from the paint tube in an aggressive, direct manner. Like the Impressionists, the Fauves painted from nature, but Fauvist works contained strong expressive feelings. First formally exhibited in Paris in 1905, Fauvist paintings shocked one critic, who perceived the works as violent and savage and dubbed their makers "Les Fauves" ("the wild beasts").

film noir (n)
French for "black film": a style of American cinema (often in black-and-white film but also black in mood) that developed during and after World War II. Related to the crime and gangster sagas of the 1930s, classic film noir emphasizes the brutal and dark sides of human nature. Story lines frequently feature a male character who encounters a beautiful, promiscuous woman who uses her sex appeal to manipulate him into committing murder. Film noir is marked by expressionistic lighting and disorienting visual scenes.

Flanders (n)
medieval country along the coast of what is now Belgium and adjacent parts of France and the Netherlands

French Baroque clown (n)
a clown modeled on the character of Pierrot (or Pedrolino), the French clown with a bald head, flour-whitened face, and white costume who appeared during the latter part of the 17th century. First created as a butt for Harlequin, the acrobatic trickster, Pierrot was gradually softened and sentimentalized. Pantomime Jean-Baptiste-Gaspard Deburau took on the character in the early 19th century and created the famous lovesick, melancholy clown who has since remained part of clown history.

Freud, Sigmund (1856–1939)
Austrian neurologist who founded psychoanalysis, the structure of theories about the relation between conscious and unconscious psychological processes

German Expressionist (adj)
relating to the movement in German art from about 1905 until about 1930 that favored distortion and exaggeration of shape and color to express emotion. Expressionist tendencies were first seen in the work of Vincent van Gogh and Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944). German Expressionists sometimes paired harsh colors and strong lines with socially significant subjects. Others, such as the Russian artist Vasily Kandinksy, who immigrated to Germany, emphasized elements of spirituality, using color to move viewers beyond the physical world to a state of emotion.

gestural (adj)
of or relating to the movement of the body to express an idea, sentiment, or attitude; in the application of paint, the use of sweeping, expansive movements in which the gestures of the artist's hand are evident. Abstract Expressionist painting, with its expressive brushwork, is often described as gestural.

Gothic Revival (n)
term used to describe the early 19th-century movement in architecture and the decorative arts inspired by the Gothic style, which flourished from the 12th to 15th century and is characterized by an aesthetic emphasizing verticality and height and features such as the pointed arch and flying buttress. The 19th-century Gothic Revival was felt most strongly in the design of churches, government buildings, and university campuses.

graffiti (n, pl)
unauthorized inscriptions or drawings made on public surfaces, such as buildings, fences, sidewalks, etc.

Happenings (n, pl)
a form of art, often carefully planned but usually including some degree of spontaneity, in which an artist performs or directs an event combining elements of theater and the visual arts. The term was coined by the artist Allan Kaprow (b. 1927) in 1959.

Impressionist (adj)
relating to the progressive art movement that originated in France in the late 19th century. Impressionist painters wanted to capture the rapidly changing modern world and the fleeting nature of outdoor light. Impressionism relied on optical blending to depict the fluctuations of sunlight and consisted largely of views of everyday middle-class life in the cities and countryside of France.

improvisation (n)
an act performed or composed spontaneously, without previous preparation or rehearsal

medieval (adj)
of (or in the style of) the Middle Ages, the time in European history between classical antiquity and the Renaissance (from about A.D. 500 to around 1500); see also Gothic Revival

Mexican Revolution (n)
the struggle between factions in Mexico from 1910 to 1920 that resulted in the establishment of a constitutional republic, ending a 30-year dictatorship. The revolution was prompted by widespread dissatisfaction with the policies of President Porfirio Díaz that favored wealthy landowners and industrialists. The bogus democratic election that Díaz staged in 1910 incited the revolt.

Modernism (n)
umbrella term originating in the 20th century referring to a self-conscious break with the past and a search for new forms; in the visual arts, a period when many avant-garde styles began to dominate Western art. Modernism began developing in the late 19th century, when artists rejected the notion that art objects had to be representational, embracing instead the idea that works of art can stand alone as formal constructions of color, line, and form.

monochromatic (adj)
having one color or hue; monochromatic works of art are limited to a palette of light and dark shades of one single color

naturalistic (adj)
of, characterized by, or resembling nature or real life

Neo-Expressionist (adj.)
of or relating to the artistic style of the 1980s that revived the use of jarring colors and gestural brushstrokes to infuse paintings with energy and emotional intensity. The movement included both abstract and representational art and borrowed its techniques from earlier movements such as German Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism.

Northern Renaissance (n)
referring to art produced in Northern Europe (particularly Flanders, the Netherlands, and Germany) during the Renaissance

palette (n)
the range of colors used by a particular artist or in a particular work

parody (n; v)
a feeble or ridiculous imitation of a well-known piece of art, literature, or music; to imitate for the purposes of ridicule or satire

pastoral (adj)
of or relating to life in the country; rural; rustic

performance art (n)
a form of art, often carefully planned but usually including spontaneity, in which an artist performs or directs an event combining elements of theater and the visual arts. Performance art has its roots in the Happenings of the 1960s but is more theatrical and usually more scripted. While at times amusing, performance art can be intense and disturbing because it challenges conventional ethics.

personify (n)
to be an embodiment of; to represent as a person having human qualities

polygon (n)
in geometry, a union of segments connected end to end. The segments are called sides. Two sides meet at a vertex (pl., vertices). The number of sides of a polygon is equal to the number of vertices.

propaganda (n)
information or ideas methodically spread to promote or injure a cause, individual, group, or nation

Post-Impressionist (adj)
of or relating to the French artistic movement that followed Impressionism. The artists involved, including Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vincent van Gogh, pushed beyond the Impressionist emphasis on the appearance of nature, stressing instead qualities such as emotional expression and the formal structure of underlying objects. The Post-Impressionists introduced a variety of bold new styles, including innovative uses of color and brushwork that sometimes bordered on abstraction.

Renaissance (n)
from the French word renaissance ("rebirth"): in 15th- and 16th-century Europe, a revival of art, architecture, learning, and literature that emphasized and often imitated Classical examples from ancient Greece and Rome. Although the Renaissance was centered in Italy, various aspects of it also appeared in Northern Europe (particularly Flanders, the Netherlands, and Germany), especially during the 16th century.

representational (adj)
representing the appearance of an object or figure in the real world

Surrealism (n)
a movement introduced by a group of writers and artists led by French poet André Breton (1896–1966) in Paris in 1924. Surrealists embraced the act of spontaneous creation. To unleash their creativity, some used Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, probing the world of dreams, fantasies, and the subconscious in their art. Many Surrealists produced fantastic, meticulously rendered objects, while others combined ordinary objects in strange and startling ways. Some strayed from realism to work in abstract Surrealist styles that incorporated whimsical, organic forms.

Symbolist (adj)
of or relating to a literary and artistic movement that originated with a group of French poets in the late 19th century. Symbolism spread to painting and the theater in France and elsewhere. Symbolist artists sought to express individual emotional experience through fantastic and dreamlike images.

style (n)
a distinctive manner of expression (as in writing, speech, or art)

stylized (adj)
conforming to an artificial or abstract design rather than replicating nature

theosophy (n)
philosophical or religious teaching based on a mystical insight into the nature of God and the world through direct knowledge, philosophical speculation, or a physical process, such as painting. Theosophy influenced numerous late 19th- and early 20th-century artists. The Theosophical Society, with which theosophy is now generally identified, was founded in New York in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.

totalitarian (adj)
of or relating to a political regime in which the individual is subordinated to the state and all aspects of life are controlled by coercive measures such as censorship and terrorism

transcendental (adj)
beyond ordinary or common experience, thought, or belief; supernatural

video art (n)
art made using video technology, either as a program on tape or as an installation, sometimes with multiple monitors and other media. Video art emerged in the 1960s; today it often incorporates viewer interaction with technology.