Abstraction
A major trend in 20th-century painting and sculpture, abstract art may be completely non-representational or may represent subjects from the visible world in forms that make them unrecognizable.

All-over
A method of painting that covers the entire surface in a fairly uniform manner, with no traditional compositional structure or central focal point.

Appropriation
The use of borrowed images or objects in the creation of a new work. Many appropriation artworks are intended to critique society and challenge the notion of art ownership.

Autobiography
An account of a person’s life written or otherwise told by that person.

Collage
The technique of combining and pasting diverse elements (pieces of paper, photographs, newspaper clippings, rubbish, small objects) on a support to create works of art that play on the juxtaposition of formal motifs and the creation of connections between materials. Introduced by the Cubists, collage brought a new dimension to painting with the addition of non-art materials.

Complementary colours
Pairs of colour that are opposite each other on the colour wheel (e.g., blue-orange, green-red, yellow-violet). When the colours of a pair are juxtaposed, the impact of the contrast alters the way the eye perceives them.

Composition
The combination and organization of pictorial elements in a work of art: harmony of colours, general layout of lines, sense of movement, play of shadows, etc.

Contrast
In art, the opposition or juxtaposition of different forms, lines or colours that intensifies each element’s properties and produces a dynamic expressiveness. Colour contrasts can be between different colours or different shades of the same colour.

Drip painting
A technique in which the paint is dripped directly onto a canvas laid on the floor or other horizontal surface, often using a stick, hardened brush or punctured paint can. Drip painting is chiefly associated with Jackson Pollock and the American Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1950s.

Environment
A three-dimensional art form that emerged in the 1960s. Typically a space in which the viewer can move around, with the elements arranged by the artist so that the context conditions the way they are perceived.

Ex-voto
A painting or other object offered to a deity or saint to obtain or give thanks for a blessing. Votive paintings were very popular in New France.

Figuration
The depiction of recognizable subjects from the visible world. Figurative art imitates reality, although the representations may be imaginary or distorted.

Flat colour
A uniform, unbroken, unshaded area of colour.

Hard-edge
An abstract painting style of the 1950s characterized by sharply defined geometric shapes in intense colours.

Iconography
A set of figurative representations (images, symbols, themes, figures, colours) associated with a subject and the visual conventions that identify it.

Impasto
Paint laid on in heavy layers or brushstrokes, so that it stands out from the surface; the technique of applying paint in this way.

Landscape
Practiced since the dawn of art history and a genre in its own right since the Renaissance, landscape art traditionally depicts natural scenery. It may include figures, animals, objects or architectural elements and often prompts reflection on the place of humankind in nature

Layering
The process of applying multiple coats of paint or other material to obtain a certain thickness.

Narrative
The story or account of events told by a painting.

Miniature
A very small, finely detailed painting, often a portrait. Executed on card, ivory and various other surfaces, miniatures were highly popular into the 19th century. By extension, a small objet d’art.

Monochrome
Consisting of only one colour. But unity of colour does not exclude a range of shades. This is why paintings in monochrome or grisaille, despite being executed in a single colour, can offer a wealth of nuances.

Palette
A thin wooden, metal, ceramic or plastic tray, often with a thumb hole, once commonly used by painters to hold and mix colors. Now, by extension, the range of colours used by an artist.

Pentimento
Visible trace of an alteration or correction made during the creation of a painting. From the Italian, meaning “repentance” or “remorse.”

Perspective
The method of representing a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface by creating the illusion of depth and volume. Perspective is a basic element in the representational art of the Western world.

Pictorial illusion
An impression of reality and presence created in an artwork by the use of pictorial techniques such as trompe l’oeil. Another form of illusion is the sense of depth and three-dimensional space produced by modeling and perspective.

Pochade
A small, rapidly executed colour sketch of a scene or subject, often a rough landscape done outdoors. Unlike a sketch, a pochade can be considered a painting in its own right.

Portrait
A drawn, painted, sculpted, photographic or other representation of a person, especially of the face. Portraiture involves not only depicting the subject’s physical features but also conveying his or her temperament and character. Portraits generally have a commemorative, and sometimes promotional, value.

Preliminary sketch
Initial study for a project, often executed in quick strokes to capture the essence of the subject.

Push and Pull
A theory and practice of colour developed by the American painter Hans Hofmann, based on the observation that, when juxtaposed, some colours seem to make others either advance or recede. This push and pull between background and foreground creates a visual tension, giving the viewer a sense of depth and movement.

Quotation
In an artwork, direct reference to a work by another artist. Quotation is meant to be recognized and is frequently used by contemporary artists.

Screen printing
A printing technique that involves pressing ink through the open areas of a stencil supported by a screen of fine mesh. Also called silk screening or serigraphy.

Self-portrait
A depiction of an artist done by the artist. Self-portraiture has been a recognized genre since the Renaissance, when the concept of individuality arose as a central concern. Some self-portraits are reflexive images, likenesses that refer back to the artist exploring his or her own face.

Self-referential
In painting, a work is self-referential when it uses itself as its own theme; in other words, when the subject and content focus on the painting medium.

Site-specific
This term emerged in the 1960s to describe artworks created in such close relation to particular physical places that their character and meaning would be lost or changed if they were moved elsewhere. Site-specific works are often but not always ephemeral.

Style
In painting, the manner in which a work is executed; by extension, a manner particular to or characteristic of an artist, school or movement.

Tondo
A round or circular painting, so called from the Italian word rotondo (round) since the Renaissance.

Trompe l’oeil
An ancient pictorial technique which plays on the laws of perspective to create the illusion of reality. Used by painters to create three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface.

Visual language
In the same way that verbal language is based on a vocabulary, works of art are means of expression that reflect and communicate an artist’s thinking. Visual language is expressed through combinations of materials, forms, lines, colours, values, textures, motifs, volumes and other elements.
Julie Bélisle, Marie-Eve Beaupré

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