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5 art terms you probably didn’t know. Yet.


feralhorses - 10th June 2019 - 0 comments

If you are new to the art world or not so much of a polyglot there are probably words and concepts you haven’t heard about. Yet. Have a look at this article to fancy up a little bit your art’s vocabulary and impress your friends at your next art gallery party.

What does “Biennial” mean?

Biennial is an important word to know in the art environment since there are some quite important events that happen once every two years. There you go — biennial means something that is occurring every other year and the word is easily deciphered once you know that in Latin bi means “twice each” or “every two” and annus means “year”.

Japan’s pavillion at La Biennale di Venezia in 2015

What does “Chiaroscuro” mean?

Chiaroscuro sound like a foreign fancy word, but it actually has a very simple and important meaning. Taken straight from the dictionary it is “the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting”. In general, it examines the contrast between the lighest and darkest colours in a painting or a photo and their influences.

Photo by César Cardoso on Unsplash

What does “Gestural” mean?

A painting can be gestural when you can trace the artist’s movements on the canvas. There you can see how the artist’s hand moved across the painting and the direction of his strokes. You can recognize gestures in Pollock’s, Basquiat’s and even Van Gogh’s work.

Pollock’s Alchemy, 1947

What does “Chroma” mean?

Apart from representing the word colour in Greek, chroma shows how intese are the colours in a painting relating to the brightness of a certain area. It should not be confused with colourfulness and saturation. According to Mark Fairchild’s book “Colour Appearance Models” colourfulness is “attribute of a visual perception according to which the perceived color of an area appears to be more or less chromatic”, saturation is explained as “colorfulness of an area judged in proportion to its brightness” and chroma is “colorfulness of an area judged as a proportion of the brightness of a similarly illuminated area that appears white or highly transmitting”. So keep your colour-intensity-explanation vocabulary straight!

Photo by Sérgio Rola on Unsplash

What does “Subdued” mean?

Subdued is a nice word you can use when describing the colours of a painting and the emotions they imply. It is a soft, subtle or muted expression of a colour that can be related to depression or melancholy.

Monadnock, Winter Sunrise by Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1919

Written by Elitsa Yordanova

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