Glossary
Displaying 31 terms, sorted alphabetically, in ascending order.
Term Definition
A
abbozzo   An Italian word that in English means 'sketch'. In fine art, the term refers to the initial drawing or outline on the canvas or the first under-painting; in sculpture the Abbozzo is the material, such as a lump of clay or chunk of wood, that has the rough form of the final piece.
acanthus   A plant, indigenous to middle Europe, the leaf of which has served in all ages as an ornament, or for ornamentation. There are two varieties, one wild and thorny, and one with soft branches without spines. The acanthus appears for the first time in the arts in ancient Greece. It was chosen for decorative purposes because of the beauty of its leaves, as well as for its abundance on Greek soil. At first it was taken directly from nature. Greek sculpture rendered it with truthful expression, whether of the soft or the spiky variety, showing the character, texture, and model of the leaf. During the fifth century B.C. the acanthus ornament took an important place especially in architecture, and was the principal ornament of the Corinthian capital. From the conquest of Alexander in the East can be traced the transformation of the acanthus that is found in later Eastern art.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I Copyright � 1907 by Robert Appleton Company

accession   In museum terms, an accession is an object (or group of objects) added to the permanent collection, all at once and from a single source. So, a gift (or purchase) of 20 paintings might be called an accession. Generally, if a donor gave a museum two groups of art, even in the same year, they would be considered two different accessions.

The term accession can also be a verb, indicating the act of processing an accession. This includes things like researching the work, writing a catalog entry for it, and assigning a unique identifying code called an accession number.

The opposite process of accessioning is deaccessioning. Museums do not "sell" artworks, they "deaccession" them.

accession number   An accession number is a unique code used to identify items in a collection. Accession numbers are used in many fields, but in museums, they identify artworks and other objects in the permanent collection.

Accession numbering schemes differ from one museum to another, but they usually consist of several parts, which indicate what year the item was acquired, which gift it was part of, and what order it was processed in that gift. An accession number might look like this:

1972.11.23

This would indicate an item that was given to a museum in 1972, and was the 23rd item to be processed in the 11th acquisition of that year.

Accession numbers are often listed on the identification cards in museums, which allows you to see when they acquired each object.

achromatic   Without hue. Consisting only of shades from white to black, with no color.
allusion  

A textual or pictorial expression designed reference to something without mentioning it explicitly. The allusion often is designed to indirectly call something to mind. Examples: Thomas Stoppard's dramas with textual allusions to Shakespeare and pictorial allusions (described by Margaret Aston in "The King's Bedpost", 1994) by the anonymous painter of "Edward VI and the Pope" (16th century) to the print "Ahasuerus consulting the records" (1564, Philip Galle after Maarten van Heemskerck.

aquapasto   This is a combination of gum arabic and silica formed into a jelly-like substance to give an impasto look to watercolors. Not to be confused with Oleopasto.
arcade   A row of arches, supported by columns.
B
bisque   Clay that has been fired once, but is not intended to be glazed. Bisque is a shortening of the word 'biscuit'.
bistre   Bistre (from the French) is warm brown, transparent pigment made by bioling the soot that remains from a wood fire. The soot is wixed with water, filtered to remove insoluble sediments, and the colour is intensified by evaporating part of the water in the solution. Bistre was a popular medium in the 17th and 18th centuries, but was later replaced by sepia.
blind arcade   A series of arches along a wall. Decorative.
bodycolor  

An opaque watercolor paint. In bodycolor, concentrated watercolor pigments are mixed with fish gelatin or animal gelatin. The resulting opaque colors are called bodycolor, or distemper in England.

This is often confused with a similar technique in which lead white is added to watercolors to make them opaque. This is called gouache (pronounced "gwash"). The two terms are often mistakenly interchanged.

brayer   A roller used to apply ink to printing surfaces in printmaking.
C
camaïeu   A painting technique that employs two or three shades of the same color. The resulting monochrome effect is often meant to give the impression of an image carved in relief.
cinnabar   A shade of red which comes from mercuric sulphide. It is an historical pigment but was not found in ancient Egyptian or early Mesopotamian art. It was very familiar to the Romans, and was widely used in China from the third millennium B.C. onward.
D
dado   The lower part of an interior wall. They are usually decorated with arcading, and are below a dado rail moulding or cornice.
deaccession   In museum terms, the process of selling or otherwise removing a work from the permanent collection. The opposite process (that of bringing a new work into the collection is called an accession.
  doric order   The simplest of the three orders of columns, invented and primarily used by the Dorians.

The illustration is from De Forest's "A Short History of Art", 1881 (page 47).

E
echinus   In architecture, the convex element of a capital directly below the abacus.
engaged column   A column which is attached to the wall, so that only half of it projects from the wall. This type of column does provide mush structural support, and is purely decorative. It is derived primarily from Roman architecture.
L
linseed oil   Linseed oil is the most common medium for oil painting. It is a yellow oil derived from the seed of the flax plant, the same plant used to make the linen for canvas.
M
medium   The material used to create an artwork, such as paint, bronze, collage, or mixed media.
O
oleopasto   An alkyd resin-based substance, manufactured by Winsor & Newton. Excellent for adding body to oil or alkyd paints. Can also be used as an extender. It will reduce the drying times when used with oils.
opaque  

A substance is opaque if it allows no light to pass through, i.e., you cannot see through it at all. Most solid objects are opqaue.

As opposed to transparent (clear; all light passes through) or translucent (some light is allowed to pass through).

P
pleurant   From the French for "he or she who weeps". This term is used to describe the (usually unidentified) mourners who adorn early funeral monuments in France.
S
support   The surface upon which an artist applies paint or other media.
T
translucent   Allowing only some light to pass through. Objects on the other side of a translucent substance are somewhat obscured. An example of a translucent substance would be notebook paper, held up to light.

As opposed to transparent (completely clear) or opaque (admitting no light to pass through).;

transparent   A substance is transparent if it allows all light to pass through, or if it is completely clear. The glass used in most windows is an example of a transparent substance.

As opposed to translucent (allowing come light to pass through) and opaque (allowing no light to pass through).

U
ukiyoe   Ukiyoe is the word for Japanese colour prints by such masters as Kunisada. Hokusai, Hiroshige. They are important for their influence on style in France at the end of the 19th century,leading to Jugendstil and Art nouveau. There are paintings by these masters, but extremely rare.
V
Venice (Italy)  
W
whiting   Whiting is ground or dried chalk. It is made from calcium carbonate, derived from limestone or dolomite. Whiting can come in various grades of coarseness, and is used to clean printing plates, or in painting to prepare gesso.