Art Terms Beginning with A

  • By Jacqui Thomas

Art Terms Beginning with A


Aboriginal Art

Art created by the indigenous people of Australia, often related to religious ceremonies, ritual and stories.

Abject Art

Art that explores themes that violate and threaten our sense of decorum and cleanliness particularly in reference to bodies and bodily functions

Abstract Art

Art that is not representational or based on reality, but rather explores relationships of feelings, colours and form.

Abstract Expressionism

An art movement founded by American artists in the mid 20th century. Also called action painting. 


The process of creating art that is not representational or based on external reality.


Related to the conservative style of art promoted by an official academy.

Academic Art / Academicism

A style of art produced under the influence of the European Art academies.


Artist-run organisations aiming to improve the professional standing of artists and provide teaching. Established in the Renaissance and flourished throughout the 17th century.

Action painting

A term devised in the mid 20th century to describe art painted with gestures using non-traditional parts of the body such as arms and legs rather than hands and wrists. The art shows visible signs of the movements used to produce the art.

Acrylic Paint

A fast drying water-based paint used since the 1960s. The thickness and texture of the paint can be adjusted by adding water to achieve different effects.


Relating to beauty or good taste or the appreciation of visual beauty. Also refers to a set of principles behind the work of a particular artist of art movement.


The study of beautiful things. The study or understanding of anything that is visually pleasing or works within the boundaries of the principles of art.

Aesthetic Movement

A late 19th century art movement that espoused art for art sake and concerned itself with sensual qualities and pure beauty.


A tool used by artists to spray paint using compressed air.


A painting technique that uses an airbrush to give an even and consistent surface, often used to create a high level of realism.


A soft white or translucent stone, a variety of gypsum with a fine grain.

Albumen Print

A type of photographic print made from paper coated with egg white (albumen) that was invented in 1850 and used in the late 19th century.


Art or elements of an artwork that symbolise a deep moral, spiritual or political meaning.

Allover painting

A canvas covered in paint from edge to edge and corner to corner, where all areas have been treated with equal attention and significance.


A relatively soft, durable, lightweight, non magnetic and malleable metal that is found in the Earth’s crust. It can appear anywhere from a dull grey to silver.


An object, shape or line with sharp corners or angles.

Analogous colours

Colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel, such as blue and green.


A term conceived in the early 21st century to describe art made as a reaction against standardisation and commercialism in the context of globalisation.

Analytical Cubism

The early phase of cubism, around 1910 defined by the fragmented appearance of multiple viewpoints and overlapping planes.

Angry Penguins

A modernist movement that sought to shake up the entrenched cultural establishment of Australia in the 1940s.


The rapid display of a sequence of static images that creates the illusion of movement.


Describes the minimalist sculpture works of a group of artists in the United States in the late 1960s who embraced chance and other organic processes.

Applied art

A functional object to which the principles of art are applied, such as furniture, pottery and architecture.


The intentional borrowing, copying, and using pre existing images or objects with minimal change to the original.


A printmaking technique that produces tonal effects by using acid to eat into the printing plate creating sunken areas which hold the ink.


A store of documents or artefacts of a purely documentary nature.

Archival quality

A material or medium designed or treated to last. Often refers to papers that are not made from wood such as cotton rag and fade resistant inks or pigments.


The science, art, or profession of designing and constructing buildings, bridges, and other large structures; The structure of an artwork.


A structural support on which a sculpture or other structure is built.


A person with a trade skill that involves making things by hand.

Art autre

A form of abstract art from the mid 20th century defined by improvisation and gestural technique. Also know as art informel, art autre translates as ‘art of another kind’.

Art Brut

A term describing art like graffiti or naïve art that does not belong to the academic tradition of fine art. Translates as ‘raw art’.

Art Deco

A design style from the 1920s and 1930s that encompassed furniture, decorative arts and architecture defined by geometric characteristics.

Art Informel

A French term describing a myriad approaches to abstract painting in the mid 20th century defined by improvisation and gestural technique.

Art Nouveau

A decorative style that is recognised by sinuous, asymmetric lines based on organic shapes. An international style that flourished mainly in Europe and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 


Deception or trickery.  


A practising artist who also curates shows or runs not-for-profit spaces from which they exhibit their art and the art of other artists.

Arts and Crafts

A movement started by William Morris in the 1860s to improve the quality of design and make it available to a wider audience. It embraces the experience of the individual craftsperson and the qualities of materials and construction.


A three-dimensional composition made from traditionally non-artistic materials and objects that are often scavenged or salvaged by the artist.


A French word that translates as studio or workshop, often used to describe a group of artists, designers or architects working collectively.


A quality integral to an artwork that cannot be communicated through mechanical reproduction techniques.


A term used to describe the qualities of an original work of art as opposed to a reproduction.


The process of writing or creating art without conscious thought. 


A French term meaning ‘advanced guard,’ used in English to describe a group that is inventive, innovative, or experimental experimental in technique, subject matter or ideology.



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