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Glossary of Art Terms: A

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Abstract Art

A major trend in modern art involving several art movements. Breaking away from traditional representation, abstract art aimed to present entirely new perspectives in how we view the world. There are many differing opinions as to how abstract art should be defined. Most agree that abstract art is a definite departure from formal representation of the subject.

It should be understood that abstract is not a matter of failing to provide accuracy, as some might think, but rather very purposefully altering the image for a specific result, centering on a subjects intrinsic qualities rather than its outward appearance.

Read our article on abstract art.


Abstract Expressionism

A modern art movement that began in New York City during the 1940s which was the first significant art movement that was distinctly American. Some artists involved in this movement were Willem de Kooning, Arshille Gorky, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock. The movement's main objective was to use art as a means to make powerful, exciting statements and the way these statements were made was a stark departure from the norm of the time.


abstract painting

A painting that is nonfigurative or nonrepresentational is commonly referred to as an abstract painting. However, more correctly, it refers to any work where the subject is abstracted in some way rather than being strictly realistic. Whereas the term Abstract Art refers primarily to the art movement itself or the impetus behind it, abstract painting is more specific of the object itself.See also abstract art.

Used as a verb, the term refers to the process or creation of abstract paintings, usually with either oil painting mediums or acrylic. Of course, even digitally-produced art might still be referred to as "abstract painting" if the image fits.


acrylic paint

In the visual fine arts, acrylics refer to a painting medium consisting of pigment suspended in a synthetic polymer emulsified into water. Acrylics are water-soluble and have very good adhesive qualities. Acrylic paints are used in a variety of painting techniques, with several painting mediums available to apply glazes, washes and even to allow impasto techniques. They dry rather quickly and are waterproof.

Acrylic paintings are typically recognizable as such, differing from oil paintings because of different handling qualities like drying time and viscosity.


aesthetics

Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy involving varying aspects of art theory and provides the governing criteria for making artistic judgment. One main issue aesthetics attempts to resolve is how to define beauty. Is beauty inherent in the object or is it subjective, defined by the observer? Careful consideration of aesthetics have always been an integral part the finest paintings in history. See also fine art.


alla prima

Alla prima (Italian meaning "the first time") is a term first applied to a method of oil painting in which the entire artwork is developed in one sitting. This is in contrast to the usual method where the painting begins with an underpainting and then progresses over several sittings, numerous layers and various glazes. The alla prima method is often associated with en plein air painters who aim to complete a work in just a few hours.


alabaster

A fine-grained, translucent variety of gypsum (calcium sulfate) used in sculpture. It may be pure white or streaked with reddish brown. Alabaster, like all other forms of gypsum, forms by the evaporation of bedded deposits that are precipitated mainly from evaporating seawater. It is soft enough to be scratched with a fingernail and hence it is easily broken, soiled, and weathered. Because of its softness, alabaster is often carved for statuary and other decorative purposes. It is quarried in England and in Italy.


artist's proof

Originally, an artist's proof was one of the first "pulls" from a series of limited edition prints. It was intended to be given to the artist by the printer for evaluation. The artist would approve the edition based on the consistency and quality of these proofs.Normally comprising only about 10% of the total number of the edition, the artist's proofs are more rare and since they are marked 'AP' rather than numbered, have come to be considered more valuable by collectors.


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