Word of the Day!

faience (or faïence)

Glazed earthenware. Although the term originally referred only to the tin glazed earthenware made at Faenza, Italy, it is sometimes used to refer to a paste which produces a glaze-like surface when fired. Also, glazed earthenware used for architectural purposes. Although the term is sometimes used to mean pottery of all kinds, this breadth of meaning is widely considered incorrect. (pr. feye-ahns')


When found on a tube or other container of paint, indicates the standard degree of color permanence.

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a secco

The wet plaster applied during the fresco painting technique.

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A. P.

Abbreviation for artist's proof.

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When found on a tube or other container of paint, indicates the highest degree of color permanence.

See Also:  ABCcolor permanence

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In painting, blocking in-- the first sketching done on the canvas, and also the first underpainting. In sculpture, a mass of material that has been carved or manipulated into a rough form of the ultimate work. Italian for "sketch."

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See abrasive.

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A substance which wears down a surface by the friction of rubbing against it. Sandpaper, for instance, has an abrasive surface used to smooth rough surfaces. To wear down by rubbing is to abrade. As a technique of shaping solid forms, this is called abrasion.

See Also:  carborundumcarvingcorundumemeryfinishrottenstone

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absorbent ground

A ground or coating on a surface that can absorb the liquid from paint applied to it.

See Also:  gessovehicle

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Refers to the light absorbing behavior of some surfaces-- various characteristics determine the degree to which surfaces absorb certain colors. The light which is absorbed is converted to heat, while light not absorbed is either transmitted (by transparency or translucent surfaces) or reflected (by opaque surfaces). Not to be confused with adsorption.

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Art that does not imitate reality. Non representational, non-figurative art work.

Example: Jackson Pollock

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The first art academy was founded during the Italian Renaissance and based on Plato's Academy and Humanist philosophy. By the late 19th century, one hundred art academies were scattered through Europe.

Example: Royal Academy of Art

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A spiked, prickly leaf from the regions of the Mediterranean. The acanthus is often seen as a part of the decoration on the capital of a Corinthian column, one of the three main architectural orders.

Example: Façade of the Pantheon, Rome, Italy

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A substance which speeds up a chemical change. An accelerator is added to oil paints to speed drying (also called a "drier"), and to polyester resin to promote curing. Alum is added to plaster as an accelerator to quicken its setting.

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accidental color

Color obtained by mixing on a painting's surface without conscious preliminary planning during the process of painting.

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The common name for a type of strong, transparent or semi-transparent sheets of plastic, available in various thicknesses, and used in making covers for artwork, as the basis for photographic film, in color separation, in retouching, as cells in animated filmmaking; as a material for printing plates, and as an ingredient in some plastics, textile fibers, and lacquers. It should not be expected to be a permanent material.

See Also:  acetate colorcellocut

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acetate color

Opaque, waterproof paint which doesn't crawl or peel when used on acetate, glass, foil, or other extremely smooth surface. Acetate ink is an ink which can be applied either with a pen or a brush, and adheres to extremely smooth surfaces.

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acetic acid

In graphics, a liquid used to clean a plate just before the mordant is applied.

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A volatile solvent, commonly used with lacquers and in paint-removers; also known as dimethyl ketone and 2-propanone. It is soluble in water and alcohol. It is non-photochemically reactive. One of its uses is to clean up epoxy resins, polyester resins, contact cement, fiberglass, along with many inks and adhesives. Acetone is often used in the cleaning and restoration of old paintings. Because of its toxic and highly flammable qualities, carefully read cautioning labels on containers. (pr. ass"e-tone')

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A colorless gas burned in combination with oxygen for oxyacetylene welding. Explosive, especially if used in welding with gauge pressures over 15 psig (30 psig absolute). It has a garlic-like odor. Tank sizes available are 10, 40, 75, 100, and 300 cubic feet. (pr. uh-se"te-leen')

See Also:  weldingcarbon dioxidehelium

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Color having no chroma-- black, white and grays made by mixing black and white. All other colors employ chromatic pigments. (pr. ay'crow-ma"tick)

See Also:  grisaille

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acid bath

In etching, the mordant-- either an acid or a diluted acid-- in which a printing plate to be etched is placed.

See Also:  acetic acid

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acid dye

A very large class of dyes containing acidic groups, such as the sodium salts of sulfonic acids or phenolic groups. Acid dyes are used in dyeing leather, paper and natural fibers. Their particular value lies in an ability to produce bright, uniform colors.

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acid free

Said of papers with a 7 pH, or very close to 7 pH. Below 6.5 pH or above 8.5 pH is not considered acid-free. Acid-free material are more permanent, less likely to discolor, or to corrupt materials they are placed with over time. Works on paper, and the mats, mounts, etc. with which they are framed, are best acid-free.

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acrylic flow improver

A medium used with acrylic paints designed to improve their flow without diminishing the strength of its color.

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acrylic paint

Synthetic paints, with pigments dispersed in a synthetic vehicle made from polymerized acrylic acid esters, the most important of which is polymethyl methacrylate. First used by artists in the late 1940s, their use has come to rival that of oil paints because of their versatility. They can be used on nearly any surface, in transparent washes or heavy impasto, with matte or glossy finishes. Acrylic paints dry quickly, do not yellow, are easily removed with mineral spirits or turpentine (use acetone if those don't remove enough), and can clean up with soap and water.

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acrylic plastics

A range of rigid, lightweight plastics, used commonly in the form of sheets or rods, as well as in their liquid state for casting or coating. Acrylics may be made transparent, translucent, or opaque, and are available in a range of colors. (pr. uh-cri'licks)

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action painting

The style of painting, also called Abstract Expressionism, which developed in the 1940's in New York. Artists splashed, dripped, and drizzled pigment onto the canvases. The term action refers to the activated, gestural brushstrokes evident in a painting's surface.

Example: Painter Jackson Pollock's Full Fathom Five, 1947

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Stick securely.

See Also:  adhesives

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The act or state of adhering.

See Also:  adhesivesabsorption

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Substances, like glue, paste or cement, which cause adhesion, or stickiness. Apply them to clean, dry surfaces. Drying times can usually be reduced by increasing the temperature. 70° F or higher is generally preferred. Use caution with catalysts and solvents, because most are toxic or hazardous. Softwoods require more clamping time than hardwoods. Because they are so absorbent, endgrain surfaces should receive two applicationsthe second only after the first is dry. Clamp joints together whenever possible for increased strength. Applying too much adhesive can weaken a joint in some cases. Follow the directions on the package. Various types include mucilage, rubber cement, hot-glue, epoxy, cyanoacrylic and silicone. Factors determining choice are likely to be: the surfaces to be adhered (porous or nonporous), and needs for strength, toxicity, water resistance, flexibility, temperature range, setting time, and expense.

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A tool used in wood carving to rough out a form. It is similar to an ax, but the blade is set horizontally in the handle, sloping downwards. It is used for much the same purpose as a wood chisel and often for work of such detail, especially by African carvers.

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Rust, especially of copper and brass

See Also:  patinaaes ustum

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aes ustum

The patina on bronze, formed by oxidisation, and thus an indication of antiquity

See Also:  patinaaerugo

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The study of the principles of beauty, as set up by a system of visual, moral, or cultural criteria. These criteria are then used to judge the quality of pieces of art.

Example: John Ruskin, a British art critic of the late 19th century proposed as series of moral imperatives to improve the work of the artists of the Arts and Crafts movement and the Pre-Raphaelites.

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agate burnisher

natural stone with colored bands of purple or brown, shaped and polished for use as a burnishing tool, particularly in gilding.

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Clay patterns and structures formed by laminating, mixing or inlaying different colored clays, to give an effect like agate stone

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To cause adhesion, as with glue. To join together into a group or mass. Any glue or adhesive, especially a binder used in aqueous paints, pastel, and drawing inks, can be considered an agglutinant.

See Also:  gouachetemperawatercolor

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Inert granular material such as sand or gravel which is mixed with cement to make concrete, or with a binder to make some other solid compound. Sand is the most common aggregate. An aggregate might be added to a mixture to add strength, hardness, softness, color, texture, or economy. For instance, to make plaster easier to carve, one can add an aggregate of vermiculite or perlite (both available at gardening stores.)

See Also:  filler

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A precision spray gun attached to an electric air compressor (or other means of air pressure), or the use of this device to spray paints, dyes or inks. A great variety of spraying effects can be achieved using an airbrush, typically for very smooth applications or gradations of color. The use of airbrush is strongly associated with commercial art, in which it is often used in illustrations, in photographic retouching, and other types of painting. Computer "paint" and photography programs usually have the ability to simulate this painting method.

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A white or yellowish white translucent stone, which is a type of gypsum found in England and Italy. Its softness makes it easy to carve, but also easily broken, soiled, and weathered. The "alabaster" of ancient Egypt and Rome is actually a much harder stone-- onyx-marble, which is a calcium carbonate, whereas ordinary gypsum is a calcium sulfate.

Example: Sculptor Anish Kapoor's rough forms often are made of alabaster.

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Albany slip

A slip clay that can produce a very dark brown glaze. Albany slip is mined near Albany, New York. Similar clays from other localities were used by early American potters in making stoneware.

See Also:  ceramicspottery

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albumen print

A paper for making photographic prints, on which egg whites (albumen) coated the paper in order to increase its sensitivity, adding to the brightness of whites in the picture. This process was invented in the mid-19th century by Blanquart-Evrard. Albumen prints were the state of the art in photography from 1855 to 1895, when gelatin provided a more stable effect.

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A colorless, volatile, flammable liquid, synthesized or obtained by fermentation of sugars and starches and widely used, either pure or denatured, as a solvent and in numerous manufactures as well as in intoxicating beverages. Types include absolute alcohol, ethanol, ethyl alcohol (solvent for shellac and some other resins), grain alcohol, denatured alcohol (inexpensive, because not taxed, and readily available, this is the type artists use most.) Denatured alcohol is ethyl alcohol to which a poisonous substance, such as acetone or methanol, has been added to make it unfit for consumption. Also an alcohol, although from other compounds, is methanol (also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol), whose liquid and vapors are highly toxic.

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A synthetic coal-tar dye used in the manufacture of pigments.

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A material with a pH greater than 7.

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alkyd resins

Synthetic resins used in better-quality industrial house paints, enamels, and varnishes for over sixty years. In artists' materials, they have proven promising particularly as ingredients in oil paints.

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alla prima

A method of oil painting in which the picture is completed with the first application of paints to the entire area, instead of being built up by layering. Italian for "the first time." (pr. ah-lah-pree'mah)

See Also:  abbozzo

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A piece of art that represents another idea or meaning other than its literal design. The message of the work is conveyed by the figures or objects, the composition, and the style of the depiction. Roman and Greek myths are often referred to in allegorical works of the Renaissance.

Example: Painter Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus, 1482.

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A metal produced by combining two or more metals-- mixed together at the molecular level, in their molten state. Examples of alloys: brass, britannia, bronze, electrum, nichrome, niello, pewter and steel.

See Also:  aluminum

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A piece of art which stands behind, or is set above an altar of a Christian church. Most are painted, often on panels hinged together. In multi-paneled altarpieces the long horizontal and vertical panels under the central image are called predellas.

Example: Painter Hugo van Der Goes' Portinari Altarpiece, c. 1476

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altered proportion

A technique used by an artist to change the size relationship of shapes in an artwork.

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A silvery-white, ductile metal, having good conductive and thermal properties, and used to form many hard, light, alloys which are corrosion-resistant due to a protective oxide that forms on its surface. Aluminum melts at 1220°F (660.2°C) and can be cast and welded. It is available in a wide variety of colors, is often used in paints, foil, jewelry, and welding and is used when lightness combined with strength is desired. Aluminum is derived from bauxite. Although bauxite is the most abundant metal in the earth's crust, the processes necessary to creating aluminum were not developed until 1825, and aluminum not used extensively until the 20th century. Atomic symbol Al; atomic number 13; atomic weight 26.98; specific gravity 2.69; valence 3. This metal, known as aluminum in the United States, is known as aluminium in most other countries.

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amyl acetate

Derived from alcohol, and used as a solvent for some synthetic resins.

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A sculpture or decoration in relief, such as a cameo.

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analogous colors

Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel and are closely related. For example, blue, blue-green, and green all have the color blue in common. Families of analogous colors include the warm colors (red, orange and yellow) and the cool colors (green, blue and violet). Analogous colors are sometimes referred to as adjacent colors. (pr. a-na"lah-gus')

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without water.

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aniline dye

A class of synthetic organic dyes originally obtained from aniline (coal tars), which were the first synthetic dyes. Today the term is used with reference to any synthetic organic dye and pigment, regardless of source, in contrast to animal or vegetable coloring products, natural earth pigments and synthetic inorganic pigments. Aniline dyes are classified according to their degree of bright­ness or lightfastness. Basic dyes are known for their extreme brightness as well as their lack of colorfastness.

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Giving motion to a thing. Also, making animated cartoons-- films that are also called animations. Types of animation include cell animation, clay animation (also called claymation), and computer animation.

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To heat and then cool metal or glass to remove internal stresses and make it easier to work when cool. This heating and slow cooling can strengthen, harden, and reduce brittleness. Mild steel and brass are allowed to cool slowly, while other metals, such as copper, may be quenched in water. Aluminum and glass are annealed by different processes.

See Also:  malleable

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The announcement by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary of her role in carrying the baby Jesus. This theme was popular in the first half of the 15th century, and was often set in Gothic style architecture.

Example: Painter Fra Angelico's Annunciation, c. 1440-1445

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To coat aluminum electrolytically with a protective or decorative oxide. This also greatly increases aluminum's ability to permanently hold paints and other coating materials.

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The attribution of human forms or qualities to inanimate objects, gods, or animals. This can be seen in the depictions of Christian and Hindu Gods, whose forms are human.

Example: Michelangelo's Creation of Adam panel, Sistine Chapel, Rome, 1508-1512

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A silvery white, brittle, yet soft metal, used primarily in alloys to improve the working qualities of other metals, britannia and pewter, for example. Antimony sulfide has been used as the cosmetic known as kohl in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.

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Using a glaze, often of burnt or raw umber over a work of art to create an appearance of age. Sometimes refers to the act of shopping for antiques.

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A heavy, steel-faced iron block on which to shape metal by hammering or forging-- wrought metal, or metal that is red-hot and malleable, then hammered into shape. Most anvils have both flat and curving surfaces

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An opening. In photography, the circular hole in the front of the camera lens which controls the amount of light allowed to pass on to the film. On all but very inexpensive cameras the size of the aperture is variable. The degree of variability is indicated by "f" numbers (f/stop). A great way to gain an understanding of apertures is to make and use a pinhole camera.

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applied arts

The arts concerned with making objects with functional purposes, but for which aesthetic concerns are significant. The applied arts may include architecture, interior design, the design of manufactured items, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, textiles, glass, furniture, graphics, clocks and watches, toys, leather, arms and armor, musical instruments, etc. Commercial art may be considered a branch of applied art. The applied arts are usually contrasted with the fine arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, fine printing, etc.), which are seen as serving no purpose other than providing an aesthetic experience. Most of the applied arts might also be described as design. The distinction between the applied and the fine arts did not emerge strongly until the time of the Industrial Revolution, and accompanied a growing secularization of art and the emergence of a need felt by some artists to replace dying spiritual values with purely aesthetic values, setting art apart from the rest of life. Nevertheless, some have emphasized the importance of craft and regard the distinction between the fine and the applied arts as false and undesirable. Even to those who see it as important to make this distinction, many objects make it very difficult because their purposes are so dominated by their aesthetic ones.

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A design made by stitching pieces of colored fabric onto a larger piece of cloth. Appliqué is used for wall hangings and as decoration on clothing, quilts and pillows. (pr. ap'ple-kay

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A semicircular or polygonal space with an arched or vaulted ceiling. Apses are commonly found in the eastern end of a Christian church or Roman Basilica's cross shaped plan.

Example: St. Mark's Church, Venice, Italy, begun 1063+C26

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aqua fortis

Latin for nitric acid. In etching, the mordant or solution used to etch the plates, diluted for use with one to five parts water.

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A monoprint made by painting with a water medium on a metal, glass, or plastic plate and pulling one print from that plate. Additional colors can be printed by aligning the paper to the plate design.

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The technique of drawing or painting with transparent watercolors, or a piece of work made this way. French for "watercolor."

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aquarelle brush

A particular style of watercolor brush, used flat for large areas and on the edge for fine lines.

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An intaglio, etching, and tonal printing process in which a porous ground allows acid to penetrate to form a network of small dots. Aquatints often resemble wash drawings. Any pure whites are stopped out entirely before etching begins, then the palest tints are bitten and stopped out, and so on as in etching. This process is repeated 20 to 30 times until the darkest tones (deepest recesses in the plate) are reached.

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aquatint mezzotint

In etching, a plate is first bitten in a solid aquatint, and then a design is worked on top of the aquatint with a scraper and burnisher, producing a result similar to a mezzotint.

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A man-made channel for water which is often formed as a bridge across a body of water. Aqueducts were an important development of the Roman Empire, and used a gradual flow of gravity to convey water across expansive distances. More elaborate aqueducts were multi-storied, vaulted works of structural art.

Example: Pont-du-Gard, Nimes, France, c. 16 B.C.

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Watery. Often used to designate pigmented media in which water is an ingredient in the vehicle, as in gouache, tempera, and watercolors. Such media are water-soluble.

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archaic art

Greek art from the sixth century B.C. Typical of this period are stone carved statues of male kouros, and female kore. The kore are known for their enigmatic Archaic Smile.

Example: Peplos Kore from the Acropolis, Athens, Greece, c. 530 B.C.

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architectural order

The system of categorizing Classical architecture invented by Vitruvius in the first century B.C. Three basic forms of columns comprise the heart of the system, and are called Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.

Example: The Acropolis, Athens, Greece, 447-438 B.C.

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The metal framework supporting the material of a sculpture. This skeleton is often made from steel and Cor-Ten.

Example: Sculptor Claes Oldenberg's Clothespin, 1976

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Armory Show

The influential exhibition of 1913 which was held in New York. The Armory Show marked the introduction of Modernist, Paris-based artists to Americans.

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In etching, a liquid that is used on plates as a soft ground, and on the backs of plates to protect them from the mordant. In lithography, asphaltum is used to chemically process the drawing. Also, an old color which was found to be destructive to paintings.

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assemblage sculpture

A three-dimensional composition made of various materials such as found objects, paper, wood, and cloth.

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The image of the Virgin Mary's soul and body being conveyed to Heaven, three days after her death. This image first appeared in the Gothic sculpture of the 13th century, and was popular in the Italian Renaissance.

Example: Titian's Assumption, c. 1518

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The studio or workshop of an artist or print-maker. Ateliers acted as schools for young artists, who were often apprenticed to live and work in the atelier of an influential painters and sculptors.

Example: Michelangelo worked in the atelier of Domenico Ghirlandaio

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A tool for drilling deeply into wood, an auger is a long metal shaft with a spiral drill and cutting blades at one end.

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autographic ink

In lithography, a type of greasy ink

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In graphic arts, the process by which the pen and greasy ink drawing is transferred from paper to stone. In lithography, reproduction of a print on autographic paper.

See Also:  autographic ink

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Describing a person or idea which is progressive or ahead of its time. Any trendsetter or vanguard artist can be said to be avant-garde.

Example: Robert Smithson's developments in Earth Art, in particular Spiral Jetty, 1970.

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