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Glossary

Academy or Academic art - Art created according to the prescriptions of the official academies of painting and sculpture which flourished in Europe from the 17th to the 19th centuries. French Academic art of the late 19th century was characterized by idealized mythological or historical subject matter, mixed, modulated colors, and a smooth, highly polished finish.

background - The surface or area against which objects are seen or represented.

Barbizon School - A group of French painters who, from about 1830 to 1870, lived in or near the town of Barbizon, at the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau in France. There they painted the animals, landscapes, and people of the region. The group was distinguished by painting outdoors rather than in studios, as had generally been the practice. The work of the Barbizon painters included a wider scope of subject matter, greater realism, and fresher color than that of the other French painters of the time, who followed the traditions of historical scenes and idealized style favored by the conservative French Academy. The Barbizon painters are considered by many as the precursors of Impressionism in their informality and insistence on naturalness rather than idealism.

color wheel - Conventional means of arranging the primary colors (blue, red, and yellow), their principal mixtures or secondary colors (orange, green, and violet), and other principal mixtures or hues, so as to demonstrate their sequential relationship. Colors that fall directly opposite one another in the color circle are called complementary colors.

complementary color - A primary color whose placement opposite the secondary color produced by the other two primaries on the color circle makes it seem brighter or stronger. For example, red strengthens green, blue strengthens orange, and yellow strengthens violet.

composition - The combination of elements in a painting or other work of art that provides order or structure to the scene.

cool color - A color that suggests sensations of coolness, such as blue or its associated hues, blue-green, and blue-violet. In painting, cool colors appear to recede from the picture plane and therefore suggest depth.

dandy - A man who affects extreme elegance in clothes and manners.

flâneur (Fr.) - This French word describes an idler or stroller.

focal point - The area in a pictorial composition to which the eye returns most naturally.

foreground - The part of a picture or view depicted as nearest to the viewer.

horizon line - In linear perspective, the line where sky and earth seem to meet. It is on this line that the vanishing point is located.

Japonisme (Fr.) - The widespread interest in all things Japanese - art, furnishings, costume, etc.  - in France after the opening of Japan to Western trade in 1854. The color harmonies, simple designs, asymmetrical compositions, and flat forms of Japanese wood block prints strongly influenced Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.

landscape - A landscape is a view or vista of natural scenery on land, or a representation, especially painting, of the outdoors.

linear perspective - Uses real or suggested lines converging on a vanishing point or points on the horizon line or at eye level, and linking receding planes as they converge. It provides a three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional surface.

middle ground - The part of a picture or view depicted as the middle to the viewer.

one-point perspective - Linear perspective in which the eye is drawn towards a single vanishing point in the center of the composition, usually on the horizon line. Synonym: centralized perspective.

optical mixtures - Pure primary colors used in small touches in close juxtaposition so that they seem to merge, producing secondary colors. This effect was used in Impressionist art.

outline - In drawing, an imaginary line which marks the boundary of an object or figure, without taking into consideration light, shade, internal modeling, or color.

overlap - To extend over and cover part of.

palette - 1. A portable tray (usually made of wood) on which an artist sets out his colors and also mixes them. 2. By extension, the choice of colors seen in his or her work.

perspective - The method of representing a three-dimensional object, or a particular volume of space, on a flat or nearly flat surface.

(en) plein air painting - 1. Painted out of doors. The practice may have been initiated by François Desportes in the early 18th century but was made a matter of doctrine by the Impressionists. 2. Sometimes incorrectly applied to landscapes painted in the studio which employ such a direct technique that they seem to have been done out of doors.

primary colors - Blue, yellow, and red. The colors from which all others are derived, and which cannot be resolved or decomposed into other colors.

provenance - The record of all known previous ownership and locations of a work of art.

The Salon - An official French exhibition of paintings was first held in 1667 under royal patronage in the Salon dÕApollon in the Louvre. From 1667 to 1737 the exhibit was held annually; from 1737 to the French Revolution it was held biannually. After the French Revolution (1789-99), the Salon took place once again annually. It continued to be officially administered until 1881, when the government withdrew. In that year a committee of ninety artists, elected by all who had exhibited in previous Salons, met to set up the SocŽtiŽ Nationale des Beaux-Arts. This organization held an annual exhibition of its own from 1880 onwards.

self-portrait - An artistic image of the artist, especially one showing the face.

still life - A painting of objects.

underpainting - In traditional oil painting, the process of painting the canvas in a neutral color as a first step in the development of tonal values and of the composition as a whole.

vanishing point - In perspective, the point towards which a set of lines, which are in reality parallel to each other, seem to converge.

warm color - A color which suggests sensations of warmness, such as red or yellow. Warm colors tend to project from the picture plane.

Resource for art terms: Lucie-Smith, Edward. The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms. London, 1984. Most of the definitions in the glossary are from this dictionary.

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