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Abstract art  

Anna Moszynska

Term applied in its strictest sense to forms of 20th-century Western art that reject representation and have no starting- or finishing-point in nature. As distinct from processes of abstraction from nature or from objects (a recurring tendency across many cultures and periods that can be traced as far back as Palaeolithic cave painting), abstract art as a conscious aesthetic based on assumptions of self-sufficiency is a wholly modern phenomenon (see Abstraction).

In the late 19th century, and particularly in Symbolist art and literature, attention was refocused from the object to the emotions aroused in the observer in such a way that suggestion and evocation took priority over direct description and explicit analogy. In France especially this tradition contributed to the increased interest in the formal values of paintings, independent of their descriptive function, that prepared the way for abstraction. In his article ‘Définition du néo-traditionnisme’, published in L’Art et critique...


Academy figure  

Term applied to a drawn or painted representation of the human figure, most commonly made as part of the instruction in an academy or art school. Although the practice of making drawings from nude models had developed during the Renaissance and was commended by such theorists as Alberti, it was only with the foundation of academies of painting in the 17th century that such drawing became formalized as part of a rigorous programme of training. Indeed, by the mid-18th century, the word ‘académie’ was defined in Diderot’s Encyclopédie as ‘a public school where painters go to draw or paint, and sculptors to model, after a nude man called the model’. In France one of the principal means by which the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture asserted its predominance was by maintaining a monopoly on life classes. After the student had mastered the difficulties of copying engravings and plaster casts, he was set to draw from the nude figure under the supervision of the professor. The model was almost invariably male because female models were forbidden at the Académie Royale, and elsewhere they were extremely expensive to hire. Classes lasted two hours, and the pose was usually changed twice a week. The student began by drawing with red chalk on white paper and later progressed to black chalk on tinted papers, applying white chalk for highlights. Such drawing was an exercise in shading, hatching, graining and stumping, and increasingly the results became so homogeneous in style that unsigned examples are almost impossible to attribute. Painted academy figures (...



Bruce Tattersall and Eva Wilson

Ornamental motif based on the leaves of the acanthus plant, an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean area. Two species have been proposed as likely models for different forms of decorative leaf motifs: Acanthus mollis, with broad, blunt tips to the leaves, and Acanthus spinosus, with comparatively narrow leaves and pointed lobes terminating in spines. Acanthus leaves added to a lotus and palmette border gave rise to a motif known as Anthemion. The acanthus was described by Alois Riegl as a variant of the palmette motif (for discussion and illustration see Palmette). The acanthus leaf’s spiky form and scrolling growth made it highly suitable for both ornamental and architectonic use, although, after its initial introduction in Greek art and architecture, the motif rarely corresponded closely to a particular species of plant; throughout its long history the leaf ornaments known as acanthus were imaginary designs adapted variously with no reference to any living plant. In various forms, it was one of the most widely used types of foliage motif from antiquity until the late 19th century....



Michael Forsyth

Sound can be defined as audible vibrations within a relatively steady medium, and in buildings sound may be air-borne or structure-borne. The science of architectural acoustics is divisible into noise control and room acoustics. The following article is mainly concerned with the latter and the ‘desired’ sound generated within a space, because its design has had a significant impact on architectural form; it concentrates on examples of Western architecture.

For an extended discussion of acoustics see Grove 6.

Different acoustical conditions are preferable for listening to the spoken word as compared with different types of music. The shape, size and construction of halls and theatres—and to some extent other building types, including churches—developed historically in response to acoustical requirements. Room-acoustic design, however, is a relatively recent subject of study. Until the 20th century this relationship between acoustical requirements and the building form resulted from trial and error, involving the architect’s intuition and awareness of precedent rather than scientific knowledge. Acoustically inadequate halls were usually demolished within about 50 years, so that most surviving older halls are probably among the best that were built....



Gordon Campbell

[Gr.: ‘high stone’]

Ancient Greek statue with a wooden body and the head and limbs made of stone (usually marble, sometimes limestone). This technique seems to have come into use in Greece at the end of the 6th century bc or the beginning of the 5th, and was predominantly, but not exclusively, employed for cult statues. The wooden bodies of acrolithic statues were covered in sheets of precious metal or draped with textiles regularly renewed in cult ceremonies. In ancient Greece the term acrolith (usually agalma akrolithos or xoanon akrolithos) was used relatively rarely, and is first attested in temple inventories of the 2nd century bc; Vitruvius uses it in Latin as a synonym for colossal statues. It was then reintroduced as a technical term by 18th-century antiquarians.

While the wooden bodies of ancient acroliths are not preserved, their stone extremities have occasionally survived and can be identified through specific characteristics of their technical manufacture (acrolithic heads, for example, have flat undersides, whereas heads fashioned for insertion into stone bodies were made with convex tenons). In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, the extent of stone elements can increase, so that for example the head and naked parts of the chest are made of one marble segment. The appearance of acroliths could be similar to chryselephantine (gold-ivory) statues, to which they may have offered a more cost-effective alternative, although it seems that other considerations, such as their role within the cult ritual, may have been of greater significance. Examples of surviving stone fragments from acroliths are a colossal head in the Ludovisi collection in Rome and an ...



A. Delivorrias

Decorative finial crowning the apex and lower angles of the pediments of ancient Greek and Roman buildings. Acroteria were normally made of terracotta, poros, limestone or marble, although bronze acroteria are mentioned in the literary sources: Pausanias (Guide to Greece V.x.4) noted gilded Victories framed by bronze cauldrons at the lower angles of the pediments of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. The bronze Victories framing Bellerophon and the Chimaera on the Temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis at Athens are recorded in inscriptions, and traces of their bases survive.

The stylistic development of acroteria begins in the 7th century bc. The earliest surviving examples are the frequently enormous terracotta discs that crowned Lakonian-tiled roofs, such as that from the Temple of Hera at Olympia (Archaeol. Mus.; c. 600 bc). This type continued in the 6th century bc, and it was also sculpted in marble with relief decoration—rosettes, gorgoneia and gorgons—mainly in regions under Lakonian influence. Terracotta acroteria became highly decorative in the course of the 6th century, thanks to the potential of the more flexible Corinthian system of tiling and the advanced coroplastic tradition of the Corinthian workshops. The evolution of acroteria into increasingly sophisticated compositions based on floral, animal and mythological themes and the development of great plasticity and spectacular polychromy are recorded in a series of fragmentary examples from Greece, Magna Graecia and Sicily. Floral elements appear quite early on in variations of the palmette motif and predominate as central acroteria even after the establishment of marble as the standard sculptural material. Hybrid figures of fantastic beasts, such as sphinxes and griffins, were popular as lateral acroteria, initially in terracotta and later in marble; these did not persist after the ...


Acrylic painting  

Carmen Bria, Celia Rabinovitch, and Michael Sickler

Although ‘acrylic’ has become a generic term for any synthetic paint medium, acrylics are a specific type of manmade polymer that has become standard in the commercial paint industry as well as widely used by artists from the mid-20th century; most synthetic paint media in contemporary artistic use are based on acrylic emulsions. Acrylics are thermoplastic, have great optical clarity and excellent light stability, good adhesion and elasticity and resist ultraviolet and chemical degradation. Their unique surface properties, transparency and brilliance of colour, together with the possibilities they offer for indeterminacy, immediacy, randomness and the ability to rework immediately and to achieve extremely thin or thick surfaces, are qualities that have been exploited fully by such painting movements as Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s, and, subsequently, colour field painting, hard-edge painting and Pop art.

See also Paint, §I; Polymer colour; and Plastic, §2, (ii).

Acrylics were first prepared in ...



C. V. Horie and Eddy de Witte

Substances used to bond two surfaces. The surfaces may consist of the same material, as when mending a broken object, or of different materials, for example a collage. When applied to pigments the adhesive is called a Fixative, when applied to a crumbling solid a Consolidant.

The earliest adhesives used in the making of works of art and decorative objects were such natural products as proteins, resins, juices of plants, waxes and fats. In the 20th century the development of synthetic polymer adhesives has made it possible to join any two materials.

‘Glue’ is a general term for adhesives based on gelatine, that is degraded collagen (the major connective protein in animals). Skin and bone waste products are the most generally used source of collagen but yield contaminated products, for example glue made from tannery waste is likely to contain both metal and organic tanning agents and be of low quality. Purer forms of collagen provide better products, for example the swim-bladders of fish, especially sturgeon, yield isinglass, while parchment yields parchment glue. The glue is made by slow cooking of the source-material in water, then clarifying the resulting solution and concentrating or drying the gelatine. Mammal-derived glues are soluble only in hot water, while fish glues dissolve to form liquids at room temperature. Skin glues tend to be stronger than other types. Terms such as ‘rabbit-skin glue’ (Europe) and ‘deer-skin glue’ (Japan) do not now define the source-material but indicate the grade. ...



[Gr. ‘not to be entered’; Lat. adytum]

Most sacred inner part of a temple, accessible only to the priests (see Greece, ancient, fig. g).

S. K. Thalman: The Adyton in the Greek Temples of South Italy and Sicily (diss., U. California, Berkeley, 1976) M. B. Hollinshead: ‘"Adyton", "Opisthodomos", and the Inner Room of the Greek Temple’, Hesperia: Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 68/2 (April–June 1999), pp. 189–218...



Margaret Lyttleton

Columnar niche or shrine applied decoratively to a larger building. The word is a diminutive from the Latin word aedes (‘temple’). Summerson traced its application to Gothic architecture and drew attention to the importance of playing at being in a house for all small children; he claimed that this kind of play has much to do with the aesthetics of architecture and leads ultimately to the use of the aedicula. The earliest surviving examples of aediculae are shop-signs from Pompeii, such as that showing Mercury or Hermes emerging from a small building. Later aediculae appear extensively in wall paintings of the Fourth Style (c. ad 20–c. 90; see Rome, ancient §V 2.). Later still, aediculae were often used in the architecture of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire; they consisted of columns or pilasters flanking a niche for statuary, with a pediment above, as in the stage-building of the theatre at ...




Africa: Materials and techniques  

Marla C. Berns, T. J. H. Chappel, Margret Carey, Kathy Curnow, William J. Dewey, Barbara E. Frank, Eugenia Herbert, Carolee G. Kennedy, Christine Mullen Kreamer, John Mack, Fred T. Smith, Robert T. Soppelsa, and Natalie Tobert

In its raw state as soil, earth is the basic component of mud and ceramics, two of the commonest materials in African art and architecture, as well as being an ingredient in the manufacture of bricks and paints. Earth is both the simplest of materials and the most malleable. Its uses range from the simple smeared designs of some traditions of body decoration to complex sculptural and architectural forms.

Natalie Tobert

Depending on the amount of water present mud can be a liquid, paste or solid. Technically mud is a very wet soil or clay, forming a sub-aqueous sediment, with a particle size of not less than 0.004 mm. Any mineral substance can be made into mud with sufficient liquid, and the liquid is the medium by which the substance is applied. While the term 'mud' is used here, it should be noted that some scholars have preferred the term earth, since 'mud' is said to have pejorative connotations (e.g. see Cranstone). With clay and water mud can be fashioned into almost any shape or form. It can be used to make sculptures and items of personal adornment, to make dwellings or to decorate buildings....





Jonathan Stephenson

revised by Andy Penaluna

Hand-held painting instrument, of about the same size as or slightly larger than a pen, that delivers paint in a controlled spray. It is connected to a supply of compressed air by a flexible hose and draws paint from an integral reservoir or attached cup. Depending on the sophistication of the model, the user may control the supply of air and paint and the spray pattern in varying degrees. Additional effects are achieved by a form of stencilling, using special masking film or other means to protect areas of the artwork that are either yet to be worked upon, or have already been completed by the artist. An airbrush may be used with any paint if it is sufficiently thinned and contains pigment particles that are suitably fine. Dyes are also employed. Versions of several media exist that are specifically intended for airbrush application.

Airbrush evolved due to popularisation of the photograph and a demand for enlarged photographic likenesses, especially in portraiture. Crayon and pastel were commonly employed. In an attempt to provide more permanent and expeditious alternatives, pigment atomisation devices were designed in the 1870s. Frank E. Stanley of Auburn, Maine, and Abner Peeler of Fort Dodge, Iowa patented alternative forms of artist’s atomisers, termed ‘Paint Distributors’. In ...





R. W. Sanderson and Francis Cheetham

Term used to describe two types of stone, one of gypsum and one of limestone.

R. W. Sanderson

‘True’ alabaster is hydrated calcium sulphate, a finely fibrous form of gypsum. It occurs as nodular masses with a felted, fibrous microstructure, variably intermixed with streaks of red or green clay. Deposits of economic size accumulate as precipitated salts in evaporating saline lakes in arid areas. The variety satin spar occurs in vein-like form with the fibres in regular parallel arrangement, giving the mass a silk-like lustre. Alabaster is slightly soluble in water and therefore not suitable for outdoor works; it is very soft and readily cut and polished with the simplest tools. It provides an excellent surface for painting and gilding, without priming being necessary. Geologically ancient deposits provided material for sculptors, although gypsum continues to form in suitable environments in the Middle East, the USA, and elsewhere. European sources exploited for decoration since the Middle Ages are present in ...


All-over painting  

Annie Dell’Aria

Term coined during the height of Abstract Expressionism in the USA, with particular relevance to the work of painter Jackson Pollock. The ‘all-over’ quality of works such as Lavender Mist: Number 1, 1950 (Washington, DC, N.G.A.) refers to its lack of compositional structure (no apparent foreground, middleground, or background) as in traditional representational painting. It also suggests the lack of spatial delineations or focal points of any kind, creating an entirely abstract work that asserts the canvas’s flat surface and eschews any attempt at representational or symbolic interpretation (see fig.). The large scale of Pollock’s drip paintings made their all-over quality all the more impressive as the sprawled paint made the viewer survey the entire surface. Though initially used to describe Pollock’s drip paintings, the term was later applied to the colour field painters of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists. Furthermore, the term ‘all-over’ can be applied to a variety of abstract design strategies (for example, some works by Cy Twombly)....



[Gr. allegoria, description of something under the guise of something else]

Term used to describe a method of expressing complex abstract ideas or a work of art composed according to this. An allegory is principally constructed from personifications and symbols (see Symbol), and, though overlapping in function, it is thus more sophisticated in both meaning and operation than either of these. It is found primarily in Western art and constitutes an important area of study in Iconography and iconology.

Allegory, a means of making the ‘invisible’ visible, is a product of the philosophical thought of Classical antiquity and was used by the ancients not only in the fine arts but also in literature and rhetoric (Cicero: On the Orator, xxvii.94; Quintilian: Principles of Oratory, VIII.vi.44; IX.ii.92; Plutarch: Moralia, 19, E-F). In contrast with the symbol, which is a phenomenon of nearly all cultures and religions, allegory is thus essentially a feature primarily of Western art.

The mechanism of allegory further distinguishes it from both symbolism and personification. ...