Art Terms and Definitions — A

ABC Art     |     Atmospheric Perspective

A dictionary of art terms and definitions that begin with the letter A.

A 1960s art movement and style that attempted to use a minimal number of textures, colors, shapes, and lines to create simple three-dimensional structures. Also known as minimalism.
Abstract Art 
abstract art definitionA genre of art that looks as if it contains little or no recognizable or realistic forms from the physical world. Focus is on formal elements such as colors, lines, or shapes. Artists often “abstract” objects by changing, simplifying, or exaggerating what they see. Click for more information about abstract art.
Abstract Expressionism
Art that rejects true visual representation. It has few recognizable images with great emphasis on line, color, shape, texture, value, putting the expression of the feelings or emotions of the artist above all else.
Academic Art
A style of painting and sculpture heavily influenced by nineteenth-century European academies of art. The academies were very conservative, resisting advant-garde innovations and expressions of modern art.
To stress, single out as important. As applied to art, it is the emphasis given to some aspects in a painting that allows them to attract more attention. Details that define an object or piece of art.
A process of increasing an art collection by addition; something added to what you already have (“the art collection grew through accession”).
Colors having zero saturation (free from stain; lacking hue), such as neutral grays, from white to black, or colorless to black (see illustration).

Art Terms and Definitions -- A

Acrylic Paint
A fast-drying synthetic paint made from acrylic resin. Acrylic is a fast-drying water-based “plastic” paint valued for its versatility and clean-up with soap and water.
Aerial Perspective 
Refers to creating a sense of depth in a painting by imitating how the atmosphere makes distant objects appear less distinct and more bluish than they would be if nearby. Also known as atmospheric perspective.
Aerial View
Refers to viewing a subject from above, looking downward. Also called a “birds-eye view.”
Alla Prima
The method of oil painting in which the desired effects of the final painting are achieved in the first application of paint as opposed to the technique of covering the canvas in layers with the final painting being achieved at the end.
Allover Painting
A canvas painted from edge to edge and corner to corner, with equal care and significance given to each area of the composition.
A work of art, such as a painting, sculpture, or relief, depicting a religious subject (holy personages, saints, and biblical subjects) that decorate the space above and behind the altar in a Christian church.
Analogous Colors
Any set of three or five colors that are closely related in hue(s). They are usually adjacent (next) to each other on the color wheel.
Applied Art
The use of the principles and elements of design to create functional pieces of works of art.
Approximate Symmetry
The use of forms that are similar on either side of a central axis. They may give a feeling of the exactness or equal relationship but are sufficiently varied to prevent visual monotony.
The completed work of an artist that is the expression of creativity or imagination, or both that portrays a mood, feeling, or tells a story; works of art collectively. For more information, see the blog article titled What is Fine Art?
Art Appreciation 
An understanding of the qualities that identify all great art. It involves having a knowledge of art movements, art history, and art styles or techniques. For more information, see the blog article titled What is Art Appreciation?
Art Brut
French for “raw art,” the art of children and outsiders (naïve artists and the mentally ill); actually, anyone not producing art for profit or recognition.
Art Cards, Editions, and Originals (ACEO) Cards
ACEOs are tiny handmade original paintings measuring 2.5 in x 3.5 in, the size of a sports trading card. They are created to sell on eBay and other venues and are highly collectible. For more info.
Art Deco 
A style of design and decoration popular in the 1920s and 1930s characterized by geometric designs and uses highly intense colors to reflect the rise of commerce, industry, and mass production.
Art Movement 
A group of artists who agree on general principles or ideals regarding artistic styles and tendencies within a specific period of time.
Art Nouveau 
A decorative art movement that emerged in the late nineteenth century; art characterized by dense asymmetrical ornamentation in sinuous forms, it is often symbolic and of an erotic nature.
Art Period 
A distinct phase, stage, or juncture in the development of the creative work of an artist, groups of artists, or art movement.
A practitioner in the arts, generally recognized as a professional by critics and peers.
Artist Portfolio
See Portfolio.
Artist Trading Cards (ATCs)
ATCs are tiny-sized original paintings created by artists strictly for handing out, swapping, or trading with other artists and are not intended for selling. They may be in any medium (oils, acrylics, pencil, ink, etc.) using any technique, whether painting, drawing, or collage. There is only one rule the cards must adhere to a specific size; 2.5 in x 3.5 in. For more info.
A text-based visual art created from 95 printable characters that use computers for presentation. ASCII art is created using any text editor program and requires a fixed-width font such as Courier for presentation. For more info.
Ashcan School
A realist art movement in early twentieth-century America best known for depicting everyday life in the poorer neighborhoods of New York City.
Assemblage Art
A form of sculptured art, either three-dimensional or two-dimensional, composed of “found” objects and arranged in such a way as to create a work of art. These objects can be anything organic or man-made. The origin of this particular art form dates back to Pablo Picasso, a well-known cubist artist.
Astronomical Art
See “Space Art.”
Asymmetrical Balance
Placement of non-identical forms to either side of a balancing point so that the two sides seem to be of the same visual weight.
Atmospheric Perspective 
A technique used by painters to represent three-dimensional space on a flat two-dimensional surface by creating the illusion of depth or recession within a painting or drawing. Atmospheric perspective suggests that objects closer to the viewer are sharper in detail, color intensity, and value contrast than those farther away. As objects move closer to the horizon, they gradually fade to a bluish-gray, and details blur, imitating how distant objects appear to the human eye. Also called aerial perspective.

Art Glossary Links

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Contributing to The Art Dictionary

This art dictionary is a work in progress. New terms and definitions are added on a regular basis. If you know of an art term and definition that isn’t already listed in it, but you believe it should be, send it to us and we’ll consider adding it. We’ll let you know if we do. Thanks!

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Updated: 21 July 2023

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