Art Terms and Definitions — M

art definitions list An art definitions list with terms beginning with the letter “M”. The list below begins with MACRAMÉ and ends with MUSEUM. In it, you’ll find over 30 definitions that will help you understand general concepts about art. Art-related words [artists use daily to characterize their art.

Quick links to a more lists of art definitions are located at the end of the list.

Macramé

art definitions listAn old craft form of textile-making that uses knotting rather than weaving or knitting. Its primary knots are the square knot and forms of hitching (full hitch and double half hitches). Sailors use it, especially in elaborate or ornamental knotting forms, to decorate anything from knife handles to bottles to parts of ships.

MagentaM is for Magenta

One of the four process colors, or CMYK, the M is for magenta. A color also known as fuchsia or hot pink; a moderate to vivid purplish-red or pink.

Mahl Stick

artists mahl stick A tool used by artists to steady their hands while painting intricate details on canvas art. The word Mahl stick originates from the Dutch word “maalstok,” which means “painter’s stick.” It is a three-foot long, round stick with a knob on one end. The painter rests the ball end on the edge of the canvas, easel, or dry spot of the painting, while holding the other end with a non-painting hand to steady the brush hand while painting. Also referred to as an “artist’s bridge.”

Manilla Paper

An inexpensive, cream-colored drawing and coloring paper often used in children’s crafts.

Mannerism

An artistic movement developed in the sixteenth century as a reaction to the classical rationality and balanced harmony of the High Renaissance, characterized by the dramatic use of space and light, exaggerated color, elongation of figures, and distortions of perspective, scale, and proportion. El Greco was a prominent practitioner of this style.

Marbling

The art or process of producing specific patterns of a veined or mottled appearance to imitate the look of marble.

Maritime Art (or Marine Art)

art definitions listArtwork that derives its inspiration from the sea. This art genre depicts life on the high seas, boats and ships, fishermen, and so on. It includes art showing shipping on rivers and waterways, as well as all art depicting boats and ships. It almost always consists of some element of a seafaring vessel. Ship portraits are also a popular style of maritime art that depicts a single vessel. For more on marine art, click here.

Maritime Artist

A skilled artist who creates artwork featuring ships, boats, and various maritime themes, using mediums like oil paints, watercolors, and pastels to depict the beauty and force of the sea and the majesty of seagoing vessels.

Marquette

A French term for “small model,” refers to a small wax or clay model used as a preliminary sketch in sculpture, often presented to clients for approval or for entry in a competition.

Masterpiece

A work done with extraordinary skill, especially a work of art, craft, or intellect; an exceptionally outstanding achievement.

Medieval Art

A style of European art from the Middle Ages that dates from the 5th to the 15th century. Medieval art is distinguished by its emphasis on religious issues and themes, as well as the use of numerous artistic mediums like as sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, tapestries, mosaics, and metalwork. It is typically flat or two-dimensional, reflecting the cultural, social, and religious changes that occurred in the medieval period.

Medium (in art)

A broad term having multiple meanings: 1. The specific art materials or supplies artists work with to create a piece of art. 2. A particular type of art, such as painting, drawing, printmaking, or sculpture.

Mexican Muralism

A movement that began in the early 1920s sought to educate the uneducated population about Mexico’s history while also presenting a vision of the country’s future. Muralists, inspired by the Mexican Revolution, created politically charged public murals that emphasized Mexico’s pre-colonial history and culture, presenting peasants, laborers, and people of mixed Indian and European ancestry as heroes. José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros led a movement using techniques such as fresco, encaustic, mosaic, and relief.

Middle Ground

The space that makes up the distance between the foreground and background of a painting. There is no specific measurement for what the limits are. Typically, it is located somewhere on the middle plane of the canvas.

Mineral Spirits

An inexpensive paint thinner that cleans brushes, thins paint, cleans furniture, and removes wax; it is often used as a substitute for turpentine.

Miniature

A representational work of art made on a significantly reduced scale.

Minimal Design

Omitting all non-essential or unimportant elements and details that don’t contribute to the essence of the overall composition to emphasize what is important.

Minimalism

A movement and style of art from the 20th century that attempts to reduce art to basic geometric shapes with the fewest colors, lines, and textures. Minimal art does not seek to be representative of any object. Also known as ABC art.

Mixed Media

An art technique where an artist employs different physical materials, such as ink and pastel, painting and collage, etc., and combines them into a single work.

Model

Someone who poses for artists to draw, paint, sculpt, or photograph. Models are important in the creative process since they serve as a reference point for the human body in an artwork.

Modeling (in art)

A term with multiple descriptions: 1. The process of using clay, wax, or plaster to create a miniature version of a form. 2. The act of serving as an artist’s model, posing for a painting, sculpture, or photograph.

Modern Art

An art movement that existed from the 1860s to the 1970s. It is characterized by a departure from traditional representational art to a more abstract, experimental style. Modern art is often associated with social and cultural changes, such as industrialization, urbanization, and new technologies. It includes a variety of styles and movements, including Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art.

Monochromatic

Having only one color. A color scheme limited to variations of one color along with its various tints, shades, and tones.

The following is an example of a monochromatic family.

monochromatic color scheme

Monochrome Art

Swimming with Sharks” by Teresa Bernard.

A painting, drawing, or photograph done in different shades of a single color. Understanding how to work with light and shadow allows an artist to create artwork with a lot of contrast using a single color. Monochrome art is often a popular choice for interior design schemes, since it adds an air of style to any space.

A selection of monochrome paintings can be viewed by clicking on the link.

Montage

montage imageAn artwork comprised of seemingly unrelated shots or scenes that combine various existing images, such as photographs or prints, and are arranged so that they join, overlap, or blend to create a new image that achieves meaning.

Mosaic

An art medium in which small pieces of colored glass, stone, or ceramic tile called tessera are embedded in a background material such as plaster or mortar. Also, works that were made using this technique.

Motif

An important and noticeable element or feature that is repeated throughout the composition or design.

Movement

A principle of design that gives the artist control over what the viewer sees next. It shows action and creates a feeling of motion. Using this principle, the artist can create the path our eyes will travel as we look at a piece of art. Movement can be created through the use of repetition, rhythm, and action.

Multimedia Art

Artwork that uses a combination of electronic media, which could include video, film, audio, and computers.

Multimedia Artist

An artist who uses technology to create designs and special effects for electronic media.

Munsell Color System

A scientific method for visually identifying and matching colors, developed by Albert Munsell, a scientist and artist. It uses three dimensions: hue, value (lightness), and chroma (intensity or purity) to express colors in a concrete way, based on rigorous measurements of people’s visual responses to color.

Muralmural

A large painting or form of graphic artwork that has been painted directly on a wall or ceiling. Mural techniques include frescoes, mosaics, graffiti, and marouflage.

Muse

Someone who inspires creativity in the arts, especially for artists, writers, or musicians, and/or sometimes in the sciences. Throughout history, these have typically been women (but not always). The name comes from the Muses, ancient Greek goddesses of inspiration.

Museum

A not-for-profit institution that houses objects of scientific, historical, cultural, or artistic value. A museum is a place devoted to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition and educational interpretation of these artifacts. Many museums have public exhibitions of the relics, with some housing private collections that are used by scholars, researchers, and specialists.

Museums operate ethically and professionally, and with the participation of the community, they offer a wide range of educational, recreational, reflective, and knowledge-sharing experiences. The term Museum comes from the Latin muses, meaning “a source of inspiration,” or “to be absorbed in one’s thoughts.”

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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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