Art Vocabulary: 7 Terms You Should Know

To perfectly understand modern art, it is worthwhile to learn a few key terms for analyzing and understanding references. Here are several words you need to know if you want to notice more details in the works of art.

1. Homage

The French word “hommage” means the expression of gratitude, respect, or devotion to an art representative by quoting their works. In fact, the painting-dedication is alike the original work, it emphasizes the admiration for the skill of another author. The most famous homages are the works of Roy Lichtenstein, who created many paintings, interpreting works by Picasso, Monet, Dali, and Matisse.

2. Mascaron

The Italian word “mascaron” in architecture means decoration on houses, most often it is an image of either a human or chimera face. Its main function is to scare away evil spirits so that they do not go inside. Over the years, superstition has become outdated, and mascarons have become an ordinary decorative element. You can still see the mascarons on the restored buildings, at artificial waterfalls or at the entrances to the mansions.

3. Pastosity

The term derived from the Italian "pastoso" means the technique in which the paint is applied to the canvas so much that it sticks out on the surface. Van Gogh often used that in his works, showing the volume of the depicted images. Some artists used the pastosity technique to emphasize armor and jewelry.

4. Glazing

The word derived from the German "lasierung" means the technique of applying oily translucent paint on top of an already dried layer. Light, passing through the upper glaze is reflected from the opaque dense layer, creating an illumination effect. This technique was used by artists who wanted to emphasize details such as skin tones, glitter gold or glossy fabrics.

5. Carnation

Most artists of the 15th century painted people as if they were completely bloodless, and only such followers of the French school like Titian and Rubens could demonstrate different skin tones of people in their works. The technology for creating the natural color of human skin is called carnation, and the desired effect is achieved by multi-layered strokes.

6. Trompe-l'oeil

“Trompe-l’oeil” or literally “optical illusion” is a technique for creating realistic images for an optical illusion. Artists around the world have improved this technique for a long time, and now it is most often used as outdoor advertising.

7. Provenance

The owners of works of the art highly appreciate the ability to identify the origin, or in other words, the provenance of work. This knowledge is of great importance. It helps determine whether a painting really belongs to the period, which it is dated, whether it was created by a particular artist or their apprentice, as well as whether the painting was stolen or not. All galleries and museums of the world make great efforts to study the provenance of works to clearly understand what is fake and not worth so much money.