In some way or ways deviating from or ignoring the appearance of the natural world, simplifying or altering it for effect


Deviations from the appearance of the natural world, simplifications or alterations of it for effect


the raised, sacred precinct of ancient Athens


In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the first man, directly created by God


Containing allegory, a work of art or literature that implies a non-literal meaning, often with moral or political importance

analogous colors

Colors next to one another on the color wheel

Ancient Near East

the region extending from Turkey in the east to Israel in the west, and centered on a series of civilizations that flourished in what are now Iran and Iraq from the fourth through the first millennium BCE


avoiding the creation and use of figural images, especially of deities or other religious figures


the practice of avoiding the creation or use of images, esp. figural images and images of deities


believing that inanimate elements of the world and universe, like objects and plants, have spirits or souls


having human qualities


The ancient past, especially ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome


Formal, legal discrimination against members of a particular race or races, especially in South Africa, 1948 to ca. 1990.


in ancient Greek myth, the goddess of beauty, love, and sex; equivalent to the Roman Venus


In art, using of existing images by another artist or from another context within a new work of art, often in order to comment on the artist or culture of the original work


In art, the use of existing images by another artist or from another context within a new work of art, often in order to comment on the artist or culture of the original work


A person who lives a very simple, austere life, usually to achieve spiritual goals

asymmetrical balance

The property of an image where its two sides do not mirror each other, but still have approximately the same visual weight, the same amount of detail or shapes or color, and so on


According to the doctrine of monism followed by some Hindu groups, the eternal self within an individual, somewhat like a soul

atmospheric perspective

The simulation in a work of art of the optical effect that makes objects in the distance appear paler, bluer, and less detailed than objects that are close to us


early color photographs


the leading edge, the new and exciting


in Hinduism, a particular manifestation of a deity; also, in online spaces, the form taken by a person interacting in such spaces


General term for two ancient Iranian languages, OId and Younger Avestan


line running down the center of a figure


The portion of the image that appears to be furthest from the viewer


An even use of elements throughout a work


West African country and culture, known for exceptional work in bronze


Medieval books of beasts that usually augment the natural history of animals with symbolic and spiritual meanings

bilateral symmetry

Symmetry wherein two sides of an image mirror one another


ancient Greek pottery style in which figures are colored with black glaze, against a background of the reddish color of unpainted terracotta clay


Known as Daruma in Japanese, the founder of Zen Buddhism. Accounts of his life are largely legendary, with few details known to be accurate. A popular subject for art and literature


In Buddhism, a figure who is able to enter Nirvana, the Buddhist afterlife which represents escape from all earthly suffering, but chooses to remain behind to help other people on their journey toward Nirvana


The middle class, especially the prosperous and materialistic middle class


In Hinduism, the infinite and unbounded power that sustains the universe. Also, a member of the highest Hindu caste


Literally, "the awakened," the title given to Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhism, a prince you rejected his wealth in favor of a life of simple contemplation aimed at escape from endless cycles of reincarnation and into Nirvana, release from all suffering


a follower of the religion of Buddhism


an image of a person depicting the head, shoulders, and upper chest only


Period from the sack of Rome (fifth century) through the fall of Constantinople (1453)


a set of works (art, literature, music, theater, film, etc) considered by experts or the general public to be classic, major, influential, etc. These are the works that generally appear in introductory textbooks, though throughout this book, I have tried to move beyond the standard canonical works.


architectural element at the top of a column or pillar that generally widens its form in order to help support a lintel or arch above


In Catholicism and Anglicanism, a church housing the bishop's "cathedra," the throne that signifies their authority, and serves as the administrative center of a see (the area ruled by a bishop)


a Jewish holiday, traditionally minor, celebrating the retaking and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE by the Maccabees following desecration by Syrians, lasting eight days, starting on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. Celebrated by lighting a menorah, a candelabra with eight branches and a usually-central Shamash candle


covered in gold and ivory


in the ancient world, an independent political unit consisting of a city and the agricultural land immediately around it


a work composed out of pieces cut out from preexisting works or materials


The light reflecting off objects, divided into hue, value and intensity


in architecture, a cylindrical, vertical member, usually supporting a lintel or arch


an order for a specific work of art to be main according to the desires of the patron (the person making the commission)


A political and economic theory developed by Karl Marx that advocates for public ownership of all property and industry so that all people, especially the working class, can share in profits

complementary colors

Colors opposite one another on the color wheel


How the visual elements of a work of art relate to each other


Based on or following Confucius, highly influential Chinese philosopher, 550-479 BCE


the circumstances around a work, idea, event, etc.

contour lines

lines that define shapes


Literally, "counter-balanced," a pose used in for human figures, developed in Ancient Greece, where the figure's weight is supported by one leg, while the other is loosely bent, resulting in an S-curve throughout the body


The amount of variation between the highest and lowest values in a work of art

cool colors

Colors from green to purple on the color wheel


the study of the origins of the universe


An explanation of the origins of the world and universe


cut down, often to shift or increase emphasis


the use of closely spaced grids of lines to create the illusion of shadow


An ancient Roman method of execution by being hung or nailed to a large wooden cross and left exposed to the elements to die of thirst and hunger, or via suffocation caused by weakness that prevents the drawing of breath; most famously, the method of execution used on Jesus, the founder of Christianity, though many accounts say that while hung on a cross, he was stabbed in the side before dying of crucifixion, itself


Art style that depicts forms as if from multiple perspectives at once. The images are often fragmented and disjointed, and it is up to the viewer to assemble them mentally into a cohesive image


turned into a god


concentration of objects or details


a rounded architectural feature shaped like half of a sphere

double-tiered arches

arches topped by arches

Early Christian Period

The period from the life of Jesus (first century) to the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine (fourth century), who legalized Christianity throughout the empire


Techniques used to draw attention to one or more points in a work


pigment suspended in hot wax and used as paint

engaged columns

columns partially embedded in a wall


In Buddhism, the state achieved by the Buddha, and the goal of Buddhists, characterized by deep understanding of the self and of the world around it


A short memorial in memory of a person who has died, often written on a tombstone


The front face of a building

film noir

film genre, esp. of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, shot in black and white, characterized by a gritty or even harsh mood and cynical characters, often involving complex crime stories

Five Pillars of Islam

See here


Sections of texts, films, videos, etc., that take place before the main timeline of the narrative


From Flanders, a country that once occupied territory centered on what is now Belgium


resembling plants, esp. plant leaves and vines


The portion of the image that appears to be closest to the viewer


The property of a three-dimensional object; also used to describe the illusion of three-dimensionality

formal elements

see: visual elements


Smoothly curving lines of varying thickness that outline forms in art of Pacific Northwest Coast Indigenous art, and the most important visual element of this artistic style

found art

art comprised of pre-existing, often ordinary or manufactured objects


paint mixed with wet plaster and applied directly to a wall surface

fresco paintings

see Fresco


showing the front of a figure or object as fully facing the picture plane

Garden of Eden

In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the site of the creation of Adam and Eve, a beautiful and abundant paradise


in art, based on feminist theory: a specific, gendered, sexualizing look from a straight man at a woman, conveying an imbalance of power


the performance of characteristics culturally associated with male and female sexes; increasingly acknowledged as a fluid spectrum rather than a fixed binary

genre scenes

scenes from everyday life, usually with a focus on the lives of the lower or working classes


characterized by straight lines and smooth curves of the sort found in mathematical geometry


covered in gold


oil paints with little pigment in them


the four fundamental Christian texts, attributed to Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, telling overlapping (and at times conflicting) accounts of the background, life, death, and teachings of Jesus


a fusion of the cultures of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, led by Roman scholars from the first century CE through the third century CE.


Generally improvised or unplanned artistic events and performances, frequently involving audience participation


relating to Hasidism, a mystical Jewish movement beginning in the 18th century


closely spaced lines used to create an illusion of shadow

Hellenistic Period

Ancient Greek period from the death of Alexander the great in 323 B.C.E. to the rule of Augustus, first emperor of Rome in 31 B.C.E. Characterized by exaggerated forms and emotions


in ancient Greek myth, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. He eventually merges with the nymph Salmacis, so that they dwell together in a single body with male and female characteristics


in Greek mythology, the messenger god

hieratic scale

A type of scale based on relative importance, in which more important figures are represented as larger than less important figures around them


Bright elements of an image that often draw the viewer's attention


Oldest practiced religion in the world, originating in India. Hinduism has tens or even hundreds of thousands of gods, and no single set of beliefs or laws regarding them, but rather, celebrates pluralism.

historical era

the time period after the development of writing

history painting

paintings that show grand events from history

horizon line

The divide in an image between sky and land or sea


an image of a saint or other holy figure from Christian mythology, usually presented against a gold background and thereby separated from any specific contexts or moments from their lives


literally, "image breakers," used in Byzantine art history to describe people who wanted to eliminate all religious icons in order to follow the Second Commandment.


Literally "picture-writing," the recognizable forms in images, often with symbolic meanings. Also used to describe the study of such images and their meanings


literally, "image lovers," used in Byzantine art history to describe people who fought to continue the use of religious icons


represented not as is, but according to a culture's belief about what the ideal form would be, eg. the form of the human body. Ideals change over time, and vary from culture to culture.


an image designed to be inhabited by a deity

illuminated manuscript

A handmade, hand-written book with decorations and/or illustrations


An artist responsible for adding images and decoration in manuscripts

implied lines

lines that are not actually drawn in an image, but can be inferred, such as the sight lines of figures in a work

inorganic or geometric lines

straight or smoothly, evenly curving lines found in geometric diagrams, and not common in nature


How bright or dull a color is


A card containing text, used in silent films to convey dialogue and information


Shinto shrines of the Japanese Imperial House


Placing images, texts, or other content side-by-side in order to generate comparisons and contrasts


A structure in Mecca believed by Muslims to be the house Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, erected for God


literally "dried-up mountain-waterscape," a form of Japanese rock garden


literally "withered mountain-water," a form of Japanese rock garden

Kuleshov Effect

the process by which viewers of films make connections between sequential shots, even when they may have nothing to do with one another. Named for Russian film-maker Lev Kuleshov


a wide, shallow Ancient Greek drinking cup


An image where the main subject is the natural world, itself, rather than people or other figures doing something in the world


one who rejects commonly held moral or ethical principles, especially about sex and sexuality; the property of one who does so


A path either represented or implied

linear perspective

A technique used to create the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional image, achieved by drawing or implying a series of lines that all converge on one or more vanishing points


see Lingum


In Hinduism, an object used in the worship of Shiva; a smooth, round-topped cylinder often considered a phallic symbol


a horizontal member placed on top of two vertical posts, as in rectangular doorways


Murder by a mob, usually by hanging and usually of a person or people, with the excuse of purported crimes or offenses, but without a trial to determine guilt. Lynchings were a central element of white supremacist campaigns of terror


An image using geometrical layout to represent the universe, especially in Buddhism and Hinduism


a full-body halo


a mission statement


A handmade, hand-written book


The central ritual of some forms of Christianity, in which wine and bread or wafers are consumed; some groups see these as a symbol of Christ's blood and body, while others believe them to be miraculously transformed into his actual blood and body


A piece of paper or card stock used to support, frame, or embellish a work of are when framed


the materials used to make works of art, such as oil paint, marble, and steel


European era ranging from ca. 500-1500 CE


eight-branched candlesticks used in the celebration of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah

Middle Ages

European period running from approximately 400 or 500 CE through 1400 or 1500 CE, depending on location


in Islam, a niche in the wall of a mosque that faces toward the Ka'ba in Mecca and therefore indicates the direction of prayer


Rule by a single individual, usually a king or queen, and usually based on inherited titles


The buildings in which a community of monks living under religious vows


A man who has taken religious vows and lives in a monastery


believing in one deity


A film technique where various clips are spliced together to create meanings and/or effects


large, massive


An image composed of thousands of small pieces of glass, tile, or stone embedded in plaster

Motion lines

lines used to create a sense of movement in an image


A sense of motion as the eye is guided through a work


a story


Making an image look like the “real world”


Of works of art, to display naturalism, that is, to look like the actual world


a people and language of Zimbabwe and adjacent regions of South Africa


literally, "city of the dead," a district set aside for burials

negative space

the empty area around a form or forms in a work of art


From the Greek words for “new stone,” the period of prehistory following the Paleolithic, and running from the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, and accompanied by the development of agriculture


In Buddhism, the end of cycles of reincarnation and a release from all desires and the resulting suffering


A work of art with no depiction of anything, also called total abstraction

Northern Renaissance



historically, a female concubine or sexual slave in a harem, esp. of the Sultan of Turkey. Also, a frequent subject for Orientalist painting


all the works an artist produces throughout their career

Old Master

Well-known premodern European artists, especially those living in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries


the property of being regular, clear, repeating, or otherwise structured

Organic lines

loose, curving, irregular lines like those found in nature


term for 19th-century European scholars who studied Asian cultures; also used to describe the approach of such scholars. Widely condemned in more recent post-colonial scholarship as racist and sexist.


The direction a map faces at its top. The term comes from medieval Christian mapmaking practices, which usually put the east ("orient" in Greek) at the top

orthogonal lines

Lines that meet at the vanishing point in linear perspective


rounded-off rectangles in Pacific Northwest Indigenous art


showing brushstrokes


From the Greek words for “old stone,” the period of prehistory from approximately 2.6 million years ago (when the earliest stone tools were developed by our evolutionary ancestors) until about 10,000 years ago, ending along with the last ice age and accompanied by the development of agriculture in the Neolithic (“new stone”) period.


all the deities of a people or religion; literally "all gods"


The male head of a family or tribe, especially used to describe biblical figures


a person commissioning a work of art to be made and paying for it


Paying for the creation of works of art; a person who provides patronage is called a patron


Repeating an object or element evenly throughout a work or a part of a work


the triangular section, often filled with sculpture, at the top of the facade of a building, esp. an ancient Greek temple


in art, a system to create an illusion of three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional medium


resembling male genitals

phallic symbol

an object or image standing in for male genitals


collages made out of photographs, often from popular newspapers and magazines


Travel to holy sites or people


travelers whose travels have a religious purpose; often, pilgrims travel to holy sites


a painting with many panels


believing in multiple gods


images of known individuals, often drawn from life (that is, with the person posing for the portrait)

positive space

sections of works of art occupied by forms and shapes

prayer hall

a space in religious architecture, generally large and open, where worshippers congregate for prayer


of any culture, before (or without) a written form of language

primary colors

Colors from which all other colors can be made

primordial couple

a couple seen as the first people, and the source of humanity, a trope common to many religions


The working class


The relationship of parts of a body or form to one another and of the parts to the whole, for example, the size of the head of a figure in relation to the entire body


A volume containing the biblical Book of the Psalms

pubic triangle

the area on a body containing pubic hair and external genitals

pungsu (feng shui)

literally "wind and water" in Korean, the Korean adaptation of the Daoist Chinese concept of feng shui, an approach to the location, orientation, and design of architectural forms to facilitate the positive flow of qi [energy]


winged cherubs or cupids


The holy book of Islam


arranged around a central point

Radial symmetry

The property of an image that is symmetrical around a central point or axis, like a sunflower viewed head-on


The property of images that represent the gritty or harsh realities of the world


An image, model, or full-scale replica of a damaged or lost work of art or architecture



ancient Greek pottery style in which figures are left the reddish color of unpainted terracotta clay, against a glazed black background


Formal, often elaborate ceremonial clothing


Horizontal bands of imagery or decoration


being reborn into a new body after death


The remains of a holy person, or items of great religious significance


see "relic"


a container for relics, which are the remains of a holy figure, or items of importance to them


literally "rebirth," most commonly used to describe the European artistic and intellectual movement of ca. 1300-1600, characterized by revived interest in the styles and subjects of ancient Greece and Rome


Similar to pattern, repeating an object or element throughout a work or a part of a work, but generally less precise or formal than a pattern


Art containing an image of something, as opposed to pure abstraction


A visual tempo set by repeating elements in a work


An eighteenth-century art form, especially in France, Germany, and Austria, characterized by light, breezy, cheerful, and sentimental imagery, often of wealthy people (or the rural poor depicted as if wealthy) playing in nature


A substantially damaged work of architecture, usually unable to continue to serve its original purpose

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Highly influential theologian and bishop of the North African city of Hippo from 396 to 430 CE


in ancient Greek myth, a nymph who lusted after Hermaphrodite, whose name indicates his parentage -- he is the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. She eventually merges with Hermaphrodite so that they dwell together in a single body with male and female characteristics


How bright or dull a color is


The relationship of parts of an image to the image as a whole, or to something in the world outside of the image, for example, the size of the figure of a king in an image as compared to the size of the figure of his servant in the same image, or the size of a statue of the king as compared to the size of an actual person


One who pens the text of manuscripts (Latin for "written by hand")


sacred religious texts

secondary colors

Colors made by mixing two primary colors


Value produced by adding black to a hue


The use of darker colors or lines to create the illusion of shadows


religion practice in which shamans are believed to connect with the spirit world in order to learn about or have an influence on this world


The property of a two-dimensional form, usually defined by a line around it


In Hinduism, one of the main deities


military dictatorship of Japan, 1192–1867, under the nominal control of the emperor


literally "pictures of spring," Japanese woodblock prints, esp. ca. 17th-19th centuries, though also later, that feature explicit sexual content

sight lines

lines that follow the direction of a figure's gaze

Sigmund Freud

Austrian founder of psychoanalysis, a process used to treat mental disturbances, often through the uncovering of unconsciously held thoughts and fears


produced with a printing technique in which the negative of an image transferred to a fine screen, through which ink is forced to produce positive image


the subject of a portrait


in architecture, a supporting member projecting from a wall


Depth, real or represented, as well as the general area within a work


artistic or architectural elements reused from previous works, often displayed clearly in order to convey political or religious conquest


an upright stone marker

still lifes

Images of objects, generally without human or animal figures


Designed according to the principles of a particular style rather than being beholden to the way things look in “the real world.”


Japanese painting done in black ink


Japanese woodblock prints generally containing images and poetry, privately commissioned in small runs to celebrate special occasions


religious text in Buddhism and Jainism; also religious law in Hinduism


Usually used to describe bilateral symmetry, which is a mirroring of two halves of a work, or radial symmetry, where an image is symmetrical around a central point or axis, like a sunflower viewed head-on


in the ancient world, a dinner party centered on wine drinking, with conversation on a chosen theme, and often ending in a sexual orgy

Tamberan House

in East Sepik culture of Papua New Guinea, elaborately decorated “Men’s House" structures used for communal rituals


pigment suspended in egg yolk and then used as paint


an elaborate ancient city in the Valley of Mexico

tertiary colors

Colors made by mixing a primary color with an adjacent secondary color


The feeling of a surface, real or represented


This means the very thing that I'm talking about here!


Value produced by adding white to a hue


a round format for two-dimensional works of art, esp. paintings


a hairstyle where the top of the head is shaved as a marker of having taken the vows of a Christian monk


In Buddhism, tall stone gateways


related to totems, objects of power; also, symbolic of qualities or concepts


a painting with three panels, hinged together so that the outer panels, or wings, can be closed over the central panel


a semicircular sculptural panel over a doorway


literally "pictures of the floating world," Japanese woodblock prints, ca. 17th-19th centuries that focus on the lively activities of the red-light district of Edo (now Kyoto), including sumo wrestlers, geishas, and actors


The use of similar elements so that all the parts of a work fit together well


ancient Hindu sacred Sanskrit texts


Belief that a perfect state is possible


The degree of lightness or darkness of a color

vanishing point

Point on the horizon line where orthogonal lines meet in linear perspective


The use of different visual elements throughout a work


architectural elements consisting of a weight-bearing, arched roof, usually in stone


animal skin, usually calf or sheep, used as a support for writing; also called parchment


in ancient Roman myth, the goddess of beauty, love, and sex; equivalent to the Greek Aphrodite


The highest degree of naturalism


Germanic peoples of Spain, from the late classical through the early medieval periods

Visual Analysis

The process of breaking down works of art into their parts (such as line, color, balance, and symmetry), figuring out how they relate to one another, and considering their effects of viewers.

visual elements

Line, Shape, Color, Space, Form, Texture


three-dimensional space or shape


one who finds sexual pleasure in viewing naked people, people engaged in sex, etc., esp. if those viewed are unaware of the viewer's presence


Japanese term for the appreciation of a simple, even austere lifestyle, often reflected in art

warm colors

Colors from yellow to violet on the color wheel

woodblock print

a form of printmaking where a wooden block is carved in reverse, inked, and then pressed into paper to create an image

woodblock printing

a form of printmaking where a wooden block is carved in reverse, inked, and then pressed into paper to create an image


a printmaking process were a negative image is carved into a wooden block which is then inked and pressed onto a surface, usually paper, to create a positive image


the monotheistic god of Judaism, also shared by Christianity and Islam


male benevolent minor deities common in Indian belief and found in both Buddhist and Hindu art


female benevolent minor deities common in Indian belief and found in both Buddhist and Hindu art


Resembling a vulva

Zen Buddhist

A Buddhist sect focused on zen (literally, meditation) as the path to enlightenment, in contrast with Buddhist sects that emphasize more formal rituals. Closely tied to the practice of sumi-e painting


the thunder god, head of the ancient Greek pantheon


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Look At This!: An Introduction to Art Appreciation Copyright © 2023 by Asa Simon Mittman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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