Art Vocabulary: Discover the Art World from A to Z

Art Vocabulary: Discover the Art World from A to Z

Art Vocabulary is our new column devoted to the most important concepts in the world of arts. Each week we take a letter and explain a few art terms that begin with it, sharing with you the meaning of those words, giving examples and interesting case stories. If you like to discover the art world from A to Z, feel free to join us.

Oh, my God! So many interesting art words that begin with M. Let’s be short this time and take a brief look at the majority of marvelous meanings.

Matte (also spelt as Matt) — a dull, non-glossy surface appearance. Though can be used in different connotations, it’s interesting for us to talk about matte photo finish within the framework of art. Just in opposite to the glossy ones, matte photographs don’t have that nice shine as it’s not the photographer’s intention in such case. It’s the texture of an image that matte photos emphasize so well, not the colour. Choosing matte photo finish, you won’t face fingerprints or glare, however, the image will look more neutral, nothing glamorous. Again it depends on your goals.

Minimalism — an art movement that embraced visual and performing arts, music and other mediums as it emerged in post-war times in America. Though active in the 60-70s, minimalism originated from the beginning of the 20th century when Dutch De Stijl and Russian Constructivism ruled the world of arts. In fact, minimalists set themselves against some modernist practices such as excessive emotionality and subjectivity of paintings, increased focus on an artist’s inner world and ideas (a great part of abstract expressionism works are dramatic examples of that). Works of minimalists are stripped to its essentials, they do not expect you to grasp the subtle artist’s intention and, what’s more, they do not necessarily look like art. For example, famous American composer John Cage created a piece 4’33 that consisted solely of random sounds in the concert hall — no musical instruments played during the performance. Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Frank Stella, Sol LeWitt, Yves Klein, Carl Andre are just a few significant names in the history of minimalism.

Mural — an image applied directly on a permanent surface such as walls, ceilings or different parts of building constructions. Derived from a cave painting, murals took the shape of seccos and later frescos in the Medieval Times, performed either on dry or on wet plaster mostly in churches and temples. Mural painting was soon recognized as a self-consistent kind of arts but it was only in the 20th century when the movement reached its full flowering. Muralism became a kind of public art movement in the 1930s, not subjected to governmental influence, rather it responded to social and political mechanisms and criticized them. One of the most significant flows in the mural art history was Mexican Muralism (1920s — 1970s), headed by ‘the big three’ painters — Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Today it’s impossible to speak of wall paintings without mentioning street art and graffiti that evoked in the 90s and still remains popular. Learn more about Keith Haring, Shepard Fairey, Banksy and other heroes of mural art mainstream.

Magenta — a tertiary colour which stays between primary red and secondary purple on the colour wheel. Hope you remember the main idea of the colour circle, even if you don’t, you would guess the origin of magenta by its other names — purplish-red and reddish-purple. Magenta was discovered by the French chemist François-Emmanuel Verguin in 1859 and was initially called fuchsine. However, it was renamed in honor of the French-Italian victory, prevailed at the battle in the small Lombardian town, Magenta. Today magenta is beloved by many fashion brands such as Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Moschino and etc. The alternative name of the colour is fuchsia.

Henri Matisse — a famous French artist and sculptor who was active on the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries, best known for his fauvist works. Believe it or not, Henri Matisse did not only receive his first education in jura but also was about to start his career as a lawyer if he wouldn’t be down with appendicitis. Recreating after the operation, Matisse tried painting and liked it so much that he decided to become an artist at once despite all his father’s objections. Matisse soaked himself in art studies starting from traditional still lifes and landscapes but was soon introduced to Impressionism by his new acquaintances — artists John Russell, Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro and of course Paul Cèzanne. Matisse called Cézanne ‘the father of us all’ and admired his sense of structure and colour. Under his influence, Henri Matisse elaborated the meaning of colour in painting pioneering Fauvism, ‘wild’ avant-garde movement that shook Europe in the beginning of the 20th century. Admire both rich coloristics and imagination of Henri Matisse discovering his works ‘Woman with a Hat’, ‘The Goldfish’, ‘Dance’ and many others.

Piet Mondrian — short for Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan, a Dutch painter and theoretician, prominent modernist and founder of Neoplasticism movement. Mondrian had made his way from figurative to abstract painting, until he culminated having discovered the ‘pure plastic art’, that embodied the simplicity of lines and colours and was just universal beauty in Piet Mondrian’s eye. Three primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and the two primary directions (horizontal and vertical) were chosen by Mondrian within his new non-representational form of painting. “Art should be above reality, otherwise it would have no value for man” — the artist used to say, always bearing in mind the practical side of the issue (as a true contributor to the De Stijl art movement).

Text /Julia Kryshevich/


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