Glossary of Art Terminology and Definitions

Female artist holding a glossary of art terminology and definitions

Every topic has a raft of terms that are entirely new to readers. Art is no different. As we research, we’re constantly reading unfamiliar words or words used in the specific context of art that we had to define and understand.

To help you read this site and, of course, become part of the art collecting community, we’ve gathered this glossary of art terminology and definitions. This page is a living document, so please come back to brush up on terminology. In fact, if you have any jargon that we’ve missed, message us on Instagram or Pinterest.

Art & History

  • Craquelure: Dense network of fine hairline cracks in the artistic medium usually due to the movement of the underlying surface. Typically a feature on old paintings or ceramics, the pattern may be a purposeful technique added to new works.
  • Movement: Historical period during which artists, guided by a prevalent philosophy or goal, used similar techniques to express views of the world.
  • Movement: Artistic technique showing action or activity within artwork interpreted by similar shared experience between the artist and the viewer.

Materials & Techniques

  • Fresco: Dry, colored powder mixed with water and applied to still-wet plaster. Once the plaster is dry, the artwork is part of the surface. Italian.
  • Gesso: Typically-white primer paint made from a thin glue and chalk or plaster-like powder meant to draw in and hold colors. Italian. Pronounced “jesso.”
  • Glassine: Type of paper that repeals air and grease and has some water resistance. Made from hardwood pulp, it feels like wax, parchment, or plastic and has a neutral pH (not acidic or basic).
  • Giclée: Traditionally a fine art printing technique where paint is sprayed or squirted, now refers to inkjet processes. French. Pronounced “she-clay” (with more of a “g” sound)
  • Gouache: Opaque type of watercolor containing a light gum binding that dries to a matte finish. French. Pronounced “guash” (rhymes with “squash”).
  • NFT Art: Digital or physical art (or any asset) that is secured by a record on a blockchain where provenance and certificate of authenticity can be tracked and transferred between owners. NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token.

Valuation

  • Catalogue Raisonné: Formal, authoritative, and highly accurate listing of all known works by an artist at a specific point in time. Written and pictorial accounts are detailed enough to identify artwork reliably. French. Pronounced “catalog rez-o-nay”
  • Certificate of Authenticity (COA): Printed document accompanying artwork (or other collectible assets) identifying a piece as original, usually including a detailed description of the work, original artist signature, statement of authenticity, and a thumbnail image of the piece.
  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD): US accrediting organization overseeing higher education institutions offering art and design-related programs.
  • Fair Market Value: The price artwork (or any asset) would sell for on the competitive, open market with all relevant facts available to all parties with sufficient time for settling the transaction. Also called Marketable Cash Value.
  • Provenance: Historical listing of an artwork’s ownership which is used to help confirm its authenticity.
  • Replacement Value: The price artwork (or any asset) would be considered fully replaced value-wise under an insurance policy at a given point in time.
  • Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP): US-based quality control standards by which art (or other assets) appraisers adhere, updated every even-numbered year.