Glossary Art of the American Spirit: A Practical Introduction to American and California Painting Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Glossary of American Art: A Practical Introduction to American and California Painting

How to Spot Real American Folk Art Paintings

European Roots

An American Style

Glossary of American Art

Things to Look For

Collecting American Art

California & Regional Paintings

About the Expert

Native American Blankets

Native American Jewelry

American Art Primer

A Practical Introduction to American and California Painting

Art of the American Spirit: A Practical Introduction to American and California Painting


Abstract Expressionism ­­ An American art movement that began in the 1940s emphasizing free, spontaneous and personal emotional expression. Pioneered by such artists as Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) and Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Abstract Expressionism is seen by many critics as representing a dividing line between "traditional" American painting and the broader, global movement now studied under the rubric of "Modern Art."

American Scene Painting ­­ Sometimes dubbed the "American Gothic" school after the famous portrait by Grant Wood (1892-1942) of a 1930s farming couple, this hard-edged style of painting focused on typical scenes of American life after World War I, and also includes works by Edward Hopper (1882-1967) and Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986).

Art Deco ­­ An art movement that mixed modern decorate art styles, largely derived from avant-garde painting styles of the early 20th Century. Art deco paintings display elements of abstraction, distortion and simplification and highlight geometric shapes and intense colors­­ celebrating the rise of commerce, technology and speed.

Catalogue Raisonne ­­ A catalogue of all an artist's known works, including exhibition dates, details about selected works, and examples of signatures that the artist used. These books, which also provide well-researched biographies of the artist, can be an important tool for collectors looking to broaden their knowledge of a particular painter's work.

Chiaroscuro ­­ A method where artists create depth and mood through the use of light and dark shades. The term, taken from the Italian words for "light" and "dark", is often used to refer to paintings in the Hudson River school, where painters used light to make dramatic points about man and his relationship to nature.

Crackle ­­ a network of cracks which sometimes forms on the surface of oil painting, similar to "crazing" in ceramics.

Colonial Painting ­­ Paintings done in the American colonies before the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Often by semi-trained artists, these paintings are frequently portraits of Colonists and their families, rendered in a flat, stiff style similar to works done a century before in England.

Glaze ­­ A lawyer of transparent oil color laid on top of a painting to subtly alter its tone.

Gouache ­­ a painting technique in which gum is added to water colors to produce an opaque effect.

Harlem Renaissance ­­ A movement of art and literature based in the African-American community of Harlem in uptown Manhattan in the mid- and late 1920s. Fed by immigration from the southern states, Harlem emerged as the economic, political and cultural center of black America and boasted some of the most daring writers, painters and sculptors of the era. Famous painters include Aaron Douglas (1898-1979) and Charles Henry Alston (1907-1997).

Hudson River School ­­ A group of American landscape painters of the mid-19th century who took a Romantic approach to depicting the Hudson River Valley in New York state, as well as lands further west. Their dramatic paintings of the American landscape, often embracing moral or literary associations, helped to define a uniquely American style of painting that persists to this day. Famous examples of Hudson River school painters include Washington Allston (1779-1843), Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), and Frederic Church (1826-1900).

Impressionism ­­ A painting style launched in the 1860s by French artists who sought to convey the effects of sunlight on things at different times of day. Gradually becoming an international art movement, Impressionism was spearheaded by French painters such as Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Claude Monet (1840-1926). American Impressionism evolved in the latter 19th century, and was led by such famous painters as Mary Cassatt (1845-1926) and John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902).

Luminism ­­ An American landscape painting style of the 1850s-1870s which specialized in evoking a poetic atmosphere, characterized by emphasizing the effects of light in landscapes and hiding the painter's individual brush strokes. It is related to Impressionism, and reflected in many works of the Hudson River School. Prominent American luminists inlucde Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865), John F. Kensett (1816-1872), and Martin J. Heade (1819-1904).

Medium ­­ The type of paint used for an art work.

Pastel ­­ A soft or subdued color. Also, a drawing stick made of mixed chalk, or a drawing done with these sticks.

Restoration ­­ Work done to repair blemishes or aging in a painting. Of widely varying quality, restoration work can be expected on many older paintings, ranging from "relining", or applying a new, stronger canvas to the back of the original work, to "inpainting", or applying new paint to flaking, cracked, or discolored areas.

Romanticism ­­ An artistic movement in both Europe and the United States that characterized many works of literature, painting, music, and architecture from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century. Seen as a reaction against the sober precepts of Classicism, Romanticism sought to emphasize the individual, the personal, the emotional, and the transcendental aspects of man's interaction with the world.

The American Ten ­­ Sometimes dubbed "Ten American Painters", this group of artists from New York and Boston was influenced by French Impressionism and exhibited together from 1898-1919. They helped pioneer the tradition in modern art of setting up exhibiting organizations independent of official bodies like museums­­ a move which helped bring wider exposure to those that followed.


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