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Art Terms & Definitions

Some of the more common terms used in the fine art world.  We often use these terms, either in the galleries or on this website to describe in detail each piece of art, the type or style of artwork, how the artwork was created, etc. 


  • (SN) Signed and Numbered - The main edition. Limited-edition prints that have been signed and sequentially numbered by the artist.  The artist's signature is usually found in one of the lower corners of the print and is accompanied by a number that looks like a fraction; the top number indicates the unique number of the print and the bottom number indicates the total number of prints in the edition.


  • Giclée - A computerized reproduction technique in which the image and topology are generated from a digital file and printed by a special printer, using ink, acrylic or oil paints.  Giclée printing offers one of the highest degree of accuracy and richness of color available in any reproduction techniques.  Giclee prints are often limited edition, hand signed and numbered by the artist. 


  • Lithograph - Printing technique using a planographic process in which prints are pulled on a special press from a flat stone or metal surface that has been chemically sensitized so that- ink sticks only to the design areas, and is repelled by the non-image areas.


  • Serigraph - A serigraph is created using serigraphy by silk-screening an image onto acetate material.  No hand-painting or inking is involved.   Serigraphy is a printing technique that makes use of a squeegee to force ink directly on to a piece of paper or canvas through a stencil creating an image on a screen of silk or other fine fabric with an impermeable substance.  Serigraphy differs from most other printing in that its color areas are paint films rather than printing-ink stains.


  • Bon a Tirer - At the end of the artist's work, when the full piece of art is assembled, the image is set up and adjusted for color, and a check is made using a paper proof to check the work and also to submit it for approval to the artist before final printing.  


  • Limited Edition - Set of identical prints numbered in succession and signed by the artist.  The total number of prints is fixed or "limited" by the artist who supervises the printing herself.   All additional prints have been destroyed.


  • Edition Size - The total number of pieces printed of one particular image, i.e. 5/25, or the 5th of 25 unique pieces in the edition.  Separate edition sizes are recorded for the signed and numbered prints, artist's proofs and printer's proofs.


  • (AP) Artist's proof - Print intended for the artist's personal use.  It is a common practice to reserve approximately ten percent of an edition as artist's proofs, although this figure can be higher.  Prints are signed and numbered by the artist and generally hold a higher value.


  • (HC) Hors d'Commerce Proof - Print identical to the edition print intended to be used as samples to show to dealers and galleries.  Hors d'Commerce (abbreviated H.C.) Prints are signed and numbered by the artist and generally hold a higher value.


  • (PP) Printer's proof - Print retained by the printer and artist as a reference.  Prints are signed and numbered by the artist and generally hold a higher value.  


  • Open-Edition - A reproduction of an original work of art that is sometimes signed by the artist.  The number of Giclées published in an open-edition is not predetermined.


  • Remarque - Small sketch in the margin of an art print or additional enhancements by the artist on some or all of the final prints within an edition.


  • Acid-free Paper or Canvas - Paper or canvas treated to neutralize its natural acidity in order to protect fine  and photographic prints from discoloration and deterioration.


  • Acrylic - A fast-drying paint which is easy to remove with mineral spirits;  a plastic substance commonly used as a binder for paints.


  • Aquatint - Printing technique capable of producing unlimited tonal gradations to re-create the broad flat tints of ink wash or watercolor drawings by etching microscopic crackles and pits into the image on a master plate, typically made of copper or zinc.  The majority of Spanish artist Goya's (1746-1828) graphic works were done using this technique.


  • Collagraph - Printing technique in which proofs are pulled from a block on which the artwork or design is built up like a collage, creating a relief.


  • Engraving - Printing technique in which an intaglio image is produced by cutting a metal plate or box directly with a sharp engraving tool. The incised lines are inked and printed with heavy pressure.


  • Etching - Printing technique in which a metal plate is first covered with an acid-resistant material, then worked with an etching needle to create an intaglio image.  The exposed metal is eaten away in an acid bath, creating depressed lines that are later inked for printing.  This technique was thought to have been developed by Daniel Hopfer (1493-1536).  Etching surpassed engraving as the most popular graphic art during the active years of Rembrandt in the 17th century, and it remains one of the most versatile and subtle printing techniques today.


  • Gouache - Opaque watercolors used for illustrations.


  • Impasto - A thick, juicy application of paint to canvas or other support that emphasizes texture, as distinguished from a smooth flat surface.


  • Maquette - In sculpture, a small model in wax or clay, made as a preliminary sketch, often presented to the client for approval of the proposed work, or for entry in a competition.  The Italian equivalent of the term is bozzetto, meaning small sketch.


  • Mixed Media - Descriptive of art that employs more than one medium - e.g., a work that combines paint, natural materials (wood, pebbles, bones), and man made items (glass, plastic, metals) into a single image or piece of art.


  • Monochromatic - Having only one color.  Descriptive of work in which one hue - perhaps with variations of value and intensity - predominates.


  • Monoprint - One-of-a-kind print conceived by the artist and printed by or under the artist's supervision.


  • Monotype - One-of-a-kind print made by painting on a sheet of metal or glass and transferring the still-wet painting to a sheet of paper by hand or with an etching press.  If enough paint remains on the master plate, additional prints can be made, however, the reprint will have substantial variations from the original Image.  Monotype printing is not a multiple-replica process since each print is unique.


  • Photorealism - A painting and drawing style developed in the mid 20th-century in which people, objects, and scenes are depicted with such naturalism that the paintings resemble photographs - an almost exact visual duplication of the subject.


  • Pop Art - A style of art which seeks its inspiration from commercial art and items of mass culture (such as comic strips, popular foods and brand name packaging).  Pop art was first developed in New York City in the late 1950's and soon became the dominant avant-garde art form in the United States.


  • Realism - A style of painting which depicts subject matter (form, color, space) as it appears in actuality or ordinary visual experience without distortion or stylization.


  • Surrealism - A painting style of the early 20th century that emphasized imagery and visions from dreams and fantasies, as well as an intuitive, spontaneous method of recording such imagery, often combining unrelated or unexpected objects in compositions. The works of Magritte, Dali, and Picasso are included in the genre.


  • Diptych - A two-part work of art. 


  • Triptych - A three-part work of art.


  • Watercolor - A painting medium in which the binder is gum arabic. Water is used to thinning, lightening or mixing.

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