Words Art Historians Use
Review the “Words Art Historians Use” section below
As in all fields of study, art history has its own specialized vocabulary consisting of hundreds of words, but certain basic terms are indispensable for describing artworks and buildings of any time and place. They make up the essential vocabulary of formal analysis, the visual analysis of artistic form. Definitions and discussions of the most important art historical terms follow.
FORM AND COMPOSITION Form refers to an object’s shape and structure, either in two dimensions (for example, a figure painted on a canvas) or in three dimensions (such as a statue carved from a marble block). Two forms may take the same shape but may differ in their color, texture, and other qualities. Composition refers to how an artist composes (organizes) forms in an artwork, either by placing shapes on a flat surface or by arranging forms in space.
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE To create art forms, artists shape materials (pigment, clay, marble, gold, and many more) with tools (pens, brushes, chisels, and so forth). Each of the materials and tools available has its own potentialities and limitations. Part of all artists’ creative activity is to select the medium and instrument most suitable to the purpose—or to develop new media and tools, such as bronze and concrete in antiquity and cameras and computers in modern times. The processes artists employ, such as applying paint to canvas with a brush, and the distinctive, personal ways they handle materials constitute their technique. Form, material, and technique interrelate and are central to analyzing any work of art.
LINE Among the most important elements defining an artwork’s shape or form is line. A line can be understood as the path of a point moving in space, an invisible line of sight. More commonly, however, artists and architects make a line visible by drawing (or chiseling) it on a plane, a flat surface. A line may be very thin, wire-like, and delicate. It may be thick and heavy. Or it may alternate quickly from broad to narrow, the strokes jagged or the outline broken. When a continuous line defines an object’s outer shape, art historians call it a contour line. All of these line qualities are present in Dürer’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (fig. I-9). Contour lines define the basic shapes of clouds, human and animal limbs, and weapons. Within the forms, series of short broken lines create shadows and textures. An overall pattern of long parallel strokes suggests the dark sky on the frightening day when the world is about to end.
COLOR Light reveals all colors. Light in the world of the painter and other artists differs from natural light. Natural light, or sunlight, is whole or additive light. As the sum of all the wavelengths composing the visible spectrum, it may be disassembled or fragmented into the individual colors of the spectral band. The painter’s light in art—the light reflected from pigments and objects—is subtractive light. Paint pigments produce their individual colors by reflecting a segment of the spectrum while absorbing all the rest. Green pigment, for example, subtracts or absorbs all the light in the spectrum except that seen as green.
Hue is the property giving a color its name. Although the spectrum colors merge into each other, artists usually conceive of their hues as distinct from one another. Color has two basic variables—the apparent amount of light reflected and the apparent purity. A change in one must produce a change in the other. Some terms for these variables are value, or tonality (the degree of lightness or darkness), and intensity, or saturation (the purity of a color, its brightness or dullness).
Artists call the three basic colors—red, yellow, and blue—the primary colors. The secondary colorsresult from mixing pairs of primaries: orange (red and yellow), purple (red and blue), and green (yellow and blue). Complementary colors represent the pairing of a primary color and the secondary color created from mixing the two other primary colors—red and green, yellow and purple, and blue and orange. They “complement,” or complete, each other, one absorbing colors the other reflects.
Next, select 0ne of the two art work below
I-12 CLAUDE LORRAIN, Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, 1648. Oil on canvas, 4′ 10″ × 6′ 4″. National Gallery, London.
I-13 OGATA KORIN, Waves at Matsushima, Edo period, ca. 1700–1716. Six-panel folding screen, ink, color, and gold leaf on paper, 4′ 11 1 8 ″ × 12′ 7 8 ″. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Fenollosa-Weld Collection).
Apply three of the most important vocabulary words art historians use to describe the work of art. Explain why you chose those three terms and why they are important to analyzing art.
Be sure to include the citation for your selected work of art.
Your initial post must be at least 200 words in length.