Fernand Léger, 'ABC' 1927

Tate’s online glossary is designed to explain and illuminate some of the art terminology you will find on our website

It contains definitions, most with illustrations, of over 400 terms including artist groups and art movements, techniques, media and other art jargon.

To browse the glossary choose a letter from A to Z from the menu on the left, or browse the selection of popular terms and their definitions highlighted below.

Art movements

  • Andy Warhol, '[no title]' 1967 Pop art

    Name given to art made in America and Britain from the mid 1950s and 1960s that drew inspiration from sources in popular and commercial culture

  • Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage - Italy' exhibited 1832 Romanticism

    Movement in art and literature from the late 18th and early 19th century, which emphasised human psychology, expression of personal feeling and interest in the natural world

  • Jackson Pollock, 'Yellow Islands' 1952 Abstract expressionism

    New forms of abstract art developed by American painters in 1940s and 1950s, often characterized by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and the impression of spontaneity

  • Salvador Dalí, 'Lobster Telephone' 1936 Surrealism

    Movement, which began in the 1920s, of writers and artists who experimented with ways of unleashing the subconscious imagination

  • Georges Braque, 'Bottle and Fishes' circa 1910-2 Cubism

    A revolutionary new approach to representing reality in art invented by artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in 1907/08, resulting in paintings that appear fragmented and abstracted

  • Gilbert Soest, 'Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk' circa 1670-75 Baroque

    The dominant style in art and architecture of the 17th century, characterized by self-confidence, dynamism and a realistic approach to depiction

  • Claude Monet, 'The Seine at Port-Villez' 1894 Impressionism

    Approach to painting scenes of everyday life developed in France in the 19th century and based on the practice of painting finished pictures out of doors and spontaneously ‘on the spot’ 

  • Robert Morris, 'Untitled' 1965/71 Minimalism

    Extreme form of abstract art developed in the USA in the second half of the 1960s and typified by artworks made in very simple geometric shapes based on the square and the rectangle

  • Ben Nicholson OM, '1934 project for Massine for Beethoven 7th Symphony Ballet' 1934 Modernism

    Broad movement in Western art, architecture and design which self-consciously rejected the past as a model for the art of the present

  • Oskar Kokoschka, 'The Crab' 1939-40 Expressionism

    Refers to art in which the image of reality is distorted in order to make it expressive of the artist’s inner feelings or ideas

  • Man Ray, 'L'Enigme d'Isidore Ducasse' 1920, remade 1972 Dada

    Art movement formed during the First World War in Zurich in negative reaction to the horrors and folly of the war. The art, poetry and performance produced by dada artists is often satirical and nonsensical in nature

  • Giacomo Balla, 'Abstract Speed - The Car has Passed' 1913 Futurism

    Italian art movement of the early 20th century that aimed to capture in art the dynamism, energy and movement of the modern world

Groups and schools

  • Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, 'Ophelia' 1851-2 Pre-Raphaelite

    Founded in London in 1848, a secret society of young artists (and one writer) who were opposed to the Royal Academy’s promotion of the ideal as exemplified in the work of Raphael

  • Damien Hirst, 'Mother and Child (Divided)' exhibition copy 2007 (original 1993) Young British Artists (YBAs)

    Label applied to a group of British artists who began to exhibit together in 1988 and who became known for their openness to materials and processes, perceived shock tactics and entrepreneurial attitude

  • Josef Albers, 'Study for Homage to the Square' 1963 Bauhaus

    Revolutionary school of art, architecture and design established by the pioneer modern architect Walter Gropius at Weimar in Germany in 1919

  • Ben Nicholson OM, '1943-45 (St Ives, Cornwall)' 1943-5 St Ives School

    Artists associated with the fishing town of St Ives in West Cornwall, which became a centre for modern and abstract developments in British art from the 1940s to the 1960s

  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 'Bathers at Moritzburg' 1909/26 Brücke

    German expressionist group founded in Dresden in 1905 which developed a radical anti-traditional style characterised by vivid non-naturalistic colour and emotional tension

  • Spencer Gore, 'The Cinder Path' 1912 Camden Town Group

    British post-impressionist group founded by Walter Sickert in London in 1911

  • Guerrilla Girls

    Formed in New York in the mid 1980s, a group of anonymous American female artists who seek to expose sexual and racial discrimination in the art world and the wider cultural arena

  • Duncan Grant, 'Bathing' 1911 Bloomsbury

    Name commonly used to identify a circle of intellectuals and artists who lived in Bloomsbury, near central London, in the period 1904–40 

  • Theo van Doesburg, 'Counter-Composition VI' 1925 De Stijl

    Circle of Dutch abstract artists who promoted a style of art based on a strict geometry of horizontals and verticals

  • Sir Anthony Caro, 'Early One Morning' 1962 New generation sculpture

    Sculpture produced by a group of young British sculptors working in the 1960s, who experimented with materials, forms and colours with the shared aim of ridding sculpture of its traditional base

Materials and techniques

  • Margaret Mellis, 'Sobranie Collage' 1942 Collage

    Technique (and resulting work of art) that uses a range of materials such as pieces of paper, photographs, fabric and other ephemera which are arranged and stuck down to a supporting surface

  • Cornelia Parker, 'Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View' 1991 Installation art

    Mixed-media constructions or assemblages usually designed for a specific place and for a temporary period of time

  • Michael Landy, 'Creeping Buttercup' 2002 Etching

    Printmaking technique that uses chemical action to produce incised lines in a metal printing plate which then hold the applied ink and form the image

  • Bruce Nauman, 'MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage)' 2001 Time-based media

    Refers to art that is dependent on technology and has a durational dimension

  • Pablo Picasso, 'Still Life' 1914 Assemblage

    Artwork made by assembling disparate elements often scavenged by the artist, sometimes bought specially

  • Henry Moore OM, CH, 'Recumbent Figure' 1938 Sculpture

    Three-dimensional art made by one of four basic processes: carving, modelling, casting, constructing

  • Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Building in Perspective' circa 1810-27 Perspective

    A system for representing objects in three-dimensional space (i.e. for representing the visible world) on the two-dimensional surface of a picture

  • Colin Self, 'Leopardskin Nuclear Bomber No. 2' 1963 Mixed media

    A term used to describe works composed of a combination of different media or materials

  • David Hockney, 'A Bigger Splash' 1967 Acrylic paint

    Water-based fast-drying paint widely used by artists since the 1960s. Can be used thickly or thinly depending how much water is added

  • Dame Barbara Hepworth, 'Maquette, Three Forms in Echelon' 1961 Maquette

    A model for a larger piece of sculpture