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

  • #ArtWords Margaret Harrison, 'Little Woman at Home' 1971 Glossary term of the month: Feminist art

    Welcome to our glossary term of the month! Tate’s online glossary is designed to explain and illuminate some of the art terminology you will find on our website, from abstract art to Zero

  • Glossary 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

  • Glossary 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

  • Glossary John Martin, 'The Great Day of His Wrath' 1851-3 Sublime

    The theory of sublime art was put forward by Edmund Burke in which he defined the sublime as an artistic effect productive of the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling

  • Glossary Kasimir Malevich, 'Dynamic Suprematism' 1915 or 1916 Suprematism

    Name given by the Russian artist Kasimir Malevich to the abstract art he developed from 1913 characterised by basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colours

  • Glossary Jeff Koons, 'Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Two Dr J Silver Series, Spalding NBA Tip-Off)' 1985 Postmodernism

    Term used from about 1970 to describe changes seen to take place in Western society and culture from the 1960s onwards. In art, postmodernism was specifically a reaction against modernism

  • Glossary Alphonse Legros, 'Le Repas des Pauvres' 1877 Realism

    Realism refers to a mid nineteenth century artistic movement characterised by subjects painted from everyday life in a naturalistic manner; however the term is also generally used to describe artworks painted in a realistic almost photographic way

  • Glossary Douglas Huebler, 'Site Sculpture Project, Windham College Pentagon, Putney, Vermont' 1968 Land art

    Land art is made directly in the landscape, sculpting the land into earthworks or making structures using natural materials such as rocks or twigs. It was part of the wider conceptual art movement in the 1960s and 1970s

Groups and schools

  • Glossary Jean Tinguely, 'Débricollage' 1970 Zero

    Group Zero or Group O are often referred to simply as Zero, formed in Dusseldorf in 1957. They felt their approach to art making which used light and motion opened up new forms of perception

  • Glossary 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

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

    British post-impressionist group founded by Walter Sickert in London in 1911. Artists associated with the group painted realist scenes of city life and some landscape in a range of post-impressionist styles

  • Glossary 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 

  • Glossary Karel Appel, 'Hip, Hip, Hoorah!' 1949 CoBrA

    Group formed in 1948 by artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam whose painting style was highly expressionist and inspired by the art of children

  • Glossary Ben Nicholson OM, '1924 (first abstract painting, Chelsea)' circa 1923-4 The Seven and Five Society

    Initially a traditional group formed in London in 1919, the group was later joined by Ben Nicholson, one of the pioneers of abstract art in Britain and other modernists including Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and John Piper

  • Glossary Georges Vantongerloo, 'Interrelation of Volumes' 1919 Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square)

    Artist group formed in Paris in 1929 which strongly supported new developments in abstract art and in particular promoted mystical tendencies within it

  • Glossary Victor Pasmore, 'Reclining Nude' 1942 Euston Road School

    British realist group formed in 1938 of artists who either taught or studied at the School of Painting and Drawing at 316 Euston Road in London, they reacted against avant-garde styles, favouring traditional subjects in a realist manner

  • Glossary Richard Hamilton, '$he' 1958-61 Independent Group

    The Independent Group was convened in the 1950s and was responsible for the formulation and dissemination of many of the basic ideas of British pop art. Its leading artists included Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson and Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

Materials and techniques

  • Glossary 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

  • Glossary Rayograph

    The technique of creating photographic prints without using a camera (photograms) is as old as photography itself – but emerged again in various avant-garde contexts in the early 1920s

  • Glossary Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth' exhibited 1842 Oil paint

    A slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil that forms a tough, coloured film on exposure to air

  • Glossary Francesca Woodman, 'Space², Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978' 1975-8 Photography

    A photograph can be either a positive or negative image and made using one of many processes. The word photograph was coined in 1839 by Sir John Herschel and is based on the Greek word ‘phos’, meaning ‘light’, and ‘graphê’, meaning ‘drawing’ – so ‘drawing with light

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

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

  • Glossary after Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Snow-Storm, engraved by R. Brandard' published 1859-61 Engraving

    Printmaking technique that involves making incisions into a metal plate which retain the ink and form the printed image

  • Glossary Raoul Hausmann, 'The Art Critic' 1919-20 Photomontage

    A collage constructed from photographs which was was first used as a technique by the dadaists in 1915 in their protests against the First World War. It was later adopted by the surrealists

  • Glossary Pablo Picasso, 'Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper' 1913 Papier collé

    The cubist painter Georges Braque first used papier collé when he drew on imitation wood-grain paper that had been pasted onto white paper. This technique was also used by Pablo Picasso who substituted wood-grain paper with newspaper pages

  • Glossary Andrew Grassie, 'Tate New Hang 6' 2005 Photorealism

    Painting style that emerged in Europe and the USA in the late 1960s, characterised by its painstaking detail and precision. Artists associated with photorealism include the painter Chuck Close and Richard Estes