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 John Singleton Copley, 'The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781' 1783 Glossary term of the month: History painting

    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 Robert Delaunay, 'Endless Rhythm' 1934 Orphism

    Orphism was an abstract, cubist influenced painting style developed by Robert and Sonia Delaunay around 1912

  • Glossary Joseph Kosuth, 'Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version' 1965 Conceptual art

    The term conceptual art came into use in the late 1960s to describe artworks in which the concept (or idea) behind the artwork is more important than traditional aesthetic and material concerns (what it looks like or how it is made)

  • Glossary Jannis Kounellis, 'Untitled' 1968 Arte povera

    Arte povera was a radical Italian art movement from the late 1960s to 1970s whose artists explored a range of unconventional processes and non traditional ‘everyday’ materials

  • Glossary Giorgio de Chirico, 'The Uncertainty of the Poet' 1913 Metaphysical Art

    Metaphysical Art (the translation of the Italian Pittura Metafisica) was an early twentieth century Italian art movement typified by dream-like views of eerie arcaded squares with unexpected juxtapositions of objects

Groups and schools

  • 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 Walter Richard Sickert, 'Minnie Cunningham at the Old Bedford' 1892 New English Art Club

    The New English Art Club (NEAC) was founded in London in 1886 as an exhibiting society by artists influenced by impressionism and whose work was rejected by the conservative Royal Academy

  • 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 Joseph Beuys, 'Felt Action' 1963 Fluxus

    The group was founded in 1960 by artist George Maciunas; originally for an eponymous magazine featuring the work of a group of artists and composers centred around John Cage. Its aim was to ‘promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art, promote living art, anti-art’

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 Leon Kossoff, 'Christ Church, Spitalfields, Morning' 1990 Impasto

    An area of thick paint, or texture, in a painting which first noticeable in Venetian Renaissance painters Titian and Tintoretto. In modern art impasto was used so that the surface of a painting would not be just a smooth window into an illusionist world

  • Glossary Bruce Lacey, 'The Womaniser' 1966 Kinetic art

    Kinetic art is art that depends on motion for its effects. Since the early twentieth century artists have been incorporating movement into art, to either introduce the element of time or to reflect the importance of the machine and technology in the modern world

  • Glossary Jackson Pollock, 'Number 23' 1948 Action painters

    The term action painters is applied to artists working from the 1940s until the early 1960s whose approach to painting, (splashing, using gestural brushstrokes and dripping paint onto canvas rather than carefully applying it), emphasized the physical act of painting

  • Glossary Tony Bevan, 'Portrait Man' 1994 Woodcut

    A method of relief printing from a block of wood cut along the grain