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 Marcel Duchamp, 'Fountain' 1917, replica 1964 Glossary term of the month: Avant-garde

    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 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

  • Glossary Bridget Riley, 'Fragment 5/8' 1965 Op art

    Op painting used a framework of purely geometric forms as the basis for its effects, drawing on colour theory and the psychology of perception. Leading figures were Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely

  • Glossary 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

  • Glossary Ellen Gallagher, 'Bird in Hand' 2006 Afrofuturism

    The term afrofuturism has its origins in African-American science fiction. Today it is generally used to refer to literature music and visual art that explores the African-American experience and in particular the role of slavery in that experience

  • Glossary Július Koller, 'NO ART!' 1970 Mail art

    Mail art began in the 1960s when artists sent postcards inscribed with poems or drawings through the post rather than exhibiting or selling them through conventional commercial channels

Groups and schools

  • Glossary 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

  • 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’

  • Glossary Black Audio Film Collective

    The Collective was formed by seven undergraduates in Portsmouth in 1982, and re-located to East London in 1983. The collective created a series of defiantly experimental works that engaged with black popular and political culture in Britain

  • 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 Louis Anquetin, 'Girl Reading a Newspaper' 1890 École des Beaux-Arts

    The original École des Beaux-Arts emerged from the teaching function of the French Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, established in Paris in 1648. In 1816 the Académie Royale school moved to a separate building and in 1863 was renamed the Ecole des Beaux Arts

  • 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 

Materials and techniques

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

    Read our glossary terms which explores how sculpture has changed through time and looks at its four basic processes: carving, modelling, casting, constructing

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

    Read our glossary term which looks at how photography has changed through time, its relation to other art forms and an in depth look at at a couple of photographers from Tate’s collection

  • Glossary Jackson Pollock, 'Yellow Islands' 1952 Painting

    Read our glossary term which looks at how painting has changed through time, its conservation at Tate and an in depth look at at a couple of painters from Tate’s collection

  • Glossary Max Ernst, 'The Entire City' 1934 Frottage

    The technique was developed by Max Ernst in drawings made from 1925. Frottage is the French word for rubbing. Ernst was inspired by an ancient wooden floor where the grain of the planks had been accentuated by many years of scrubbing

  • Glossary Kurt Schwitters, '(Relief in Relief)' circa 1942-5 Merz

    Nonsense word invented by the German dada artist Kurt Schwitters to describe his collage and assemblage works based on scavenged scrap materials