3 Terms to Update your Art Vocab

August 26th, 2017

Many of us shy away from stepping into art galleries because we feel ill-equipped to critique, or even talk about artworks. How do I describe this weird painting hanging on the wall? How am I supposed to feel about it? What in the world is this art style called? Questions like these and many more run through our minds as we walk soundlessly through the hallways. What if you were aware of the right terms? Wouldn’t you feel a lot more comfortable in these arty spaces? Well, if you said “yes,” today is your lucky day, for below, we’ve listed down three new terms for you to learn. Look out for our future art vocab instalments to learn more terms and concepts.


The term comes from two Greek words, bios, meaning life and morphe, meaning form. Biomorphic art draws inspiration from living organisms like plants, animals, the human body, etc. It replicates forms found in nature but in a free-flowing, unique fashion. The term was first used in the 1930s to describe abstract imagery in surrealist and cubist paintings and sculptures. The form is decorative, rather than structural and aims to exalt the mystical, the spontaneous the irrational. The sculpture below is an example of biomorphic art. Another example closer to home is the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, which has been inspired by the contours of the Lotus flower.


Recumbent Figure by Henry Moore


Is an Italian term which translates as ‘light and dark.’ The oil-painting technique was developed during the Renaissance to model three-dimensional forms. Artists use extreme contrasts of light and shade for dramatic effect. Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt are famous for developing this technique. Chiaroscuro is not used only in paintings but also in film and photography. Neo-noir films like ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Blade Runner’ have made extensive use of Chiaroscuro.


Self-portrait by Rembrandt

Trompe L’oeil

The French phrase means ‘deceives the eye’ and is used to describe paintings that create the illusion of a real object or scene. Cleaver brush strokes give the painting the appearance of a 3 Dimensional object. ‘Pavement art’ which is creating waves in the art scene is a good example of Trome L’oeil. We get to see glimpses of its use in the cartoon ‘Road Runner’ as well where Wily Coyote paints Trompe L’oeil tunnels and Road Runner races through them.


A painting of newspapers and assorted objects by Edward Collier.

We hope these terms help you appreciate artworks better!


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