National Gallery of Victoria

Picasso Glossary

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Abstract Expressionism: A style of painting that emerged in New York in the late 1950s. Colour and the application of paint were used to express the feelings and ‘inner being’ of the artist. Generally, though not always, non-representational, the style is characterised by all-over compositions and shallow pictorial space. Key exponents included Jackson Pollock, Wilhem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.

Arcadian: Refers to the rustic, peaceful, rural life lived in Arcady, a region of ancient Greece.

Aryan: In this context refers to the blonde, blue–eyed physical ideal regarded as the 'master race' in Nazi Germany.

Avant–garde: A term used to describe artists working in a new, innovative way.

Basque: A member of an indigenous people inhabiting the western Pyrenees and the Bay of Biscay in France and Spain.

Catalan: Romance language spoken in Catalonia in eastern Spain. Characteristic of Catalonia or its inhabitants.

Centaur: In Greek mythology centaurs belonged to a race of monsters with a human torso and the head, body and legs of a horse.

Cubism: A style originated by Picasso and Braque in Paris between 1907 and 1914. A radical approach to the representation of form and space, it broke away from one–point perspective by representing forms from multiple viewpoints, in a shallow space and in monochromatic tones. The style evolved from Analytic Cubism to the later Synthetic Cubism, in which forms seemed to be superimposed over one another.

Etching: A printmaking method in which the design is drawn into a wax ground covering a metal plate with a sharp etching needle. The plate is immersed in an acid bath where the acid bites into the areas of the plate exposed by the needle. When the plate is inked, the etched lines hold the ink after the surface has been cleaned. In the press the ink lines are transferred to paper.

Etruscan: Etruscan art predated Roman art in Italy and appeared in the late 8th century B.C. The painting, sculpture, metal work and architecture of the Etruscans was influenced by Greek and oriental art.

Faun: In Roman mythology a faun was a rural deity with the body of a man and the horns, ears, tail and sometimes the legs of a goat.

Gorgon: Any of the three sisters in Greek mythology who could turn whoever looked at them into stone. Their scalps were covered with live snakes instead of hair.

Iberian Art: Refers to the art produced on the Iberian peninsula, the area today known as Spain and Portugal, between about 1000 and 1400 A.D.

Lithograph: A printmaking method where the design is drawn in a greasy ink or crayon onto a slab of special limestone. After fixing the greasy drawing with certain chemicals, water is applied to the stone. The stone accepts the water but the greasy lines resist it. The stone is then rolled with ink, which adheres to the greasy lines but not the wet surface of the stone. The image can then be printed by placing a sheet of paper on the stone and passing it through a lithographic press. This technique was invented in 1798 and became important in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Minotaur: In Greek mythology the minotaur was a half–man, half–bull to whom young Athenian men and women were sacrificed. The Greek hero Theseus, following Ariadne's thread, was able to slay the minotaur in the labyrinth. For Picasso the minotaur, fauns and centaurs represented the bestial, lustful and animalistic aspects of human nature.

Neptune: Is the god of the sea in Roman mythology (counterpart of Greek Poseidon).

Objet trouvé: A 'found object' displayed as a work of art. The artist presents a chance find as an aesthetic object.

Photomontage: A technique in which cutout sections or fragments of photographs are arranged and mounted to form one image with one message.

Psychoanalysis: A therapy originated by Sigmund Freud in which mental processes are investigated through inner experiences, such as thoughts, feelings, emotions, fantasies and dreams.

Rationalism: The theory that knowledge or truth can be reached through the exercise of reason, rather than through experience, faith or reliance on the senses.

Renaissance: Refers to the revival of classical learning and ideals that took place in Italy between the 14th and 16th centuries. In the arts it was characterised by balanced compositions with a central focus, the scientific understanding of perspective and anatomy, a deliberate imitation of the classical ideal and a focus on 'humanism'. Its expression in the arts began with the painting of Giotto (c.1267–1337) and culminated in the painting of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael; and the painting, sculpture and architecture of Michelangelo.

Rolleiflex camera: The ingenious design of the twin–lens 6 x 6 Rolleiflex camera made history when it was introduced in 1929. Its square format offered the potential for creative manipulation of the image. Its large screen made the photographer feel part of the scene and gave better tonal rendition and higher resolution. Many creative photographers used this camera to create world–famous images.

Siren: In Greek mythology, a sea nymph whose sweet singing lured mariners onto the rocks where they lived and led to their destruction.

Social Realism: A Marxist aesthetic doctrine that seeks to promote the development of socialism through literature, art and music.

Sphynx: In Greek Mythology, a winged creature having the head of a woman and the body of a lion. Noted for killing those who could not answer its riddle.

Strafe: To fire at close range, especially with machine–gun fire from low–flying aircraft.

Surrealism: This began in the early 1920s as a literary movement under the leadership of the French writer André Breton. Surrealist artists sought to fuse everyday reality with the experience of dreams and the subconscious to create a 'super' reality. Surrealist images often combine logically unconnected objects using a meticulous, almost photographic technique, sometimes evoking a dream–like quality. Other artists explored the unconscious mind by using techniques of 'automatism'. The 'reality' of the subconscious mind and the world of dreams were preferred over the matter–of–fact reality and logic of everyday life. Major exponents were Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Jean Arp and Joan Miro.

Vanitas: A type of still life showing objects that suggest the impermanence of life, such as skeletons, skulls and dying flowers.




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