Abstract Art: Art which intentionally avoids recognizable, lifelike representation of the observed world.

Acrylic Paint: A versatile synthetic paint that is quick drying and can be used in thick, heavy layers or thin washes on almost all surfaces.

Aesthetic: An area of philosophy that is concerned with the ideals of taste and beauty and which provides criteria for the critical study of the arts.

Applied Arts: Art that serves a useful purpose or that adds decoration to functional object.  The term can include architecture, interior design, ceramics, furniture design, graphics etc.  It is usually contrasted in painting, drawing, sculpture, print-making etc.

Art Deco: The decorative art of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe and North America, originally called Jazz Modern.  It was classical in style with slender, symmetrical, geometric or rectilinear forms, a simple style.

Abstract Expressionism: Art that is based on freedom of expression, spontaneity and random composition, characterized by loose, unrestrained brushwork and often indistinct forms.

Action painting: A form of abstract expressionism in which the paint is applied to the canvas in the course of a series of movement (dancing, cycling or rolling about on canvas) by the artist.

Aesthetic Movement: An informal group of British artists who wished to break away from the rigidity of Victorian design.

Altarpiece: A decorated wall, screen or sectional painting set behind the altar of a Christian church, a feature of church décor dating back to the 11th century.

Aquarelle: A French term for watercolour painting, where a water-based paint is applied to dampened paper in thin glaze which are gradually built up into areas of varying tone.

Arabesque: An elegant flourish used in design, derived from the Moresque patterns of 16th century.

Assemblage: A style of art characterized by the putting together of various objects, such as pieces of painted wood, old shoes, etc, to form a meaningful or decorative integrated whole.

Autography: Term used to describe a painting by one artist only who has not been assisted by pupils or assistants.

Alla Prima: Technique in which the final surface of a painting is completed in one sitting, without under painting.  Italian for "at the first".

Anhydrous: Free from water.

Archival: Refers to materials that meet certain criteria for permanence such as lignin-free, pH neutral, alkaline-buffered, stable in light, etc.

ASTM: The American Society for Testing and Materials. An independent standard for certain paint qualities, adopted by most manufacturers.