Abstract – An abstract work of art may have its origins in the real world but exaggerates, distorts, rearranges, and/or simplifies those forms. An abstraction may also be completely non-representational.
Background – The part of a pictorial representation that appears to be in the distance and that provides relief for the principal objects in the foreground.
Balance – The way in which lines, shapes, colors, and textures are arranged to produce an overall harmony that can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical.
Brushstroke – The mark left by a paintbrush on the surface of a painting. Brushstrokes can vary widely in thickness, texture, and quality and can play an important role in conveying meaning or emotion in a work.
Challah – The Hebrew word for a type of bread, usually braided and customarily egg-based, traditionally eaten by Jews on the Sabbath and during festivals.
Collage – A technique in which pieces of paper, photographs, or other media are arranged and adhered to a supporting surface or a work of art created through this technique.
Color – The effect on the eye of different wavelengths of light. There are three properties of color: hue (the name of the color, such as red, yellow, or blue), intensity (the strength or purity of a color), and value (the lightness or darkness of a color).
Complementary colors – These are located directly across from each other on the color wheel, share no common colors, and contrast with one another. The complementary color of a primary color (red, blue, and yellow) is the color produced by mixing the other two primary colors; for example, green is the complementary color of red, orange is the complementary color of blue, and purple is the complementary color of yellow.
Composition – The structure or organization of a work of art, literature, or music.
Contrast – In an artwork, the pairing of two elements that have a significant difference between them, such as bright and dull colors or straight and curvy lines.
Cool colors – Subdued colors, such as blue, green, and violet. Cool colors generally appear to recede in space.
Cubism – An influential artistic style developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braques in the early 20th century, Cubism is characterized by geometric shapes that fragment and reassemble forms and depict objects from multiple points of view.
Culture – The arts, beliefs, institutions, and other products of human work and thought expressed in a particular community or by a particular group.
Fauvist – An early-20th-century artistic movement characterized by intense color and abstraction. The name derives from the French word fauve, meaning “wild beast.”
Focal point – The part of a composition that is meant to draw the viewer’s attention.
Foreground – The part of a picture or scene that appears nearest to the viewer.
Form – A three-dimensional geometric figure (such as a pyramid, sphere, or cube) or a two-dimensional depiction of a three-dimensional figure.
Formal elements – The basic building blocks used to create a work of art. Formal elements include line, shape, color, and texture.
Gouache – An opaque watercolor paint or a painting created in this medium.
Genre painting – The depiction of subjects and scenes from everyday life. Genre painting became especially popular in the Netherlands during the 17th century.
Hasidic – Relating to Hasidism, a Jewish religious movement founded in Eastern Europe in the 18th century. The movement’s founder, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (also known as the “Baal Shem Tov” or “Master of the Good Name”), emphasized spirituality and joyful observance of the commandments in contrast to the more academically based mode of mainstream Judaism of the time. Hasidism (related to the Hebrew word for “pious”) spread quickly throughout Eastern Europe. Today, there are a dozen or so Hasidic sects, the largest of which are the Lubavitch Hasidim, headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.
Identity – The distinguishing character or personality of an individual.
Judenstern – German for “Jewish star.” A hanging lamp with a star-shaped basin for kindling Sabbath and festival lights. Non-Jews ceased using this type of lamp by the 16th century, but its form remained traditional among Jews well into the 19th century.
Kiddush cup – A wine cup over which a special blessing of sanctification (in Hebrew, the kiddush) is recited on the Sabbath and holidays.
Lithography – A printing process developed in the late 18th century in which an oil-based substance is used to draw on a smooth stone or plate. The plate is then wetted and inked. The ink adheres to the oily areas of the surface and is transferred to the paper during printing.
Menorah – Hebrew for “lamp.” The word traditionally refers to the seven-branched candelabrum that was kept continuously lit in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.
Midrash(im) – Hebrew for a rabbinic interpretation of a biblical text. Midrashim is the plural form of the word.
Modernism – A movement relating to a variety of artistic styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that was marked by a deliberate departure from tradition and the use of innovative forms of expression.
Monochromatic – Consisting of just one color.
Narrative art – Art that depicts elements of a story.
Naturalistic – Used to describe art that represents subjects as they appear in the natural world—neither idealizing nor abstracting them.
Palette – A slab of metal, wood, or other material on which an artist mixes paint; also, the range of colors used by a particular artist or in a particular work or art.
Perspective – Techniques used by artists to create the illusion of three dimensions on two-dimensional surfaces such as canvas or paper.
Picture plane – In reference to perspective, the flat level occupied by the surface of the painting, similar to an imaginary plate of glass behind which pictorial elements are arranged in illusionary space.
Pogrom – From the Russian word meaning “havoc.” A mob attack in which Jewish men, women, and children were brutalized and killed and their homes sacked and looted. Pogroms in Eastern Europe were often carried out with the support of local authorities.
Portrait – A work of art that represents a specific person or group of people.
Primary colors – These colors are red, yellow, and blue, the three pigment colors that cannot be made by mixing any other colors.
Primed – Referring to a canvas or surface that has been prepared and sealed with a coating to create a ground for a painting.
Representational – Art that depicts aspects of reality in a recognizable way, in contrast to abstract or non-representational art.
Rhythm – A visual beat or tempo created by a repetition of the elements of art (color, line, etc.) to produce the look and feel of movement.
Secondary colors – These colors are orange, green, and purple, each of which is created by mixing two primary colors together. Mixing red and yellow produces orange; yellow and blue, green; and red and blue, purple.
Shape – A two-dimensional space enclosed or defined by elements such as line, color, or texture. Shapes can be geometric (triangles, circles, and squares, etc.) or free-form.
Shtetl – A Yiddish word that describes a small Eastern European village with a large Jewish population. The shtetl was home to the majority of Eastern Europe’s Jews up until the early 20th century.
Space – The area in a work of art defined by shapes and forms. Positive space refers to an area that contains shapes or forms; negative space is the empty area around or between the shapes and forms.
Stylized – Using shapes, forms, colors, or textures to create an image in a preset style or manner.
Symbol – An image that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention.
Symmetry – Correspondence in size, shape, and relative position of parts on opposite sides of a dividing line or around a center or axis.
Talmud – A collection of commentaries and discussion on the Mishnah (the code of Jewish law written about 200 CE) by the rabbis of Palestine and Babylon between the 3rd and 6th centuries of the Common Era.
Tempera – A type of paint that uses pigments in a water-soluble emulsion, such as water and egg yolk, or an oil-in-water emulsion such as oil and egg.
Texture – The feel of a surface, namely, its smoothness, roughness, softness, etc. Textures may be actual or simulated.
Theme – An idea or point of view embodied and expanded upon in a work of art.
Torah – Also known as the Five Books of Moses, the Chumash, or the Pentateuch, Torah is a Hebrew word that refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. The word is also used to describe the handwritten scroll containing the Hebrew text of those books. All aspects of traditional Jewish life are based on the Torah and on rabbinic interpretations.
Warm colors – Vibrant colors such as red, yellow, and orange. Warm colors generally appear to advance toward the viewer.