Glossary of Art Terms - E


Earthenware is a common ceramic material, which is used extensively for pottery tableware and decorative objects. Clay fired in a kiln at the lowest temperatures.

Ecole des Beaux Arts

Established in 1648 in Paris and reorganized in 1663, it was for many years the official institution to maintain high fine-art standards in France. Rules included adhering to rigid classical studies, drawing and sculpting from the "antique" models. and following certain rules related to geometric proportion, perspective and rendering of anatomy. The Ecole closed in 1793 under the chaos caused by rebelling artists led by Jacques-Louis David. It re-opened in 1816 with the name Academie des Beaux-Arts. Many Americans have studied there, especially from the mid-19th through early 20th centuries.


An écorché is a figure drawn, painted, or sculpted showing the muscles of the body without skin. Renaissance architect and theorist, Leon Battista Alberti recommended that when painters intend to depict a nude, they should first arrange the muscles and bones, then depict the overlying skin.


In printmaking, an edition is a number of prints struck from one plate, usually at the same point in time. This may be a limited edition, with a fixed number of impressions produced on the understanding that no further impressions (copies) will be produced later, or an open edition limited only by the number that can be sold or produced before the plate wears. Most modern artists produce only limited editions, normally signed by the artist in pencil, and numbered as say 67/100 to show the unique number of that impression and the total edition size.

Egg Tempera

A tempera, or temper, is a medium used to bind a range of pigments. Tempers include egg yolk (tempera), gum arabic, oil and egg white. Temper(a) in historical artistic terms is not confined to egg yolk. Egg tempera has become the modern byword for medieval painting, but in fact egg tempera was mostly popular in Southern Europe, northern Europe favouring oil and animal glue based paints. Tempera (or egg tempera) is the primary type of artist's paint and associated art techniques that were prevalent in Southern Europe's Middle Ages, and the required medium for Orthodox icons. It is paint made by binding pigment in an egg medium.


Embossing is the process of creating a three-dimensional image or design in paper and other ductile materials. It is typically accomplished with a combination of heat and pressure on the paper. This is achieved by using a metal die (female) usually made of brass and a counter die (male) that fit together and actually squeeze the fibers of the substrate. This pressure and a combination of heat actually "irons" while raising the level of the image higher than the substrate to make it smooth. In printing this is accomplished on a letterpress. The most common machines are the Kluge Letterpress and the Heidelberg Letterpress.

En Plein Air

En plein air is a French expression which means "in the open air", and is particularly used to describe the act of painting in the outside environment rather than indoors (such as in a studio). In English alfresco has the same meaning, however in Italian the term al fresco has a rather different one, either in jail or simply cool air. Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-1800s working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and Impressionism. The popularity of painting en plein air increased with introduction in the 1870s of paints in tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes). Previously, each painter made their own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil. The Newlyn School in England is considered another major location of such painting in the latter 19th century.


Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, flat surface, by cutting grooves into it, with a burin(sharp tool).

Epoxy Resins

Synthetic resins made of epoxy, this man-made resin is increasingly popular with avant-garde sculptors who like to experiment with new, highly durable materials. Many epoxy resins have coloration and were developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s for industrial molded products and baking enamels. They are easy to control because they do not shrink, and are unique because they have epoxy, which is a cement that creates a permanent bond without the necessity of clamps or pressure devices. Fillers for these resins can be chopped fiber glass, mats or fabrics. Epoxy resins are adhesives because they are sold in sets with two tubes of equal volume, one being the resin and the other the hardening additive of epoxy. They are mixed just before use. (Resin is a transparent, amorphous organic material which is malleable in that it can melt when heated or placed in a volatile solution. Natural resins come from trees; fossil resins come from ground deposits of vegetation. Synthetic resins are created by chemists and often have greater durability).


Etching is the process of using strong acid to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal.(this is the difference with etching which is gouging out with a sharp tool) This is then wiped clean and covered with ink, then once pressed onto moist paper, the final product is created As an intaglio method of printmaking, it is, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains widely used today.


Existentialism is a philosophical movement in which individual human beings are understood as having full responsibility for creating the meanings of their own lives. The movement had its origins in the 19th century thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and was prevalent in Continental philosophy in the 20th century.


Expressionism is the tendency of an artist to distort reality for an emotional effect; it is a subjective art form. The term often implies emotional angst – the number of cheerful expressionist works is relatively small. In this general sense, painters such as Matthias Grünewald and El Greco can be called expressionist, though in practice, the term is applied mainly to 20th century works, like 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch.

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