Glossary of Art Terms - N

Naïve Art

Naïve art is created by untrained artists. It is characterized by simplicity and a lack of the elements or qualities found in the art of formally trained artists. (See also, outsider art, with which it bears many similarities.) The term naïve art presumes the existence (by contrast) of an academy and of a generally accepted educated manner of art creation, most often painting. In practice, however, there are schools of naïve artists. Over time it has become an acceptable style. The characteristics of naïve art are an awkward relationship to the formal qualities of painting; for example, difficulties with drawing and perspective that result in a charmingly awkward and often refreshing vision; strong use of pattern, unrefined colour, and simplicity rather than subtlety are all supposed markers of naïve art. It has become such a popular and recognisable style that many examples could be called pseudo-naïve.


The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (also known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets and critics, founded in 1848 by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach adopted by the Mannerist artists who followed Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on academic teaching of art. Hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". In particular they objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts. They called him "Sir Sloshua", believing that his broad technique was a sloppy and formulaic form of academic Mannerism. In contrast they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art,naturalistic. The Pre-Raphaelites have been considered the first avant-garde movement in art, though they have also been denied that status, because they continued to accept both the concepts of history painting and of mimesis, or imitation of nature, as central to the purpose of art. However, the Pre-Raphaelites undoubtedly defined themselves as a reform movement, created a distinct name for their form of art, and published a periodical, The Germ, to promote their ideas. Their debates were recorded in the Pre-Raphaelite Journal.

Negative Space

In art, generally, negative space is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, and not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space is occasionally used to artistic effect as the "real" subject of an image. The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition. In a two-tone, black-and-white image, a subject is normally depicted in black and the space around it is left blank (white), thereby forming a silhouette of the subject. However, reversing the tones so that the space around the subject is printed black and the subject itself is left blank causes the negative space to be apparent as it forms shapes around the subject. Elements of an image that distract from the intended subject, or in the case of photography, objects in the same focal plane, are not considered negative space. Negative space can be used to depict a subject in a chosen medium by showing everything around the subject but not the subject itself. Usage of negative space will produce a silhouette of the subject. The use of equal negative space, as a balance to positive space, in a composition is considered by many as good design. This basic and often overlooked principle of design makes a composition more appealing to the viewer without their knowledge of why because it gives their eye a "place to rest".


Neoclassicism (sometimes rendered as Neo-Classicism or Neo-classicism) is the name given to quite distinct movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture. These movements were in effect at various times between the 18th and 20th centuries. This article addresses what these "neoclassicisms" have in common. What any "neo"-classicism depends on most fundamentally is a consensus about a body of work that has achieved canonic status. These are the "classics." Ideally — and neoclassicism is essentially an art of an ideal — an artist, well-schooled and comfortably familiar with the canon, does not repeat it in lifeless reproductions, but synthesizes the tradition anew in each work. This sets a high standard, clearly; but though a neoclassical artist who fails to achieve it may create works that are inane, vacuous or even mediocre, gaffes of taste and failures of craftsmanship are not commonly neoclassical failings. Novelty, improvisation, self-expression, and blinding inspiration are not neoclassical virtues; neoclassicism exhibits perfect control of an idiom. It does not recreate art forms from the ground up with each new project, as modernism demanded. "Make it new" was the modernist credo of the poet Ezra Pound.


Neo-Dada is a label applied primarily to the visual arts describing artwork that has similarities in method or intent to earlier Dada artwork. Neo-Dada is exemplified by its use of modern materials, popular imagery, and absurdist contrast. It also patently denies traditional concepts of aesthetics. The term was popularized by Barbara Rose in the 1960s and refers primarily, although not exclusively, to a group of artwork created in that and the preceding decade. In recent times the term neo-Dadaists has been applied to an international group of artists known as the Kroesos foundation led by Mark Divo. In the winter of 2002 they took over the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich until they were evicted on March 2, 2002.


Neo-expressionism was a style of modern painting that emerged in the late 1970s and dominated the art market until the mid-1980s. Related to American Lyrical Abstraction it developed in Europe as a reaction against the conceptual and minimalistic art of the 1970s. Neo-expressionists returned to portraying recognizable objects, such as the human body (although sometimes in a virtually abstract manner), in a rough and violently emotional way using vivid colours and banal colour harmonies. Overtly inspired by the so-called German Expressionist painters--Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann, George Grosz--and other emotive artist such as James Ensor and Edvard Munch. The popularity of the style, or partially even the style itself, was created by aggressive marketing and media promotion by the art dealers and galleries.


Neo-Impressionism is a term coined by the French art critic Félix Fénéon in 1887 to characterise the late-19th century art movement led by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, who first exhibited their work in 1884 at the exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in Paris. Fénéon's term pointed to the roots of this recent development in the visual arts in Impressionism, but offered at the same time a fresh reading of artistic means like colour and line based on the practise of Seurat and Signac, and its theoretical background in the writings of Chevreul and Charles Blanc.

New Media

New media is a term describing media that can only be created or used with the aid of computer processing power. It is a form of media that includes some aspect of interactivity for its audience and is usually in digital form. While the expression "New Media" may be applied to a large spectrum of media, it is generally used to describe interactive creative expression in multimedia, computers or communications technologies.

New Realism

New Realism (in French: Nouveau Réalisme) refers to an artistic movement founded in 1960 by Pierre Restany and Yves Klein. Pierre Restany wrote the original manifesto for the group in April 1960, and a joint declaration was signed on October 27, 1960 by nine people: Yves Klein, Arman, Francois Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Martial Raysse, Pierre Restany, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Jacques de la Villeglé; in 1961 these were joined by César, Mimmo Rotella, then Niki de Saint Phalle and Gérard Deschamps. The artist Christo joined the group in 1963. The first exposition of the "Nouveaux réalistes" took place in November 1960 at the Paris "Festival d'avant-garde. This exposition was followed by others: in May 1961 at the Gallery J.; in New York in 1962; and at the Biennale of San Marino in 1963 (which would be the last collective show by the group). The movement had difficulty maintaining a cohesive program after the death of Yves Klein. The members of the group saw the world as an image, from which they would take parts and incorporate them into their works. They sought to bring life and art closer together. These artists declared that they had come together on the basis of a new awareness of their "collective singularity", meaning that they were together in spite of, or perhaps because of, their differences. For all the diversity of their plastic language, they perceived a common basis for their work, this being a method of direct appropriation of reality, equivalent, in the terms used by Pierre Restany, to a "poetic recycling of urban, industrial and advertising reality" (60/90. Trente ans de Nouveau Réalisme, La Différence, 1990, p 76). The New Realism movement has often been compared to the Pop Art movement in New York for their use and critique of mass-produced commercial objects (Villeglé's ripped posters, Arman's collections of detritus and trash), although New Realism maintained closer ties with Dada than with Pop Art.

New Wave Art

Initially a word used to described French filmmakers of the late 1950s, New Wave in the 1980s became associated with the combining of music and Performance Art. The definition has come to mean a mix of graffiti artists, Neo-Expressionists and East Village Art (the explorsion of painting, performance and and music activity in Greenwich Village). Alternative Spaces showcase New Wave events. Two major New York exhibitions of New Wave artists in the 1980s brought the name to the attention of the media. One of them was in an Alternative Space, which was a dilapidated former massage parlor that offered an alternative to the familiar white-walled art galleries. The second exhibition, held in 1981, was in a space called P.S. 1. New Wave artists include Tom Otterness and John Ahearn. Source: Robert Atkins, "Art Speak".

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