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Answers to frequently asked questions





Who is Michael Delahunt, author of ArtLex?


Michael Delahunt in 2008I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of seven children.

I attribute my love of words to my father's example. He found delight in exercising a huge vocabulary. Although from a long line of Irish Catholics, my dad knew and used more Yiddish than many of his Jewish friends.

I gained much of my interest in art from my mother's side of my family. My uncle Samuel Manierre studied art history at Harvard in the 1920s. Sam gave lectures on art history at various museums and schools using a collection of more than 3000 slides of paintings — slides made by his father. Sam wrote a monthly column about art history for the Milwaukee magazine Exclusively Yours. His love for his artist friends, art history, and the pleasures he found in his own art collection impressed me greatly. I particularly remember his explaining abstraction to me when, as a boy, I asked him what's that all about?! (Among Sam's published articles: "Six Wisconsin Painters" (The Studio, January 1946, pages 20-23.) [This is a PDF file. To view it, use the free Acrobat Reader.] Sam was also a terrific storyteller.)

Sam's mother, my grandmother, Katharine Newbury Manierre studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and was a working artist until she married in 1906. Her style was richly influenced by Art Nouveau and the Arts & Crafts Movement.

My grandfather, George Manierre was a graduate of Harvard (class of '00 — he'd say "aught-aught"), a mechanical engineer who invented myriad devices, from machines that loaded coal onto boxcars to children's toys. One of his contraptions can hold and illuminate a book in any position, and was named the "Readanrest." I enjoy a 1925 model that hovers over my bed. Unfortunately the manufacture of the Readanrest was discontinued in the 1930s.

My memories of these people and their encouragement are among my greatest treasures.

After graduating from St. Norbert College in 1972 with a bachelor's degree in art and English, I taught art to secondary students in Denver, CO.

I earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1986. My work there focused on producing sculpture. I especially enjoyed my relationship with Martin Puryear, a terrific sculptor and mentor. While in Chicago, I taught a course to future educators titled Studies in Creativity Art for Elementary Teachers, and another to adults in drawing and painting.



Since then I've taught visual art to students in several elementary and secondary schools in the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Arizona.




From the fall of 2004 I have been studying art, art education, linguistics, and educational technology at Arizona State University in the course of attaining a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Art Education.


see thumbnail to leftOne of ASU's reknowned professors of art a.k.a. Doctor It.


I'm an active member of several professional organizations including the National Art Education Association, the Arizona Art Education Association, the Arizona Alliance for Art Education, the National Education Association, the Dictionary Society of North America, MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching), and the Art History Webmasters Association.


I married Alison Kukla in 1986. We have two wonderful teenage children.

For more about me (you haven't learned enough yet?!!) visit my personal home page.

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Why ArtLex?

Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975, Russian semiologist) observed that all of us "live in a world of others' words" and our "entire life is an orientation in this world, a reaction to others' words." (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, C. Emerson, editor and translator, 1984, p. 146. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.)

People have been using language for 80,000 - 2,000,000 years, depending on how you define language. Gesturing without speech was the earliest stage. "Over there is a thing with lots of teeth," "This high, this wide," and "Looking good! [or ugly!]" must certainly have been among the phrases in that gestural vocabulary.

In Africa archaeologists have found evidence of several innovations in human behavior that date to 50,000 years ago: a great variety of tools made from stone and bone, signs of long distance trade, and the first art objects.

If only we had some documentation of all the long-lost figures drawn in dirt, on stone, vegetation, bone and skin throughout the ages, it would tax our abilities to catalogue such a vast database of markings. (Because other creatures are known to have made gestures and marks that convey information and feelings, the history of art may not be limited entirely to that produced by homo sapiens either!) Even deeply pre-historic pre-speech gestures may have conjured up mental images that today would qualify them as "conceptual art."

The first actual writing was produced about 5,000 years ago, and from its beginnings was itself a form of visual art.

In all of this past, many have observed that "a picture is worth a thousand words." Noting things' descriptive qualities and making verbal analogies about them are among the potent means we have to stretch our minds around our world. Working with words helps us to analyze, interpret, and express our ideas about, criticise and evaluate whatever we see and make.

Finding and choosing the best words, and truly comprehending their meaning is a critically challenging and rewarding pursuit, elemental to the development of all students of art, whether we are working toward an academic degree or involved in life-long learning. The average high school student has a vocabulary of about 60,000 words, including many of the 3600 words addressed in ArtLex. But, "There are things we don't see because we don't have words for them," as Eric Margolis said. The opportunity offered by any study of this resource is at minimum an increase in the breadth and depth of a student's capacity for uses of art ideas as we expand our abilities to listen, converse and write about, as well as produce art.

ArtLex is about finding and understanding those words most likely to be among any thousand that a picture is worth. If in evolutionary terms these words' history is brief, then ArtLex's is briefer still:



The Beginnings of ArtLex.


In my first ten years of teaching art, about 1975-85, I made and projected hundreds of slides. As my uncle had, I hunted down sources of images, spent a lot of time and money with a copystand, a camera, and film, labeled each slide, and set up a system for their storage. The slides were constantly moving between my light-table, projector trays, and back into storage.

In the late 1980s I embraced newer technologies. I got two museums' collections on laser disks and Hypercard (aka Hyperstack) software that allowed my personal computer to interact with the laser disk. I could display information about the images on a disk, and create "slide shows" on a classroom TV screen. Despite the great numbers of images available from the disks, and the smartly organized information in the software, there were many technical and pedagogical limitations. Few art educators could afford these things, and of those who could, few put in the hours necessary to use them very much. And as with the slides, few students could use this gear without supervision. The need remained for a more accessible system of art information — texts and images that could cross-reference a vast array of visual culture art history, certainly, but also art production, criticism, aesthetics, and other art educational issues. And one that could continuously grow as time went by.

In 1994 I began teaching in a newly built school prewired for Internet connection.

I immediately began putting together Web pages about my art program, including descriptions of my lessons and images of my students' work. The more I produced pages for my students, the more I wondered what other resources would be useful to them. In exploring the Web, I was impressed both by its potential and by a dearth of content: the vast majority of sites either shallow or narrow. The most interesting sites: invariably sources of vast information, many of them directories of links to a variety of other sites. The urge to contribute to the Web's enrichment with an art site both rich with meaning and dense with links was the impetus to make ArtLex. The name comes from combining "art" with "lexicon" — a list of words or dictionary.

It began as a short list of definitions in the spring of 1996, growing into a glossary of 1400 articles, first posted on the Web a few months later.

Now it has more than 3,600 articles, more than 50,000 links, and is seen by millions of visitors every year. In 2008, about a million page-views were served every month.

I am an avid student of linguistics, especially of lexicography — the writing of dictionaries — a discipline with a fascinating history. Its holy trinity of heroes are the "harmless drudges" (that's how Samuel Johnson defined lexicographer) [left to right] Johnson (1709-84), Noah Webster (1758-1843), and James Murray (1837-1915). But the wordy folk to whom I pay most attention are the art writers and talkers of the world — art experts and students of art.

It is gratifying to hear how ArtLex is respected and used around the globe. If you search Google with the keyword "art," Google recommends ArtLex among the first of the 900,000,000 sites it notes!

In the location window of any browser, if you type "art dictionary," the first option suggested will be ArtLex.

The DMOZ Open Directory powers the core directory services for the Web's largest and most popular search engines and portals, including Netscape Search, AOL Search, Google, Lycos, HotBot, DirectHit, and hundreds of others. The Open Directory is the definitive catalog of the Web — "the most widely distributed data base of Web content classified by humans." The Open Directory's list of more than 2,300 art history sites says ArtLex is the best of them all. Google — the most frequently consulted Internet search engine — recommends more than 3,000 art history sites. Google says it recommends ArtLex more often than all but one of those sites.

You might enjoy learning about the numerous awards presented to ArtLex, and what other sites recommend it.



The Future of ArtLex

I have been improving this collection of terms, definitions, images, quotations, links, and related information since its beginnings. There's no end to the improvements still to come: a steady increase in the number, length, and quality of articles. ArtLex will just keep growing as an illustrated visual art reference taking advantage of the potential of internetworked hypermedia.

Although my points of view inevitably moderate the content of ArtLex, I strive for objectivity essential in a reference dedicated to explaining how others use words. Everything here is temporary. Everything is under construction and poised for improvement. Our language is constantly evolving, and my goal to represent it realistically is a frankly daunting challenge! If you think anything is missing, inadequate, distorted, or wrong, please contact the author!

Pushing the boundaries of interactivity further, I've been adding lessons along with links to those by others. Some of these take the form of games. Assessments will be interactive online, and automatically scored for immediate feedback.

I believe the web is growing into the best resource next to books. We can all agree the internet has its share of problems. Some web addresses published in textbooks are no longer good by the time students receive the books. Other times, students cannot access the web because internet servers are down, and some connections are excruciatingly slow. And there are still plenty of schools without enough computers. All of these problems can be solved, and might be!

"There are some things about a book that can't be beat," said Paul LeBlanc, expert on internet-based education and president of Marlboro College in Vermont. "They're portable, inexpensive, and most people say they prefer to read text on the printed page rather than on a computer screen anyway."

The Conference of English Educators' journal Contemporary Issues in Technology and English Eductaion says, "Exploring the discourse of language with and through technology provides individual attention, collaborative opportunities, and reflective analysis."

Students who have grown up with computers and the internet have found the shift to internet-based learning easy and attractive.

In 2004 the Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia (EPIC) completed a three-year study of research habits that included 1,233 students across the USA. The study concluded that electronic resources had become the main tool for gathering information, particularly among undergraduates.

There are many new directions we'll be taking ArtLex, and we'd be delighted to know what ideas occur to you. Email at ArtLex!



Is any printed version of ArtLex available?

ArtLex isn't available on paper. Although, anyone browsing it on the web could use a computer-printer to print it out, copyright and other restrictions are significant. (ArtLex wouldn't begrudge your quoting selections of course. I encourage it!)

I have no intention to publish ArtLex as a book for several reasons:

  1. Its thousands of hyperlinks would become entirely ineffective. A printed copy would show each term and its definition, along with lists of example artworks, quotations, etc., but none of the example artworks could be seen enlarged, nor would other resources on the internet be so immediately accessible.
  2. Books are wonderful. Web pages can be selectively printed. Nevertheless, since so many features of ArtLex are effective only in its online form, it would be a waste of paper, ink, printer maintenance, and shelf space to create a printed copy. And [call me a radical environmentalist (-; ], but I'm delighted to reduce deforestation and the pollution created by paper mills, printing presses, and freight haulers by making ArtLex available only in this electronic form.
  3. ArtLex was first posted to the Web in August of 1996, but it has undergone changes every week since then. So any printing of ArtLex speedily becomes a previous edition — no longer the current edition, as this one is.
  4. By viewing ArtLex online, you're much more likely to enter into communication with its author!


Having said all that, let's continue to benefit from dictionaries among other works in print, and more online. I recommend several in ArtLex's bibliography.



ArtLex's copyright policies.

Copyright issues in the electronic environment are evolving. There seem to be few experts, and we've found even those to be unclear about how copyright law applies here. Following the strongest advice I have received, here are the policies ArtLex follows:

1 . ArtLex obtains permission to display copyrighted images.

ArtLex obtains permission to place copyrighted images of larger-than-thumbnail size on its pages. Otherwise ArtLex provides links to images that are larger than thumbnail-size. When a visitor to ArtLex clicks on such a link, the visitor's browser is directed to display images that are larger than thumbnail-size within a new window, and not within ArtLex's frame — to retrieve the code for that image from the server-of-origin, and to display it in the context of a web page from the server-of-origin. ArtLex understands that webmasters are not required to obtain permission from the owners of copyrighted images in order to post them on their web pages if they are thumbnail-size images and webmasters do not copy the digital code of those images onto their servers; and that webmasters may copy only the URLs of thumbnail-sized images onto their servers/webpages, so that visitors' browsers are directed to obtain the code for those thumbnail images on other servers in order to display them. (We understand that part of the reasoning for this interpretation is that thumbnails are of such low resolution that they are considered to have relatively insignificant commercial value.) It is also our policy to name, whenever known, the collections in which all cited works reside, along with information about the artists, media, dates, dimensions, etc.

2 . How to obtain permission to copy images from ArtLex.

Many photographs of artworks seen via ArtLex are owned by individuals and institutions which have produced them, and thus hold the rights to these photographs to be used in reproduction. So, we suggest you contact the individual or institution which owns the work. ArtLex cannot and does not grant any of its visitors permission to use the digital code for any image found on or through ArtLex if ArtLex does not own that image. An exception is that a visitor may temporarily display those images on the visitor's monitor. A visitor who wishes to copy any image found on the web should contact the webmaster of the site from whose server the image originates. For more information on the use of others' images, see the sections below, and the article on copyright within ArtLex. It has several links to other copyright sites on the Web.

Keep in mind that if an artist has been dead more than seventy years, his or her work is in the public domain. Reproduction rights are then concerned with rights held by those who have produced photographs of the works. In other words, if someone takes his own photo of a public domain work, he may do anything he wishes with it.

 If you find that an image originating from the domain isArtLex Art Dictionary   among those you wish to copy, contact Michael Delahunt. Identify the URL of the image, and describe exactly each use you wish to make of it. As long as ArtLex's URL ( is identified along with each use, no permission is required to make copies of any ArtLex logo such as the one shown here.

. What is "Fair Use"?

The Fair Use Provision of the Copyright Act (USA) states:

§107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include -
1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

[The copyrighted artists in ArtLex are presented for educational purposes, including teaching, scholarship and research. I endeavor to provide contact information for owners of the copyright so they will be the sole beneficiaries of any commercial opportunities that may arise from the inclusion of these images in ArtLex. Brief quotations from books are presented for purposes of criticism and comment.]

2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;

[Even the works of artists most frequently displayed in ArtLex represent extremely small percentages of the works from their ouvres. As for the textual excerpts, only as much text is presented here to illustrate the quality of the writing, and to encourage the visitor to purchase the book or visit the web site of its origin.]

4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

[The low resolution of images in ArtLex are entirely unsuitable for printed reproduction, and as such provide no competition for licensed, high resolution images of copyrighted images. To the contrary, the availability of these images online often results in requests for licensing information, reproductions, and even original artwork, all of which result in increased revenue for the copyright holders.]

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

4 . How to obtain permission to copy text from ArtLex.

The makers of every reference work hope their work will be quoted. As long as ArtLex is cited with its URL ( as the source of a quotation, the visitor should feel free to quote it. Only when a quotation amounts to more than a hundred (100) words do I require that permission be explicitly requested and obtained. In the vast majority of such instances permission has been given. Contact



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