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ArtLex Art Dictionary

Ways That Educators

at K-12 and University Levels

Use ArtLex


The quality of visual art education depends greatly upon how well we and our students use our words, because in art,

"concepts become more manageable when we can name them."

A.G. Woolcott and B. Gough-Dijulio, "Just looking or talking back? A postmodern approach to art education." In J.W. Hutchens and M.S. Suggs (Eds.), Art Education: content and practise in a postmodern era, 1997, pp. 147, published by NAEA.


"In order to cope with the world, you have to be able to translate from one language to another — from or to a visual language, a kinetic language, an aural language. You have to be able to translate what you see into what you say and do."

Edmund B. Feldman, "The art of curriculum making in the arts." In (1971), E. W. Eisner (Ed.), Confronting Curriculum Reform (pp. 112-19). Boston: Little, Brown.

When devising instructional strategies it's often best to begin with objectives involving verbal information, and this typically includes defining terms. Use caution when doing this because you may be removing the context required to make those definitions meaningful. It can be more difficult for learners to store such information in memory, and retrieving it can depend upon the presence of contextual cues. Learners may also find that learning verbal information out of context is irrelevant and boring. It is best to learn definitions in a way that involves several forms of stimulation, and not solely verbal ones. Viewing images with audible commentary is more engaging, for instance, and mixing these with the activity of browsing ArtLex provides an additional richness to a study that might be otherwise rather dry .

Consider starting a presentation by visiting an article about one of the broadest terms you rely upon, such as art, design, craft, quality, creativity, originality, or talent. Or consider media, techniques, styles, genres, issues, or some of the other signifiers of cultural contexts (including isms, periods, civilizations, or geographical regions) of import to your students.


Eight lesson ideas:

1 . . Make a list of terms students will need to know in your class, and distribute of this list. You may even post it on a Web page. Assign studies of ArtLex articles concerning terms on your list on a schedule relevant to the course. Assess students' understanding of terms at intervals. If you like, such assessments can be in any of several quickly scored formats — multiple-choice, matching, or short-answer perhaps. But the real payoff comes when you find your students' art conversations betray their increased sophistication in a richer art vocabulary.

2 . . Assign the reading of art texts relevant to the class — specific chapters, articles, pages, etc. As part of the assignment, tell each student to select (highlight) ___ (a number of) words that are either especially important to the text, new to the student, or difficult to understand. Expect each student to submit a printed report about the terms they've chosen. In this report, each student will assemble three pieces about each term: (1) quote one or more portions of the assigned text in which the term is used [cite the location of that portion], then (2) quote an article defining the term (as found in ArtLex, or another reference if it's not found in ArtLex), and (3) draw conclusions that demonstrate good reasoning and deep understanding of the assigned text. Additionally, students should feel free to argue for or against points made by the writer of the text.

3 . . Copy, print, and hand out articles from ArtLex (add copyright credits, citing "with permission . . . ") concerning each of several art terms you would like students to prepare to discuss in small groups either during or outside of class. Assign each student to write a paper listing the most important points raised by those discussions, along with any points that student feels should have been made that were not. Tell students you expect their writings to support or defend each of the claims they make by citing reasons / evidence / examples.

4 . . Many articles in ArtLex include a number of relevant great quotations — these articles include quotes about:

Just as you ask students to describe, analyze and evaluate various works of art, employ great quotations as starting points for class discussions or writing assignments. Ask students to respond to questions or challenges you pose. Three examples: "Discuss the meaning of this quotation: ' . . . .'" or "Argue in favor or against the author's point of view," or "Apply this point of view to a discussion of _____________ [ works of a particular artist / movement / period / genre / material / technique, etc.]"

5 . . You are used to showing students artworks by certain artists, or of certain eras, from movements, showing the use of media, techniques, ideas, etc. Assign students to find and show you works that demonstrate their understanding. Ask students to look in ArtLex (or search on the Web) for such images and information -- expect them to list (for each image they cite) the name of the artist (when known), his/her nationality and dates, each work's title, date, medium, dimensions, and provenance, in addition to other contextual information, their opinions, etc.

6 . . If you post information about your course work on the Web, your students will benefit from your making art terms into links to ArtLex articles about those terms. You are welcome to post as many such links to ArtLex as you wish. Find, copy, and post links to any of the thousands of ArtLex's articles from a Web page that lists a link to each article in ArtLex. If you'd like to see examples of online lessons in which all art terms are hyperlinks to ArtLex articles about those terms, visit: sculpture lessons for secondary students and / or graphic design lessons for secondary students, each by Michael Delahunt.

7 . . World Wide Vocabulary is a lesson plan for a middle school visual arts class, written by Ms. Denise Holly-Tullier, Art Educator, Southeastern Louisiana University, Laboratory School, Hammond, LA. This plan was published on the Web as one of several for a program in Louisiana: "Literacy & Learning: Reading in the Content Areas," simultaneously with a video broadcast by Louisiana Public Broadcasting in 1999. The plan specifies the lesson's topic, objectives, a set induction, numerous activities, closure, an assessment, resources, materials, other applications, and a "Vocabulary Activity Sheet." (The above link is to a .PDF formatted file that can be viewed only with the free Acrobat Reader software. Alternatively a less handsomely formatted HTML version can be viewed via

8 . . Use of ArtLex is integral to many educators' art lessons that have been posted on the Web.


  • Famous African American Artist: Lois Mailou Jones, a lesson plan for grades 5-6, includes art in context and art production components, by Carrie Piparo of Creative Media Applications, and the Educational Netcasting Foundation, Inc., 2000.
  • Planning Art Lessons, a plan for writing lesson plans for undergraduate students in art education, includes links to ArtLex for help finding artists on the web and information about using their images, by Marvin Bartel, Goshen College, IN, 2001.
  • Romare Bearden-style collages, a lesson plan for grades 3-12, includes the direction, "Discuss the meaning of the word 'collage' from ArtLex: Collage," by Education World.


The Web is growing into the best teaching and learning resource next to books. Students who have grown up with computers and the Internet have found the shift to Internet-based learning easy and attractive. In fact teenagers now rely more on the Internet than their library for research. With the availability of ArtLex and other Internet resources, you can expect students to:


ArtLex helps students to understand the language in which works are discussed by their instructors and classmates, art historians and critics, as well as by the artists themselves. Users explore this online resource via art-related terms, finding definitions, supporting images, pronunciation notes, and related links for further information.

The site is extremely easy to use. A user needs only the most basic web site operation skills. A basic understanding of art terminology is helpful, because visitors must use it as starting points from which to find information. Instructions and navigational links for employing ArtLex are all found on its home page. The alphabetical index and shortcuts are always visible in a separate frame on the left while viewing any article within the site. There is a search engine on the home page, but articles can also be found via the navigational links, and there are numerous cross-referencing links embedded in the text — links to other definitions and examples. Going off on tangents to discover related issues is especially satisfying because they increase understanding. The many visual examples that support definitions are strong content in themselves.

ArtLex serves as a portal to related sites. It provides numerous links to many resources beyond ArtLex's boundaries. Clicking a link to an external site makes the visitor's browser display the destination on a new page. That is particularly helpful when an image or text on the new page would be best seen alongside a page in ArtLex. Your students can make excellent use of ArtLex's external links in their research.

Page layouts have been designed to be consistent, easy to read, and attractive to the eye. The images used in ArtLex are large enough to view, but not so large that they take much time to load. No technical support should be needed.

ArtLex can be useful as a means to establishing agreement on the meaning of terms you and your students need to use in common. Disagreements over semantics can either be opportunities for intellectual growth — academically stimulating indeed — or they can be a waste of time, and really annoying!

As in any art educational setting, online or otherwise, visitors to ArtLex should be aware that nudity, politics, and other controversial issues have long been topics in the art world, and this online dictionary presents and offers greater understanding of images and ideas dealing with the wide range of art topics.

If you operate a website as part of your educational activities, you may wish to place links to ArtLex on your site. You have our encouragement to do so.

Here's a description of ArtLex which may be useful:

ArtLex Art Dictionary

ArtLex has definitions in English for thousands of terms used in visual culture, along with images of examples, pronunciation notes, great quotations, and cross-references. ArtLex is a great resource for students who need to research information about art production, history, aesthetics, and education.

You are welcome to quote up to a dozen articles from ArtLex across your entire site. ArtLex expects you to cite it at any quote of its content, crediting its author, noting his copyright. We ask that you post a link to <> on each page where ArtLex is quoted. If you wish to quote more than a dozen articles, ArtLex expects you to contact , its author, to license content for the manner in which you'll use it. Please email your proposal to him.

You may post an ArtLex logo on your site as a link to Several ArtLex logos are displayed below.

When you and your students have simultaneous access to the Internet as your class is meeting (this time is coming, if it hasn't for you yet), there will be all the more reasons to employ ArtLex for your students' learning.

There are many new directions we'll be taking ArtLex, and we'd be delighted to know what ideas occur to you. Please send questions / comments / suggestions for additions and changes to





ArtLex invites you to submit your link

If you establish a link to ArtLex on your educational site, ArtLex may post a link to your site.

Because all the major search engines index links found in ArtLex, and more than a thousand people visit ArtLex every day, a link here will increase the number of visitors to your site.

Simply email ArtLex's Webmaster, , sending him six things:

  1. "I have placed a link to ArtLex on my site, and wish you'd place a link to educational site in ArtLex."


    For your link:

    ArtLex - dictionary of art

    Description . . (optional) . . ArtLex is a dictionary of art for everyone interested in art production, collection, or history. You will find articles on thousands of art terms, along with terrific images, pronunciation notes, great quotations, and links to other resources on the Web.
    Keywords . . (optional) . . art dictionary, definitions, define, look up, vocabulary, art history, education, aesthetic, criticism, painting, sculpture, drawing, gallery, museum, architecture, design, furniture, photography, book, print, reproduction, video, film, culture, information, quotation, quotes, wisdom, landscape, portrait, seascape, still life, genre, folk, nude, bronze, steel, glass, marble, porcelain, poster, paper, frame, color, creativity, expressionism, watercolor, egyptian, greek, roman, byzantine, chinese, japanese, buddhist, hindu, islamic, renaissance, mannerism, baroque, realism, romanticism, impressionism, nouveau, deco, cubism, futurism, dada, surrealism, abstract, pop art, minimalism, postmodernism.
    ArtLex logo . . (optional) . . See below.

  2. Your name and / or the name of your site.
  3. The URL of your site. . . (http://...)
  4. A description of you and / or your work in 35 words or less.
  5. Your physical address or that of your school, along with any other contact information you'd like, including an email address.
  6. Attach the site's logo . (optional) . (in GIF or JPEG format, its size under 100 x 100 pixels, or under 10 k)


Please copy to your server, rather than linking to these:

ArtLex Art Dictionary artlex.button.GIF is 85 x 46 pixels and 7k is 109 x 26 pixels and 6k is 176 x 58 pixels and 9k



ArtLex Art Dictionary
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