Top Terms Every Beginning Art Collector Should Know - Thomaston Auction
New England’s Trusted Auction & Appraisal Professionals.
51 Atlantic Hwy
Thomaston, ME 04861
207-354-8141 • 800-924-1032

March 1, 2023

Top Terms Every Beginning Art Collector Should Know

Congratulations! You just started your private collection of art, or you are an eager artist/art enthusiast yourself, wanting to expand your knowledge. At Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, we’ve seen many different art styles, artists, and pieces, almost the equivalent of how much your typical art museum deals with.

There are, of course, certain terms and words that all new artists and beginner art collectors should know by heart, and we have that list for you! Here are our top 10 words every art collector should know.


A relief is a type of technique where sculptured elements are attached to a solid backing of the same material. The goal in creating reliefs is to make the piece look like it's raised from the original background. There are three ranges of reliefs: high, low, and shallow.

Some examples we’ve had in past auctions include this mid-19th Century Italian cast iron bas-relief plaque, depicting St. John the Evangelist. This was sold in our 2021 November auction, Autumn Majestic.


A lithograph print is a type of print made from a stone or metal plate. This form of printing was invented in the 18th century and was originally used for music scores and maps. This traditional hobby is used to print text or images onto paper or other types of flat, thin material.

In the 1890s, lithographs with color gained popularity after famous print designer Jules Cheret created a variety of colorful prints, which resulted in him being called the ‘father of the modern poster.’

Without the invention of lithography, we would not have recognizable artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges de Feure and Pablo Picasso. Some of our most notable lithographs include this Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec poster, an iconic piece from the 19th century artist, “Aristide Bruant dans Son Cabaret,” which was sold in our July 2021 Splendor: Part One sale



Egg tempera is a painting medium that has colored pigments using glutinous material, like egg yolk, hence its name. Tempera paintings last extremely long, with some still surviving to this day dating back to the 13th century. It was the most popular painting medium until after the 16th century, with the rise of oil paints.

Despite the lack of interest in tempera art since the late Renaissance, it has been frequently used by artists like Andrew Wyeth, John Schoenherr, David Hanna, and Ganesh Pyne.

Some notable pieces of egg tempera mediums we’ve sold includes this hardboard painting by Don Stone, “Eiders,” which was sold in our August 2021 Splendor: Part Two auction.


Impasto is a painting technique where paint is layered thickly onto the canvas, thick enough to provide texture and the appearance of a three-dimensional subject. Impasto is originally an Italian word meaning ‘mixture.’ Oil paints are the most common type of paints used in this practice, since they dry slowly and already have a thick texture.

The most recognizable artists who used this technique include Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and Rembrandt van Rijn.

Some notable pieces we’ve sold that are impasto paintings include this oil on canvas by Yu Ajun, entitled “Red Door.” This was sold in our February 2021 auction, Temptations.


Aquatint is a printmaking technique involving areas of tone, rather than lines. This technique is used alongside etching quite frequently. It lost popularity sometime after lithography took the artistic storm, but there have been revivals of the practice throughout art history. Aquatint plates wear out easily, and are not as flexible with being redone as other types of intaglio plates.

Some notable artists who use the aquatint technique include John James Audubon, Mary Cassatt, and Goya. A perfect example of aquatints we’ve sold here at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries includes this untitled aquatint duo by Anni Elsa Frieda Albers, a contemporary artist.


Gesso is a white mixture of chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of the like, used in painting as a preparatory substance for surfaces like wood panels, baseboards, and canvases. Most artists consider this a form of primer for their art.

There are two main variations of gesso: half-chalk ground and acrylic gesso. Acrylic gesso is currently widely used across the globe, often for its inexpensive material. Acrylic gesso is also considered problematic with oil paints and other types of medium, like egg tempera, as it causes incompatible mixtures to delaminate.

Gesso is also used in sculptures, especially with gold leaf or sculpted wood.

Some of our most iconic pieces of art that have a gilt gesso frame include this fantastic painting by the great Luminist artist, Ivan Aivazovsky. This oil painting, “After the Storm,” was sold at our August 2021 Splendor auction.


Dry point is a printing technique where images are carved into a plate with a needle, or a diamond-pointed piece of metal. This practice is tied very closely with engraving. Dry point is also a term used for manuscripts, often involving glossless inscriptions.

Traditional types of dry point prints often were constructed of copper plates, but modern techniques of the craft now use Plexiglas, acetate and/or zinc.

Some recognizable artists who used dry point include Mary Cassatt, Edward Thomas Daniell, and Stanislaw Maslowski.

Some of our favorite dry point pieces we’ve sold include this Salvador Dali piece entitled “The Kiss,” which involves both color etching and dry point. This was sold at our July 2021 Splendor auction.


Gouache is a type of water-based paint that contains natural pigments, water, and gum Arabic or dextrin. This is a prominent type of painting medium, as it’s been used the longest throughout art history. It’s almost like acrylic or oil paints since it can be used for opaque purposes.

The oldest historical use of gouache can date back to ancient Egypt, as well as Persian sculptures. Though in recent years, gouache is often used alongside watercolor paints or ink and pencil, especially 19th century art.

Some notable pieces of art we’ve sold include this Maurice Day painting, “Trip to the Dentist.” This was sold at our February 2021 Temptations auction.


Inpainting is a technique used by trained conservators at museums and archives to preserve the overall image by the artists’ mediums and style. If an oil painting, for example, is damaged, deteriorated, or missing parts, they are expertly filled to present a complete image.

This process can be applied to both physical and digital art, including photographs and video footage.

Inpainting techniques are dependent on the type of image. You can see examples of inpainting by using UV light, or a blacklight, when examining the condition of a painting.

An example of inpainting can be seen in this black-lit image of a James Edward Buttersworth painting we sold in our 2023 Winter Enchantment auction, seen in several spots along the left side and areas in center and upper right corner.


Craquelure is a French word for old paint that develops a series of cracking due to aging. It can result from not only aging but drying, intentional pattern design, or all the above. Craquelure is common in tempera and oil paintings.

There are seven types of craquelure styles, which connect to specific time periods, locations, and styles: Italian, Flemish, Dutch, and French. Craquelure is also a characteristic aspect of many types of pottery, often desired by pottery and sculpture collectors.

Some great examples we’ve had at auction that had craquelure includes this 19th century painting by George Forster, a still life with peaches, grapes, plums, and raspberries. This was sold at our November 2021 Autumn Majestic auction.

These terms and words will help all new artists and art enthusiasts alike establish and expand their art language. Not only does our blog provide useful knowledge in the public art interest, but also some of our most recommended art magazines we subscribe to.

Collecting art is both fulfilling as well as entertaining, whether it’s a form of personal investment or hobby. Using these terms can help you, as well as any other collector or bidder, discover exceptional pieces reflecting your special interests.

All Posts
Kaja Veilleux, ME AUC902
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram