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Sadhu: Ascetic. Saint. A person who is honest. 

Sakyamuni: ‘ The Sage of the Sakyas’ which is an allusion to the historical Buddha.
The Buddha was born into the Sakya clan. He was the crowned prince among them. He renounced his earthly possessions and became a wandering monk, a muni.

Sakyasimha: ‘Lion among the Sakyas’, an epithet of the Buddha. 

Samsara: The world and life. In common parlance it means ones family. In philosophy it means the unending cycle of life through rebirth. 

Salon Painting: A generally derogatory term for a style tending towards academic traditions towards the end of the 19th century. 

Sculptor: One who produces sculptures.  

Sculpture: A 3-dimensional work of art.  

Self Portrait: Studying and painting the painter himself or herself normally from a reflection on a mirror. 

Serigraphy: A method of making print that has its base in stenciling. A screen made of silk is used for this purpose. The ink or paint that is to be used is brushed through this screen to obtain the design. 

Sezession, Secession: An artistic group founded in Munich in 1892 which broke away from an existing association in order to form a new group. 

Sfumato: Style developed by Leonardo da Vinci, with soft transitions, in which outlines and colors are made hazy, as though seen behind a veil. 

Sgraffito: A technique of Graphic Art originating in Italy, prepared on wall plaster.  

Shakta: The sect which believes that Shakti is the primeval mover of all known and unknown things. They worship and adore Shakti in forms of mother deities. It is possibly a transformed type of ancient fertility cults. In this way of thinking the faithful do not consider God as the Father, but substitute him with the Mother. 

Shakti: Power. In cultic usage, feminine energy. Each god is thought to have a feminine side to him. She is his powerful and active counterpart, as it were. She is pictured as his consort. She complements, replenishes and reinforces his energy. Cf. Purusha and Prakriti for a slightly different version of almost a similar idea. 

Shanta rasa: In Indian poetics this rasa imparts to the viewer or audience the emotive content of tranquility. Cf. Rasa and Navarasa. 

Shastras: Scriptures or treatises. Generally a prefix is attached to make it more specific. For example, Dharmashastra means religious scriptures; Arthashastra means political treatise; Chikitshasastra means medical treatise; Shilpashastra means treatise on Fine Arts, and so on and so forth. 

Shellac: A resin secreted by female Lac insects on certain Indian trees. It is often dissolved in alcohol and used as varnish for coating. 

Shringara rasa: In Indian poetics this rasa imparts to the viewer or audience the emotive content of erotic love. 

Shudras: Commoners or the working caste. Cf. Caste and Varna

Silhouette: Outline of object seen against light. 

Silkscreen: Print technique, a medium that was particularly important for the artists of Pop Art and Op Art in the 60s. 

Simultaneous Contrast: Form of contemporary contrast in which the eye simultaneously produces the complementary contrast to a given color. 

Sketch: A rough drawing of either an object seen or of an idea that the artist wishes to remember. 

Socialist Realism: Official art of the Socialist countries from 1932, which sought to address the masses with a realistic style of painting. 

Spray Painting: An ancient form of painting, which requires a strong blast of air through a narrow pipe which sucks thin fluid color from a second pipe on a stencil resulting in a colored dust cloud and enabling to produce an image. 

Sramana: A Buddhist monk. A Sramana is respected for his spiritual attainment, learning and compassion. ‘Shaman’ is a corruption of this word. A Shaman is a performer of magical and exorcist rites in remote tribal areas. Shaman is used in a highly derogatory sense.  

Stand Oil: Treated Linseed Oil, which gives a very fat and shiny effect when, applied. 

Steel Engraving: A steel plate that is used as a printing block and which is engraved before it is tempered by heating and dipping in water. 

Still Life: It is concerned with helpless, unconscious existence of things, whether dead material or partake of the continuous life.  

Stucco: Sand and lime mixture used for sculptures and decoration on the wall. 

Studio: Workroom for artist, photographer. A place where an artist or craftsman works.

Studio Painting: Motifs are painted in the studio, from sketches. 

Study: A study has a definite aim in view and is systematic work on a detail that needs mastering. 

Stupa: Literal: tope. These architectural funerary structures were built by the Buddhists. They have a semi-circular dome on a raised platform. They symbolize the presence of the Buddha and his Law. Some contain his relics like a tooth or hair. Some have great architectonic sculpture adorning the structure. 

Substratum Colors: These colors become pigments only when combined with a base. 

Subtractive Colors: A combination of colors that takes away light. 

Supermatism: Stylistic trend developed by K. Malevich in the first two decades of the 20th century. 

Surasundari: Nymphs. These beautiful, out of the world women, are carved in stone to decorate temple sites and shrines. 

Surerealism: Artistic movement defined in 1924 with a Manifesto written by A. Breton. 

Symbolism: Artistic movement in the second half of the 19th century, which - unlike realistic movements - rejected the representation of visible reality in favor of the world of ideas, fantasy, vision and dreams. 

Symmetry: Proportion between parts. 


Tachisme: A term used for a kind of Abstract Expressionism of the 40s and 50s in France. 

Tempera: The usual medium for paint in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, until the arrival of oil. 

Terracotta: Baked clay. 

Tertiary colour: A colour that is obtained by mixing in any proportion 2 of the 3 secondary colours - orange, violet and green. Consequently, it contains a bit of each of the primary colours.  

Texture: It is essentially a means of representing a surface without implying any direction. 

Tirthankara: A Jaina prophet. There are 24 Tirthankaras. Mahavira was the last one. 

Transvanguardia: Italian artistic direction, with which Post Modernism began in painting. 

Trinity: The three divine personae in the Christian religion; Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


Upanishad: Literally to sit before and listen to spiritual mentors sermons. Prose texts in the Vedas. Composed during 8th – 6th Century BC and written down sometime in 13 Century AD. Originally the teachings were orally transmitted. These philosophical sermons represent a later development. It teaches the unity of Brahman and Atman. Cf. Vedanta, Brahman and Atman. 


Vaishyas: Merchant caste. Cf. Caste and Varna. 

Vanishing Lines: The lines of construction that run towards the vanishing point in a painting, structured according to central perspective. 

Vanishing Point: In the theory of perspective, the point at which parallel lines meet in infinity. 

Vanitas: Symbol of transience, such as death's head, an hourglass or burned candles. 

Varna: Colour. Indian society was divided into four strata or Varnas. In the beginning it meant the colour of a person’s skin. The Indo-European language speakers — the Aryans — migrated into the Subcontinent, sometime during the 2nd millennium BC. They were supposedly fair complexioned. The earlier inhabitants were dark skinned. Society was divided into four segments according to their derma. They were the Brahmins (Priests), Kshatriyas (Warriors), Vaishyas (Merchants) and Shudras (Commoners). According to Vedic myth the Brahmins came out of the Great Being’s mouth, the Kshatriyas from his arms, the Vaishyas from his thighs, and the Shudras from his feet (Purushasukta, Rig Veda, X). The varna system is unique to India. The later caste system was built on the edifice of this archaic social stratification. Cf. Caste.

Varnish: This is used as a protective coating. It consists of a resin dissolved in a medium. It can also carry the pigment and hence act as a paint. 

Vatsalya rasa: In Indian poetics this rasa imparts to the viewer or audience the emotive content of parental affection. Cf. Rasa and Navarasa

Vedanta: Veda – Earliest Indian scriptures; Anta - end. Therefore ‘Vedanta’ means the concluding portion of the Vedas, the Upanisads. Vedanta is also the principal Indian philosophy. Great philosophers from Shankara, Ramanuja and a host of later thinkers down to Rammohan Roy and Vivekananda in the 19th century, used the Upanisads as their basic text. They wrote their exegesis and commentary on the Upanisads and built their philosophy around it. They vary from each other. This adds great splendour to Indian thinking. Indian philosophy has influenced art and culture, especially sculpture. 

Vedas: Earliest Indian scriptures. Composed in the 2nd millennium BC by a group of Indo-European language speaking people, the Aryans. They came to India around that time. It is claimed to be the oldest religious literature in the world. It was orally passed down from one generation to the next and written down much later.
There are four Vedas in the Samhita or anthology. These are the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Atharva Veda and the Yajur Veda. Together with the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanisads they form the total body of the Vedic literature. 

Veduta: Factually precise representation of a city or a landscape. 

Verism: A term applied to a realistic mode of representation. It also characterizes a trend within Neue Sachlichkeit in the 1920s. 

Vira rasa: (veera rasa)—‘Vira’ literally means bravery or valour. In Indian poetics the two together mean the emotive equivalent of bravery or valour in creative arts. 


Watercolor: Water soluble pigments, which dry transparently, and thus look particularly light and delicate. 

Watermark: A stamp or mark noticeable on paper when held against light. 

Woodcut: Printing technique in which the image is cut into the wooden plate. 



Yaksha and Yakshi: Yaksha – demi-god; Yakshi – demi-goddess. Earth Spirits. They were widely worshipped before the Christian era. One can see their manifestation in Indian sculpture. They are usually massive earth-bound figures. 

Yoga: To add. A school of Indian philosophy. The School preaches and practices a course of spiritual disciplines, both of a physical and mental nature. They are practiced in order to attain freedom from the material world. The ultimate is to gain union of the self with the Supreme Being and the bliss that surpasseth all understanding. To achieve this state a series of methods are advocated and practiced. This includes various difficult body postures, breath control exercises and methods of concentration. Following them, a person it is said, gains tranquility of body and mind. This leads to union of the Self with Ultimate Reality. 

Yogi: One who practices the spiritual discipline of Yoga. It can also mean an ascetic.

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