Medium | the type of material used to create a picture. More specifically, it can refer to the material used to bind pigment together. 

Watercolour | a water-soluble paint that is semi-transparent. Watercolour is made by mixing powdered pigment with gum arabic. 

Gouache | a water-soluble paint that is opaque. It is made using the same materials as watercolour but with glue added. 

Ink | a liquid or paste pigment, usually carbon-based, which is often used with wash. 

Wash | a method of painting in which the artist uses a brush to thinly colour over a drawing to draw attention or illuminate a section of it.

Graphite | the grey drawing material used in pencils. 

Print | an image made using a transfer process from one surface to another. There are many different types of prints. We’ve listed the most common below. 

Woodcut | a type of print in which the printmaker carves a design into a wooden block, then applies ink to the block and presses it onto another surface to transfer the image in reverse. 

Engraving | a type of print in which the printmaker scores a design into a metal plate. Ink is applied to the plate and wiped off, so that only the ink that has collected in the scored lines remains. The plate is then pressed onto another surface, transferring the ink to create a reverse image. 

Etching | a type of print that uses acid to cut incised lines or textures on a metal plate. Ink is applied to the plate and wiped off, so that only the ink that sticks to the etched surface remains. The plate is then pressed onto another surface, transferring the ink to create a reverse image. 

Aquatint | a type of etching used to create tonal effects rather than lines. The finished prints can resemble watercolour or wash drawings.

Lithograph | a type of print in which the image is worked up on a flat stone or metal plate using a greasy substance. Water is washed over the design, and then oil-based printing ink is rolled on. The ink only sticks to the greasy parts of the plate, which is then pressed onto another surface to transfer the design. 

Plate | the (usually flat) surface on which a printmaker creates the image that is to be transferred onto the ‘ground’. 

Ground | the material onto which an image is printed (for example, paper). 

Edition | a numbered set of prints taken from the same plate. 

Grangerized | a book illustrated with inserted material such as additional prints or drawings that were not in the original publication

Cataloguing terms

Accession number | the unique reference number assigned to a work of art when it is acquired (bought or accepted as a gift) by a collection. 

Provenance | information tracing the ownership of an artwork from its creator to the present day. 

Inscription | a piece of text that is written or printed on or near the artwork. Inscriptions often include signatures, titles, dates, or other notes. You may also see this noted as ‘Inscribed’. 

Recto | the front of an artwork. 

Verso | the back of an artwork. 

[?] | the information is inferred or otherwise uncertain. 

[text] | square brackets indicate when a member of the Watercolour World or the collection staff has made an addition to the painting information, or a note about it. For example, to provide the modern spelling of a word, to translate a foreign phrase, or to explain something.


Attributed to | experts think it is by the artist, but do not have conclusive evidence.

After | based closely on another artist’s original artwork. 

Circle of | made by someone closely associated with the artist. 

Copy | a later repetition of an original artwork. 

Follower of | by someone who admired and emulated the artist’s style. 

Possibly by | there are reasons to think it is by the artist, but experts are not certain.

Pupil of | made by a student or apprentice of the artist. 

Studio of | made by someone who worked in the artist’s studio. 

School (of) | in the style associated with the named artist or area. 


c. | around, about  (abbreviation of ‘circa’) 

fl. | the artist was active at this date (abbreviation of ‘floreat’ which is Latin for ‘flourished’) 

b. | the artist was born on this date 

d. | the artist died on this date

If you don’t know what a word, phrase or abbreviation on the website means and can’t find it in this glossary, please contact us.