Pas de deux

A pas de deux, or step of two in English, is a common dance duet in ballet, generally performed by a man and woman. In classical form, this follows a strict structure beginning with an adagio, solo variations for the man, then woman, and ending in a coda in which they reunite.

activist art

Often collaborative or community-based art that calls for or works toward social or political change. Most associated with the 1960s and 1970s civil rights and feminist movements, respectively.

against the grain

A method of research that privileges a non-dominate interpretation of a work; often employed to disrupt the historic systems of power evident within a piece.


Anthropogenic means environmental change caused or influenced by humans, either directly or indirectly.


The Anti-Confederation Party was a short-lived Canadian political party that opposed Canadian Confederation in 1867. The movement was centered in the Canadian Maritime provinces.


A viewpoint that saw the modern world as overcomplicated and, in some ways, too easy, and which found more value in agricultural lifestyles and the aesthetics which accompanied subsistence living.


une perspective selon laquelle le monde moderne est perçu comme trop compliqué et, à certains égards, trop facile, et qui trouve plus de valeur dans les modes de vie agricoles et l’esthétique des activités de subsistance.


A viewpoint that saw the modern world as overcomplicated and, in some ways, too easy, and which found more value in agricultural lifestyles and the aesthetics which accompanied subsistence living.


A decorative needlework technique in which small patches of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn together onto a larger fabric background to create an image. Often includes embroidery or other surface decoration.


Technique de couture décorative qui consiste à coudre ensemble de petites pièces de tissu de formes et de motifs différents sur un support de tissu plus grand pour créer une image. L’ouvrage à l’aiguille ainsi obtenu comporte souvent des broderies ou autres décorations de surface.

appropriation art

The use of pre-existing materials, objects, and/or images with little to no alteration, under revised authorship and resulting in new meaning.


An institution that collects, accepts by donation, and stores and protects objects deemed to be of significance to a particular history, community, or place.

art écologique

L’art écologique se penche sur l’environnement « naturel », au sens large, et explore les interactions entre les êtres humains, les animaux et les matériaux dans ce milieu.

Art Students League of New York

A progressive art school established in 1875 in New York that trained many of the leading American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

artist-run centre

An artist-led gallery, production centre, or distribution platform, commonly found in Canada from the 1970s onwards.


A technique in which artists attempt to draw, paint, or write without prior plans and with a minimum of conscious control over the outcome.


A bargeboard is the carved wooden ornament that lines the eaves of a house, most typically found in the gable. These can be used to hide roof timbers, but they can also be purely ornamental.

Black Lives Matter

A widespread movement and slogan against systemic anti-Black racism, particularly in the criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Brought to international attention following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in May 2020.

Canada’s Centennial

Canada’s Centennial was a yearlong celebration in 1967 marking the 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.

Canadian Shield

The Canadian Shield is a large area of exposed Precambrian igneous and high-grade metamorphic rock that forms the ancient geologic core of the North American continent.

cartes postale

Petite carte envoyée par la poste sans enveloppe. L’une des faces comporte généralement une photographie ou une illustration, alors que l’autre sert à la correspondance.


Along with the arrival of Europeans in seventeenth-century North America, Christian missionaries came to convert Indigenous Peoples, despite the latter’s complex and diverse existing spiritual belief systems. Throughout the centuries, Christian religious conversion was bound up with the violent colonization of Indigenous Peoples and their lands, as well as the suppression of traditional spiritualities. Today, Indigenous Peoples have diverse religious affiliations, including Christianity and Indigenous spiritualities.

Conceptual art

An art movement originating in the 1960s that extended the emphasis, in earlier art movements, on the idea as of central importance over the object. Although a movement unto itself, Conceptual art’s tenets and preoccupations continue to echo in more recent years, whereby many contemporary art practices can be considered to be “conceptual” in nature.


Confederation refers to the unification of three British North American Provinces—the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick—into a single federation known as Canada in 1867.

contact zone

A term introduced by literary scholar Mary Louise Pratt in 1991 to denote a social space in which different cultures interact, often under conditions of struggle and unequal power dynamics. The term is now widely used across the humanities.

contact zones

A term coined by Mary Louise Pratt, a contact zone is the often tense meeting point between societies and cultures with a current and/or historic imbalance of social, political, or cultural power.

critical museum studies

Since the 1960s, scholars from various fields, including art history, sociology, anthropology, history, and museum studies, have questioned the authority and political neutrality of museums. Substantial literature examines how museums provide lessons in citizenship and nationalism while excluding working-class, racialized, and Indigenous peoples. Responses to such critiques expand the notion of what museums have been in the past and could become in the future, rethinking their educational function, social role, and political responsibility, including the obligation to display “difficult knowledge” related to oppression.


Decolonization is the undoing of colonialism, as when one country or area ceases to be the colony of another and becomes self-governing or independent. The term may also refer to the process of changing cultural and other aspects of the colonial experience.


a three-dimensional recreation of a landscape or natural scene, popular in natural history museums during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries


Recréation d’un paysage ou d’une scène naturelle en trois dimensions, populaire dans les musées d’histoire naturelle à la fin du dix-neuvième et au début du vingtième siècle.

doubled presence

Art historian Lara Perry's theory of portraiture that recognizes the dual, and sometimes competing, influence of both the sitter and the artist in the construction of a finished portrait.

eco art

Eco Art makes its primary concern the “natural” environment, broadly defined, and explores the interactions of people, animals, and materials in this realm.

Elliot Lake

The name of a town and region that produced large amounts of uranium during the 1950s and 1960s. It was once called the “uranium capital of the world.”

en plein-air

En plein air or plein air painting, is the act of painting outdoors

encyclopedic museum

Is an archival collection which holds representative samples of broad classifications of objects that communicate an expanse of cultural and natural history.


Epistemology, or the theory of knowledge, is a branch of philosophy considering the origins of knowledge, how it is obtained or justified, and its limitations.

études muséales critiques

Depuis les années 1960, des spécialistes de divers domaines, notamment l’histoire de l’art, la sociologie, l’anthropologie, l’histoire et les études muséales, remettent en question l’autorité et la neutralité politique des musées. Une abondante littérature examine la façon dont les musées visent l’éducation citoyenne et la cohésion nationale, tout en excluant la classe ouvrière, les personnes racialisées et les peuples autochtones. Les réponses à ces critiques élargissent la notion de ce qu’ont été les musées dans le passé et de ce qu’ils pourraient devenir dans le futur, en repensant leur fonction éducative, leur rôle social et leur responsabilité politique, dont l’obligation d’exposer les « connaissances difficiles » liées à l'oppression.

film co-ops

In the 1960s and 1970s, artist communities began to assemble around the Film-Makers' Cooperative, New York (1962–) and the London Film-Makers’ Co-op (1966–1999). The dominant output of these transatlantic co-ops was called structural film and was a movement characterised by intense formalist experimentation with the materiality of film.


A finial is an ornament at the top or corner of a building.


A gable is the triangular section of a building that is formed by a pitched or sloped roof.

General Idea

A Toronto-based activist artist group working to destigmatize, raise awareness, and correct misinformation surrounding AIDS largely in the 1980s and early 1990s.


Geomorphology is the study of landforms, their processes, form, and sediments at the surface of the Earth (and sometimes on other planets).


The Globe was one of the major newspapers in nineteenth-century Toronto. It gradually transformed into a national newspaper known today as The Globe and Mail.

Gothic Revival

The Gothic Revival was a major movement in European architecture, lasting from the eighteenth century through to the early twentieth century. Beginning in England before spreading to the rest of Europe and worldwide, Gothic Revival enthusiasts looked back to medieval Gothic architecture for inspiration.


A painting medium that, like watercolour, mixes pigments with water but that is opaque (whereas watercolour is transparent or translucent).

Gouzenko Affair

The Gouzenko Affair (1945–1946) was amongst the earliest spy scandals in the Cold War. Defecting from the Soviet Union, cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko leaked materials that revealed the existence of a Communist ring operating within universities and government agencies across Canada. The incident prefigured the Red Scare of the 1950s.

Group of Seven

The Group of Seven was a group of Canadian landscape painters, active in the 1920s and 1930s.

halftone printing process

Halftone process is a technique used in printmaking, primarily print-media publishing, that breaks up an image, usually a photograph or drawing, into a series of dots so as to reproduce the full tone range of a photograph or tone art work.


the values, identities, and practices inherited from the past. According to historian David Lowenthal, heritage is at odds with history because it is formed by hindsight to exaggerate positive elements of the past while omitting negative ones to create an affirmative account that reflects well on the people telling it.


Historiography is the study of how history has been produced and written about, particularly through analysis of the methods and theories used and how they change over time.


The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the systematic state-sponsored murder of six million European Jews during World War II by the Nazis in Germany and their collaborators across German-occupied Europe. In the decade after the Second World War, more than 35,000 Holocaust survivors and their families settled in Canada, mainly in Montreal and Toronto.

Indian Act

The Indian Act is a piece of Canadian legislation, first enacted in 1876 and still in force with amendments, that governs First Nations people recognized as “status Indians” or “registered Indians” by the federal government. It regulates identity, band governments, and reserves (lands reserved for First Nations).

industrial revolution

The transition from an agricultural to industrial economy that began in Britain in the late eighteenth century and resulted in widespread social and technological changes.


L’Holocauste, également appelé Shoah, est l’assassinat systématique de six millions de personnes juives européennes organisé par l’État nazi et ses collaborateurs dans l’Europe sous occupation allemande pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Dans la décennie qui a suivi la guerre, plus de 35 000 survivants et survivantes de l’Holocauste et leurs familles ont choisi de s’établir au Canada, principalement à Montréal et à Toronto.

land acknowledgements

A land acknowledgement, also known as territory acknowledgement, is a statement acknowledging the Indigenous ownership or historical ownership of land on which an event is taking place, thus reasserting Indigenous presence and the enduring effects of colonialism.

livre de photographies

Une publication, avec ou sans texte, où le message est transmis principalement par des photographies. Souvent assemblé ou édité par l’artiste.

Magic Realism

occupies a place between Surrealism and Photorealism; subjects are rendered with a photographic naturalism, but where the use of flat tones, ambiguous and odd perspectives, and strange juxtapositions suggest an imagined or dreamed reality


Small museums with very specific collections or missions. Often independent and/or informal.

multiple exposure

In photography, multiple exposures involve a technique that layers more than two different exposures on a single image, combining multiple photographs into one. This technique or exposure creates a surreal feeling in photographs.


Artwork applied to or permanently attached to a ceiling, wall, or other permanent vertical surface.


Œuvre d’art appliquée ou fixée de façon permanente à un plafond, un mur ou toute autre surface verticale permanente.

National Gallery

A large, government sponsored cultural institution and museum that supports the art, culture, and history of its nation as well as its citizens' access to this material.


Neoclassical refers to the Western tradition in art, design, literature, and architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries that drew inspiration from the arts of ancient Greece and Rome. The movement is often called Neoclassicism. In architecture, it is marked by the presence of antique columns in a portico, a triangular pediment, stone facades, and antique ornamental details.

Newlyn School

An English artists' colony that formed in the early 1880s in Newlyn, Cornwall, and was influential in the development of pleinairism in Britain.

noble savage

An 18th-century trope, which constructed Indigenous people as removed from and therefore "uncorrupted" by modern civilization.


An op-ed is an opinion or editorial article, typically published in a newspaper and not necessarily written by a journalist.

palette knife

A metal blade, complete with a handle, used to apply paint to a surface, often resulting in shapes with thick, raised edges.


A wide, unbroken view of a scene that seems to surround the viewer.


Qualifie une vue large et ininterrompue d’une scène qui semble entourer le spectateur.

Paris Salon

In Paris at this time, there was one official, state-sponsored exhibition—called the Salon. For most of the nineteenth century, the Salon was the only venue for exhibition (and therefore the only way to establish your reputation and make a living as an artist).


The Parthenon is a former temple within the site of the Acropolis in Athens (constructed in 447 BCE). The building has served as inspiration for Neoclassical designs.


Valeurs, identités et pratiques héritées du passé. Selon l’historien David Lowenthal, le patrimoine diverge de l’histoire parce qu’il se construit rétrospectivement en exagérant les éléments positifs du passé tout en omettant les éléments négatifs, créant ainsi un récit favorable aux personnes qui le racontent.

pattern books

Pattern books were a type of nineteenth-century architectural publication that featured designs (or patterns) for buildings. These books also typically featured advice, measurements, cost estimates, and even landscaping tips.

photo book

A publication, with or without text, where the book’s message is conveyed primarily through photographs. Usually assembled or edited by the photographer.

photoconceptualisme de l’école de Vancouver

Le photoconceptualisme de l’école de Vancouver décrit le travail d’un noyau d’artistes – notamment Roy Arden, Ken Lum, Jeff Wall et Ian Wallace, mais aussi parfois Stan Douglas et Rodney Graham – actif depuis la fin des années 1960 et qui a pris de l’importance au milieu des années 1980, dont les pratiques photographiques s’appuient sur l’héritage de l’art conceptuel, ainsi que sur la montée de la culture publicitaire, pour réaliser des photographies sur la pratique et le statut de la photographie elle-même, souvent dans le but de ramener le moyen d’expression à ses racines en tant que technologie de représentation. La photographie, a écrit un jour Wall, « doit continuer à offrir l’expérience de la représentation, de l’image ». Le terme « photoconceptualisme », qui ne dénote ni une école au sens propre ni une affiliation à une université ou une institution existante, a été inventé en 1989 par l’historien de l’art et commissaire d’expositions français Jean-François Chevrier, et reflète un point de vue extérieur sur la production photographique dans la ville à cette époque.


Photomontage refers to various types of image editing in which multiple photographs are cut up and combined to form a new image. Historically photomontage involved cutting up printed photographs.


A style of art in which an artist studies a photograph and then attempts to reproduce the image as realistically as possible.


A porch that leads to an entrance of a building. It is usually supported by antique columns and is sometimes raised on a podium.


An artistic convention that represents an individual.


A small card sent by mail without an envelope. Typically features a photograph or illustration on one side.


The advent of a theoretical, literary, and artistic era that rejected the tenets of modernism, specifically: an emphasis on formal purity and medium specificity; the elevated status of the singular author; the privileging of originality and the pursuit of progress (ie. the avant-garde); and the division of high and low culture.

Quiet Revolution

A period of modernization in Québec that began with the 1960 election of the Liberal Party’s Jean Lesage as the province’s premier. The sweeping reforms associated with the Quiet Revolution include the secularization of the education and health sectors, and the provisions of a provincial welfare state.

Regina Five

Arthur McKay, Douglas Morton, Edward (Ted) Godwin, Kenneth Lochhead and Ronald Bloore


an interest in the distinctive local character of a specific geographic area

residential school system

Residential schools were church-run and government-administered institutions that aimed to assimilate Indigenous children into settler-colonial society by removing them from their families and communities. Day schools were government-run, on-reserve institutions attended by children during the day. Residential and day schools composed segregated, federally administered systems that caused lasting cultural harms and trauma in Indigenous communities. Survivors of both types of institutions have been part of settlement agreements with the federal government to compensate for the harms experienced.

settler colonial

A form of colonization that seeks to remove Indigenous populations from their traditional lands and replace them with a new society of settlers.

settler development

Settlers are people who migrate to a place that is foreign to them, with the intent of living there permanently, historically as part of colonization efforts. Development refers to the structures and infrastructure that these groups put into place such as architecture, farms, roads, etc. to mimic the ways of life with which they are familiar, with complete disregard for local populations and ways of living.


A form of art made in response to one specific place. Usually, site-specific art is so particular to one place that if it were removed from that site it would lose its meaning, or even be destroyed in the process.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota leader who led his people in resisting the U.S. Army in the late 19th century.

slow looking

Slow looking is an immersive form of study or visual analysis that encourages the participant to find meaning or knowledge in an object, often an object in a museum, over time.

social practice

Artistic work that brings together many contributions from people not usually trained as artists, or an artwork that deals with social relationships as if they were material to be “sculpted” and arranged by an artist by hosting events, activities, or opportunities.

sumptuary law

A law that regulates the consumption of goods such as food, furniture, or clothing.


A philosophy of visual art and literature, first described by the French author and artist André Breton in 1924. Surrealism emphasizes the power of the subconscious and the irrational, including dreams, hallucination, paranoia, and mental states induced by drugs, alcohol and sex, in the creation of a new reality (surreality) that would be a superior alternative to reality as it is usually defined. Major Surrealist artists include René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington and Méret Oppenheim.

taxidermie ou naturalisation

Art de préparer et de monter la peau d’un animal mort pour créer l’apparence de la vie.


the art of preparing and mounting animal skins to create a lifelike effect


The organizing of human life and activity within space, as in the creation of a national border.

the Scottish Order of the Thistle

The Order of the Thistle is the greatest order of chivalry in Scotland. The order recognizes sixteen Knights with the highest honor in the country and Scottish men and women who have held public office or who have contributed in a particular way to national life.

the Ursuline convent nuns

The Ursuline nuns were among the first Catholic nuns to arrive in North America, landing in Québec in 1639. They learned the languages of the Native nations and taught reading, needlework, embroidery, and other domestic arts.


A tipi is a conical tent used by Indigenous Peoples of the Plains. The structure consists of wood poles arranged on an ovoid or circular plan and coming together at an apex, a cover of tanned hide or canvas, and east-facing smoke flaps and door. The cover is sometimes painted with abstract or figurative art.


A tight knitted, traditional cap, widely associated with rural Quebec, that covered the head and ears in cold weather.


The change in culture(s) resulting from contact with another, particularly as a result of colonization in which a colonized culture meets with and transforms aspects of the colonizing culture.


A triptych is an artwork composed of three individual panels placed side-by-side.

uranium tailings

A sandy, hazardous waste byproduct of uranium mining.

Vancouver School

A group of art historically-trained artists working in Vancouver from the late-1960s to the 1980s who explored theoretical and historical concerns through large-scale photography, with a focus on quotidian elements of the urban landscape of Vancouver and environs. Artists associated with Vancouver School include Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, and Ian Wallace.

Vancouver School of photo-conceptualism

The Vancouver School of photo-conceptualism describes the work of a small group of artists—most notably Roy Arden, Ken Lum, Jeff Wall, and Ian Wallace, but sometimes expanding to include Stan Douglas and Rodney Graham—active from the late 1960s and reaching prominence in the mid-1980s, whose photographic practices build on the legacies of the Conceptual art movement, as well as the rise of advertising culture, to make photographs about the practice and status of photography itself, often with the aim of returning the medium to its roots as a representational technology. Photography, Wall once wrote, “must continue to provide the experience of depiction, of the Picture.” Not a literal school, nor affiliated with any existing university or institution, the term was first coined by the French art historian and curator Jean-François Chevrier in 1989 and reflected an outsider’s perspective on photographic production in the city at this time.

welcome figure

Welcome figures are a traditional form carved by the Coast Salish to welcome guests to their territories. They can be found installed outside of houses, facing in the direction of visitors.


The “West” is an idea loosely based on geography—some countries in the western part of Europe, and at a later point in time the United States, Canada, and Australia. It is more of a designation about what constitutes modern, urban, industrialized societies than a geographic reality. Ideas of “the West” evolved because of European colonialism and industrialization.

Wild West show

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World was a touring rodeo of cowboys, Indigenous Americans, and sharpshooters.

Woodland style

The Woodland School, an artistic movement inspired by Norval Morrisseau, blends Anishinaabe imagery and symbolism with bold, curvilinear forms, flat planes of color, and X-ray-style outlines. The movement is associated with many other First Nations artists, notably the “Indian Group of Seven”: Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Jackson Beardy, Carl Ray, Joseph Sanchez, Eddy Cobiness and Alex Janvier.


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