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Updated: April 27, 2022

The term 'graphic art' (a derivation from the German Graphik, originating from graphikos, the Greek for drawing) commonly denotes those forms of visual expression that depend for their effect on line and tone (disegno), not colour (colorito). The main classical type of graphic art is drawing, which includes cartoons, caricature, comic strips and animation, as well as line drawings and sketching with pencil or charcoal, and pen and ink. Graphic art also denotes those art forms involved in printmaking, such as etching and engraving, including drypoint. Postmodern forms include the word art of Christopher Wool (b.1955) - characterized by monumental black stencilled letters arranged on a geometric grid.

Although always a type of visual art, graphic artworks can also (depending on the application) be classified as applied art (if design-oriented), or fine art (if stand-alone).

Calligraphic Art:

The supreme type of graphic art is surely calligraphy, the art of stylized writing, originating in the Far East.

The two great forms of calligraphic art derive from the Arabic and Oriental languages (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean), although the art has been consistently practised in the languages of India, Tibet, Persia, Latin and others.

Abstract Designs:

Another exemplar of decorative graphics is Celtic style designwork. This derives from the Ancient Celts, and from Hiberno-Saxon Insular art. Its curvilinear motifs had a strong influence on the development of modern styles of artistic design like Art Nouveau.


Another form of graphic art is simple illustration, involving black and white drawings or sketches which explain a piece of text, although a better example of textual graphic work is monochromatic illumination the art of embellishing text through the use of complex typographical and alphabetical symbols.

Poster Design:

Peaking during France's Belle Epoque (1890s), poster art was made possible by Jules Cheret (1836-1932) and his invention of his "three stone lithographic process", and popularized by the Post-Impressionist Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), the Czech artist Alfonse Mucha (1860-1939), and a number of decorative artists and designers including Theophile Steinlen (1859-1923), Eugene Grasset (1845-1917), Albert Guillaume (1873-1942), Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942), Lucian Bernhard, William Bradley and Edward Penfield. For more information, see: History of Poster Art.

Computer Graphics:

In the era of postmodernist art, the term 'graphics' has come to denote computer-generated imagery, as used for example on television in the form of expository diagrams, in commercial printing and on the Internet. It is what used to be called commercial art, and is not confined to black and white works. In this commercial sense, graphic artists inhabit an area close to graphic design, as practised in areas of applied art such as textiles, wallpapers, tiles and so on. For the latest exponents of graphic art.

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