Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
N.E. Thing Co.
The incorporated business and artistic handle of Iain and Ingrid Baxter, which the couple founded in 1966 to explore the interactions between their daily lives and various cultural systems. The artworks produced by the N.E. Thing Co. are among the earliest examples of Conceptual art in Canada. It was disbanded in 1978.
Nabis
Also called the Pont-Aven School. A group of young Post-Impressionist artists, including Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard, who met at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris, established themselves as a movement in the decade 1880–1890, and remained active until 1900. The Nabis (from the Hebrew nebiim, meaning “prophets” or “visionaries”) shared the Symbolists’ belief that objects in nature represent ideas, and that the visible is the manifestation of the invisible. Their most important contribution to painting was an abstract, rhythmic organization of figures and ground on the surface of the canvas.
Nabis painting
Painting created by the artistic group called the Nabis, who shared a preference for simplified forms, pure colours, and flattened perspective. Their interest in discovering the sources of pure art led them to calligraphy, Japanese prints, religious images, and ephemera such as posters, signs, illustrations, and other commercial graphics. 
naïve art
A term denoting art made by self-taught artists who eschew any style or school in favour of a more personal idiom. It was first used to describe the work of Henri Rousseau at the end of the nineteenth century.
Nakamura, Kazuo (Canadian, 1926–2002)
A member of Painters Eleven, Nakamura embraced science and nature in his early abstract landscapes. Later, he created a body of work known as the Number Structures, which explores the connections between mathematics and aesthetics. The Art Gallery of Ontario held a posthumous retrospective of his work in 2004.
naturalism
Naturalism was a development within the realist art of the nineteenth century that sought to show the forces and effects of nature in human life, rejecting the idealized classical subjects preferred by the academy. Naturalism favoured an accurate, almost photographic documentation of the real life of people in the streets and at work or at leisure, showing even the ugly, painful sides of existence.
Naudin, Bernard (French, 1876–1946)
A painter, printmaker, and educator. Naudin taught at the Académie Colarossi in Paris from 1912 to 1921. Known also for his political beliefs, Naudin advocated for social justice with his work. 
Nauman, Bruce (American, b. 1941)
A major contemporary artist whose diverse conceptual oeuvre explores the meaning, nature, and experience of artworks as well as of human existence. Perhaps best known for his neon signs of the 1960s and 1970s, Nauman has also created performance pieces, films, sculptures, photographs, prints, and holograms.
negative space
An unoccupied pictorial space between and around the subjects of an image. Negative space is sometimes used to also create pertinent shapes within a work.
Neo-Dada
A term for the constellation of experimental and conceptual artworks and styles of the 1950s and 1960s, from Fluxus to Pop art. It was popularized by the art historian and critic Barbara Rose. Like their Dadaist predecessors, Neo-Dada artists were primarily interested in social, art historical, and aesthetic critique.
neo-Impressionism
When 1886 Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, the critic Félix Fénéon described it as “neo-Impressionist.” The neo-Impressionists based their art on the science of optics, colour, and light. Using dots and strokes of pure colour, they aimed to create a “grand synthesis of the ideal and the real,” by disciplined, scientifically based artistic methods.
Neo-Plasticism
Piet Mondrian’s term for his highly reduced mode of abstract art, characterized by black grid structures organizing tautly balanced flat planes of colour, using only the three primary colours, as well as white. Neo-Plasticism profoundly influenced the advancement of geometric art throughout Europe and spread to the United States, where Mondrian moved in 1940. It later inspired the Montreal Plasticiens.
Neue Sachlichkeit
A movement in German modern art that embraced realist representation as a means of social criticism, often employing brutal satire. Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, emerged after the First World War as an artistic response that rejected the avant-garde forms in favour of traditional approaches. Prominent Neue Sachlichkeit artists were Otto Dix, George Grosz, Max Beckmann, George Schrimpf. 
New France
France’s Canadian colony, now in part the province Quebec. New France was founded in 1534 when Jacques Cartier, the first explorer to claim the territory for the King of France, planted a cross on the Gaspé peninsula. The colony was dissolved in 1763, when France ceded Canada to Britain.
New Spanish Realists
Members of a national art movement predicated on detailed realism and the objective revelation of emotion. Its American counterpart was Photorealism. The movement began in Madrid in the early 1960s, developed by Antonio López García, Julio Hernández, Francisco López, and Isabel Quintanilla.
New York Correspondance School [sic]
The first mail art network, initiated by Ray Johnson in the mid-1950s. Members exchanged objects and messages through the post. By the 1970s mail art had grown into an international movement, with artists corresponding through similar networks around the world.
New York School
The group of avant-garde painters based in New York City in the 1940s and 1950s whose activities led that city to replace Paris as the capital of the modern art world. Chiefly Abstract Expressionists, the principal artists of the New York School include Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Mark Rothko.
Newhall, Beaumont (American, 1908–1993)
An art historian, curator, and critic, whose importance to the institutional history of photography is unparalleled. Author of the seminal History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present (1937), Newhall was the first director and curator of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, New York—the first such department at any museum.
Newman, Barnett (American, 1905–1970)
A key proponent of Abstract Expressionism, known primarily for his colour-field paintings. Newman’s writings of the 1940s argue for a break from European artistic traditions and the adoption of techniques and subject matter more suited to the troubled contemporary moment, and for the expression of truth as he saw it. 
Newton, Lilias Torrance (Canadian, 1896–1980)
A member of the Beaver Hall Group and the Canadian Group of Painters, Newton was among the most important portraitists of her time in Canada. Rideau Hall commissioned her for official portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. She was the third woman to be elected as a full member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Nicol, Pegi (Canadian, 1904–1949)
A member of the Canadian Group of Painters, Nicol was a modernist painter whose work depicted energetic, vibrant scenes from the environments around her. She was known as Pegi Nicol MacLeod after 1937.
Nicolaides, Kimon (American, 1891–1938)
A painter and highly influential teacher, who shared his pedagogical techniques in the book The Natural Way to Draw, first published in 1941 and now a classic in the field. Nicolaides taught for fifteen years at the Art Students League of New York, where he himself had been a student.
Nicoll, Marion (Canadian, 1909–1985)
A painter and an important figure in the Alberta art scene in the mid-twentieth century, particularly for her role in introducing abstract art to her students and colleagues. Nicoll was the first female teacher at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (now Alberta College of Art and Design), where she had a wide-ranging influence on generations of students. (See Ann Davis and Elizabeth Herbert, Marion Nicoll: Silence and Alchemy.)
Nightingale Gallery, Toronto
A Toronto gallery founded in 1968 by Chris Youngs, an American expatriate, and an important site for experimental and conceptual art. Its group show Concept 70, 1970, was one of the first in Toronto to include video art. In 1971 Nightingale became A Space, an artist-run centre.
Nihilist Spasm Band
A noise band formed in 1965 in London, Ontario, and still presenting concerts internationally. Its members originally played homemade and modified instruments, and later began incorporating electronic instruments and effects into their sets and recordings. Composed of local artists and their friends, including a librarian, a teacher, and a physician, the band’s current guitarist is Murray Favro, with John Boyle on kazoo and drums; Greg Curnoe was kazooist and drummer until his death in 1992.
Noestheden, John (Canadian, b. 1945)
An artist and teacher whose rigorous conceptual works—paintings, drawings, installations, sculptures, and mixed media—evoke his interests in beauty, formal simplicity, and process. Widely exhibited and collected, his work is held by public institutions across Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Glenbow Museum, and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Noland, Kenneth (American, 1924–2010)
Like his colleague Morris Louis, Noland turned to stain painting after seeing the work of Helen Frankenthaler in 1953. More geometric and hard-edge than Louis, he also, in the 1960s, became a major exponent of colour-field painting, the stylistic successor to Abstract Expressionism, which the critic Clement Greenberg would champion as Post-Painterly Abstraction.
Northern Renaissance
Flourishing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Renaissance in Northern Europe was characterized by the rise of Humanism, by an engagement with Italy and the classical world, and by the impact of the Protestant Reformation. Advances in artistic techniques, notably the development of oil paint and printmaking, saw various art forms generated with a high level of invention, detail, and skill. Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, and Hans Holbein are key figures.
Northwest Coast carvings
Carvings made in wood, stone, and bone by Haida, Tlingit, Kwakiutl, and other First Nations of North America’s Northwest Coast region. Highly formalized, curvilinear lines, internal design elements, and abstract compositions are characteristic motifs in these carvings that depict animal and human forms.
Northwest School
An informal artists’ group linked by their interest in the quality of light, open skies, and natural forms in the American Pacific Northwest. Their work, influenced by Abstract Expressionism and Asian art, is marked by a spiritual feeling for nature. The painters chiefly associated with the school are Guy Anderson (1906–1998), Kenneth Callahan (1905–1986), Morris Graves (1910–2001), and Mark Tobey (1890–1976).
Notman, William (Scottish/Canadian, 1826–1891)
After immigrating to Canada in 1856, Notman soon became Montreal’s most prominent photographer. He specialized in portraits and developed innovative techniques to portray many people in a single photograph (known as a composite photograph) and to recreate outdoor scenes inside the studio. Thanks to his exceptional technical and promotional skills, he was the first Canadian photographer to build an international reputation. (See William Notman: Life & Work by Sarah Parsons.)
Nouveau réalisme (New Realism)
An avant-garde movement founded in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany and the painter Yves Klein. Influenced by Dada, the New Realists often used collage and assemblage, incorporating objects into their works. 
Novick, Honey (Canadian, n.d.)
An icon of the Toronto counterculture since the 1970s, Novick is a singer, songwriter, voice coach, and poet who performs folk standards, children’s songs, avant-garde jazz, and classical music in seven languages. She has sung for Pierre Elliott Trudeau, at Carnegie Hall, and at the opening of Walker Court at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Using the pseudonym Miss Honey, she won The 1970 Miss General Idea Pageant, 1970, General Idea’s first such event.
Nutt, Elizabeth Styring (British/Canadian, 1870–1946)
A painter and educator who spent twenty-five years in Nova Scotia, where, as principal, she helped guide the Victoria School of Art and Design through its transformation into the Nova Scotia College of Art. She favoured rural English subjects for her paintings throughout her career but also painted many Atlantic landscapes.