Definitions and Samples
1. abstract adj. Not concrete and realistic; not obviously related to everyday experience Abstract painting became popular partly because early photography was very realistic.
Parts of speech abstraction n
2. context n. A larger environment that something fits into
In the context of Soviet Russia, public art had to be about the triumph of communism and its leaders.
Usage tips The preposition in often comes before context, and an of phrase often comes after it.
Parts of speech contextualize v, contextual adj
3. depict v. To show in pictures
Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel depicts nine scenes from the Bible.
Parts of speech depiction n
4. dimension n. A direction or surface along which something can be measured; an aspect The three dimensions of physical objects are length, width, and depth.
One dimension of the problem is their long history of competition.
Parts of speech dimensional adj
5. esthetically adv. In a way that relates to beauty or appearance
The outside of the office building is esthetically pleasing, but the inside is dark and unpleasant.
Usage tips Esthetically is often spelled with an “a” at the beginning: aesthetically.
Parts of speech esthetic n, esthete n, esthetic adj
6. intrinsic adj. Being part of the basic nature of something
Frequent elections are intrinsic to a democratic system.
Parts of speech intrinsically adv
7. perspective n. A way of seeing from a particular location; a way of thinking about something
From my perspective, the entire town can be seen through a set of large windows.
They held different perspectives on how to care for their aging parents.
8. portrayal n. A description or drawing that reflects a certain point of view
Most portrayals of Abraham Lincoln emphasize his sense of humor and his honesty. Portrayal is often followed by an of phrase to indicate what is being described.
Parts of speech portray v
9. realism n. A technique that tries to picture something as it really looks
Realism was popular among seventeenth-century Flemish painters like Rembrandt van Rijn. Parts of speech realist n, realistic adj
10. spectrum n. A range of different things, usually colors
Bart’s colorful designs include every color of the spectrum, from deep blue to vibrant red. Usage tips The phrase the spectrum frequently means “the colors that the human eye can see.”
TOEFL Prep I
Find the word or phrase that is closest in meaning to each word in the left-hand column.
1. abstract (a) to show
2. depict (b) depiction
3. esthetically (c) presenting an idea, not a realistic picture
4. perspective (d) in a way that relates to beauty
5. portrayal (e) way of seeing things from a certain place
TOEFL Prep II
Choose the word that best completes each sentence.
1. The materials that go into a work of art usually have little (abstract / intrinsic) value.
2. In the 1970s, artists known as “the Boston School” revived (realism / context) by rejecting abstract techniques and trying to capture the actual appearance of their subjects.
3. The colors of light that we can see are known as the visible (spectrum / perspective).
4. Medieval artists did not try to use (context / perspective) to give a sense of depth to their paintings.
5. The small, separate strokes of impressionist paintings give the works a dreamlike (portrayal / dimension).
Read the passage to review the vocabulary you have learned. Answer the questions that follow.
Whether something is “art” is largely a matter of opinion. Art that most people consider to have no intrinsic value can contain a great treasure of ideas and invention to someone who sees something special in it. Styles in all the arts range over a wide spectrum. Some good art is esthetically unchallenging and easy to understand. Other works are strange forms, totally out of context to everyone but the artist. One artist’s portrayal of an everyday object, such as a bouquet of flowers, may be grounded in realism and easily recognizable. Another painter’s depiction of the same bouquet may be very abstract, resembling flowers only in the artist’s mind. Regardless of the artist’s approach, the best art reveals new dimensions of experience and looks at the world from a fresh perspective.
Bonus Structure— Totally means “completely” or “in every way.”
1. Which sentence best expresses the essential information of this passage?
a. Styles of art have changed throughout history.
b. Realistic art has more meaning than abstract art.
c. Esthetically pleasing art is too simple to contain much meaning.
d. Works of art can mean different things, depending on one’s perspective.
2. According to this reading, what is one big difference between abstract art and realistic art? a. Abstract art is harder to sell.
b. Abstract art is harder to understand.
c. Abstract art is harder to produce.
d. Abstract art is harder to look at.