Italian Key Words on ART

As we all know, Italy is a country full of art. But what are the most appropriate words and expressions for talking about art and paintings in Italian? Keep reading to find out!

Vocabulary for talking in a Museum in Italy


A work of art consisting of an image on canvas or board, created using paint and a brush. A dipinto can depict landscapes, portraits, life scenes, still lifes, etc…

The paint used can be tempera, watercolors, oil paint, acrylic.

Il dipinto di un paesaggio di montagna era appeso sulla parete della sala da pranzo.


What’s the difference with a dipinto? A quadro is still a dipinto, but with very specific characteristics: a dipinto can also be called quadro if it’s made on a movable support and is framed.

Il quadro di Monet appeso in questo museo è un capolavoro.


Natura morta is a pictorial representation of inanimate objects: flowers, fruit, plates, bottles, furniture, etc…

These representations are very realistic and detailed, with the aim of creating a visual order. Natura morta is a celebration of the beauty of everyday life through the depiction of everyday objects.

Questo dipinto raffigurante un vaso di fiori freschi e una mela rossa sul tavolo rappresenta la natura morta.


A panel of strong, smooth fabric, mostly linen or hemp, which is stretched on a frame. It’s the support on which an oil or tempera painting is made.

The word tela can also be used with an extended meaning to indicate an actual painting.

Il pittore ha scelto una grande tela bianca per la sua opera.


Scultura is a work of art representing figures or images in the round or in relief, obtained by moulding or carving materials such as marble, stone, wood, bronze.

Il David di Michelangelo è una delle sculture più famose al mondo.


The creator of works of art.

L’artista è stato molto bravo nel creare questo dipinto.


A pittore is an artist who creates works of art using colours on a canvas. They may use different painting techniques and create portraits, life scenes or abstract works.

On the other hand, an artist who creates sculptures is called a scultore.

Frida Kahlo è stata una pittrice messicana famosa per i suoi autoritratti.


A place where works of art or objects of special artistic or historical-scientific interest are collected and displayed for the public to see.

Musei can have free or paid access and they offer services such as guided tours and temporary exhibitions.

Il British Museum di Londra è uno dei musei più antichi e famosi al mondo.


Event where the works of one or more artists are exhibited.

It can be public or private and may also focus on a particular theme rather than on a particular artist.

The exhibition may also be temporary, meaning that it’s only available for a limited period of time.

La mostra d’arte di Salvador Dalì ha attirato migliaia di visitatori da tutto il mondo.


A place, usually private, where works of art created by living or recently deceased artists are exhibited and sold.

Gallerie are useful for artists because they enable them to promote their works and seek collaborations, with museums or privates.

Questa sera la galleria d’arte ospita mostre di artisti emergenti.


A professional able to determine the authenticity of works of art, classify them, evaluate them and determine their economic value.

Il critico d’arte verrà per valutare il quadro che è stato ritrovato nella villa.



L’opera è…

  • toccante: capable of producing a feeling of deep emotion
  • evocativa / suggestiva: capable of bringing to mind images or memories
  • visionaria: capable of considering the future in an intelligent and surprising way
  • sbalorditiva: surprising and astonishing
  • impressionante: that excites or amazes
  • eccezionale / degna di nota: remarkable for the excellence achieved
  • un capolavoro: excellent in every aspect

L’opera mi ha…

  • colpito / toccato / emozionato / ispirato / plasmato / affascinato
  • lasciato senza parole
  • parlato dritto al cuore
  • fatto riflettere


L’opera è…

  • audace / delicata: gives the impression of being physically strong / weak
  • controversa: divides public opinion
  • di difficile interpretazione: difficult to interpret or understand, but not in a negative sense
  • instagrammabile (neologism): a perfect subject to be photographed (and posted on Instagram, but not necessarily)


L’opera è…

  • inquietante: capable of causing upset, offence, sadness in someone
  • derivativa: seeming to copy already existing works of art
  • amatoriale / dilettantistica: seeming to be created by someone without high-level skills
  • pretenziosa: wanting to appear more serious, important, elegant or of high quality than it actually is

L’opera mi ha…

  • lasciato indifferente

L’opera non mi ha…

  • trasmesso nulla
  • dato niente
  • fatto impazzire

Now that you know how to talk about art in Italian, you might also be interested in learning How to Talk about MUSIC.

If instead you want to learn all the Italian swear words (and their polite alternatives!), you can find them in our book Parolacce… e come evitarle!. Don’t miss the opportunity to understand native speakers and talk like them!

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