Fine Arts, Painting French Vocabulary + 40 Useful French Art Phrases + Practice video 🎨

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Learn the French art vocabulary as a list of French fine arts terms with English translation as well as French phrases to comment about artworks and discuss with an artist in French.

In this free French lesson, I’m concentrating on graphic arts vocabulary in French such as useful words about painting, sculpting, drawing and the various crafts.

When visiting France, chances are that you’ll step in at least one art gallery or museum. Would you know how to describe an artwork in French? Or discuss with a French artist? This free lesson should help!

Follow the links to visit my lessons about French music and another one about French movies.

So, first, let’s see how to translate artist in French.

How to say Art and artist in French?

The French translation for an artist is:

  1. “un artiste” (m),
  2. “une artiste” (f),

Art in French is “l’art” (m) – note the t is silent [lar]. So you would say:

  1. J’aime l’art [lar]
    I love art
  2. J’ai fait des études d’art [dar]
    I studied art

We often refer to graphic arts, the fine arts in French as “les beaux arts” [lé bo zar].
You could also say “les arts graphiques”.

Now let’s see how to talk about the various art professions in French.

Graphic Art Profession Names in French

  1. Un peintre /une peintre
    A painter – they could be art painter or could be construction painter…
  2. Un artiste peintre / une artiste peintre
    Art painter
  3. Un scultpeur / une sculptrice
    Sculptor – note that the p is totally silent in these words in French
  4. Un illustrateur / une illustratrice
  5. Un dessinateur / une dessinatrice
    Illustrator – graphic artist
  6. Un photographe /une photographe
    A photographer
    Here is a lesson about the French photography vocabulary.
    Watch out! “Un photographe, une photographe” is the person.
    “Une photographie (or une photo)” is the object, a photo.
    The French verb is “photographier.
  7. Un céramiste / une céramiste
    Ceramist artist
  8. Un potier / une potière
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25 French Painting Words

  1. A work of art
    Une oeuvre d’art
  2. A painting
    Une peinture (sometimes “un tableau”, mostly when it’s framed)
  3. To paint
  4. A sculpture
    Une sculpture (p silent [skultur]
  5. To sculpt
    Sculpter (p silent [skulté]
  6. A drawing
    Un dessin (note the French nasal sound in ‘in’)
  7. To draw
    Dessiner (you’ll hear the sound – “seen” [dé seen é])
  8. Watercolor
    L’aquarelle (Not the pronunciation of [akwarel])
  9. Watercolor pocket set 
    Du matériel d’aquarelle de poche
  10. Poster paint, gouache
    La gouache (pronounce it [gwash])
  11. Oil paint
    La peinture à l’huile
  12. Acrylic paint
  13. A palette
    Une palette
  14. A water cup
    Un gobelet
  15. An easel
    Un chevalet
  16. A canvas
    Une toile
  17. A sketch 
    Un croquis, une esquisse, une ébauche
  18. A Sketchbook 
    Un carnet de croquis
  19. Paper
    Du papier
  20. A pencil 
    Un crayon à papier
  21. Color pencils (prismacolor)
    Des crayons de couleurs
  22. A crayon
    Un pastel doux / un crayon
  23. A pastel
    Un pastel sec
  24. A fountain pen
    Un stylo
  25. Charcoal
    Un fusain
  26. A brush 
    Un pinceau

How Do You Say Crafts, Craftman and Craftwomen in French?

The French translation for crafts is “l’artisanat” (final t silent)

The translation of craftman is “un artisan”.

The translation of craftwoman can be tricky. We tend to sill use the masculine “un artisan” although the feminine form does exist: “une artisane”.

Listen to the video below and you’ll see that the carftwoman refers to herself as “un artisan”. Craftpeople work in a workshop: “un atelier” in French.

Easy French Interview With a Wicker Basket Craftwoman

You may turn on the subtitles in French and English.

Let me introduce you to Céline Saunier, wicker basket craftwoman in Pontrieux, in Brittany.

Here’s her workshop address
Atelier Tout En L’Air
12 rue du Quai
22260 Pontrieux

L’osier – wicker
Le saule – willow
L’écorce – bark
Tresser – to weave
Un atelier – a workshop
Une galerie d’art – art galerie

25 Phrases to describe an art piece

Now let’s see how you could describe an art piece in French :

  1. Comme c’est beau !
    How beautiful !
  2. Ça vous/te plaît ?
    Do you like it ?
  3. Qu’est-ce que vous en pensez ?
    What do you think of it? (using vous)
  4. Qu’est-ce que tu en penses ?
    What do you think of it? (using tu)
  5. Vous avez vu cette exposition ?
    Did you see this art exhibit
  6. Vous avez visité ce musée ?
    Did you visit this museum?
  7. Je trouve ça pas mal…
    I think it’s not bad (interesting)
  8. C’est intéressant.
    It’s t’s interesting
  9. C’est remarquable !
    It’s remarquable
  10. C’est impressionnant !
    It’s impressive
  11. C’est affreux !
    It’s awful
  12. C’est sans aucun intérêt…
    It’s without any interest
  13. C’est atroce !
    It’s atrocious
  14. C’est déja-vu !
    It’s already seen
  15. Je ne comprends pas trop le message…
    I don’t quite get the message
  16. J’aime beaucoup ce genre de tableau.
    I love this kind of painting
  17. C’est un chef d’oeuvre ! (f silent [ché deurv]0
    It’s a masterpiece
  18. J’aime la couleur
    I like the color
  19. La perspective est intéressante
    The perspective is interesting
  20. Les formes sont originales
    The shapes are different
    Un triangle – triangle
    Un cercle, un rond – a circle
    Un carré – a square
    Un rectangle – a rectangle
    Une ligne – a line
  21. Je me demande ce que l’auteur veut dire.
    I wonder what the author means
  22. Est-ce qu’il y a un message ?
    Is-there a message?
  23. Qu’est-ce que vous voyez ?
    What do you see?
  24. De quand date cette pièce ?
    When was this piece done?
  25. Est-ce que c’est à vendre, et si oui, combien ça coûte ?
    Is it for sell, and if so, how much is it ?

15 Questions To Ask An Artist in French

What about if you were to meet a French artist? Here are some questions you could ask him/her.

  1. Qui sont vos influences ?
    Who are your influences?
  2. Est-ce que vous pratiquez une autre forme d’art?
    Do you use another medium?
  3. Est-ce que vous avez un autre moyen d’expression?
    Do you use another medium?
  4. Vous utilisez toujours le même type de peinture ?
    Do you always use the same type of paint?
  5. Vous utilisez toujours la même matière ?
    Do you always use the same material?
  6. Vous utilisez toujours le même sujet ?
    Do you always use the same subject?
  7. Combien de temps vous a pris ce tableau ?
    How long did it take for you to pain this?
  8. Quel est votre processus créatif ?
    What’s your process?
  9. Est-ce que vous collaborez souvent avec d’autres artistes ?
    Do you often colaborate with other artists?
  10. Où est-ce que vous avez étudié?
    Where did you study?
  11. Avez-vous un studio ou bien est-ce que vous préférez travailler à l’extérieur ?
    Do you have a studio or do you prefer working outside?
  12. Est-ce que vous développez vos photos vous-même ?
    Do you develop your photos yourself?
  13. Vous préférez les photos en couleur ou en noir et blanc?
    Do you prefer color or black and white pictures?
  14. Est-ce que vous planifiez vos photos ou est-ce qu’elles sont spontanées ?
    Do you plan your photos or are they spontaneous?
  15. Est-ce que vous utilisez un tour ou bien juste vos mains ?
    Are you using a potter’s wheel or just your hands?

Don’t hesitate to suggest more French painting terms in the Disqus comment section below (French + English translation please) and I’ll add them to the list. Merci !

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 25+ years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Come to Paimpol and enjoy an exclusive French immersion homestay with me in Brittany.

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