Fine Arts, Painting French Vocabulary 🎨

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.

In this free French lesson, I’m concentrating on French graphic arts vocabuary such as painting. Here is a free lesson about French music and another one about French movies.

How to say Art and artist in French?

The French translation for an artist is “un artiste” (m), “une artiste” (f), and art is “l’art” (m) – note the t is silent [lar].

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

Graphic Art Profession Names in French

  1. Un/une artiste peintre – art painter
  2. Un/une peintre – could be art painter or could be construction painter
  3. Un scultpeur / une sculptrice – sculptor – note that the p is totally silent in these words in French
  4. Un illustrateur / une illustratrice – illustrator
  5. Un dessinateur / une dessinatrice – well hum… drawer – graphic artist
  6. Un/une photographe – photographer – here is a lesson about the French photography vocabulary.
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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: peindre
  4. A sculpture: une sculpture (p silent [skultur]
  5. To sculpt: sculpter (p silent [skulté]
  6. A drawing: un dessin
  7. To draw: dessiner
  8. Watercolor : l’aquarelle (note it’s singular in French)
  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 : l’acrylique
  13. Une palette : palette
  14. Un gobelet : water cup
  15. Un chevalet : easel
  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 (watch out ‘a crayon’ as in crayola sticks is called “un pastel”. “Un crayon” in French is ‘a pencil’)
  23. A fountain pen: un stylo
  24. Charcoal : un fusain
  25. A brush : un pinceau

10 Phrases to describe an art piece

  1. Comme c’est beau ! – how beautiful !
  2. Ça vous/te plaît ? Do you like it ?
  3. Qu’est-ce que vous en pensez / qu’est-ce que tu en penses – what do you think of it?
  4. Vous avez vu cette exposition / visité ce musée – did you see this art exhibit / visit this museum?
  5. Je trouve ça pas mal… I think it’s not bad (interesting)
  6. C’est intéressant / remarquable / impressionnant – it’s interesting / remarquable / impressive
  7. C’est affreux / sans aucun intérêt / atroce / déja-vu – it’s awful / without any interest / atrocious / already seen
  8. Je ne comprends pas trop le message – I don’t quite get the message
  9. J’aime beaucoup ce genre de tableau – I love this kind of painting
  10. C’est un chef d’oeuvre – it’s a masterpiece

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 23+ 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. Most of my audiobooks are recorded at several speeds to help you conquer the modern French language. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!

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