ArtLex Art Dictionary


circle and ellipseccircle - A round, two-dimensional shape in which every point on the outside is the same distance from the center. The curve of every segment of its edge is the same as every other. Note the similarity and difference between a circle and an ellipse.

When used in attributing a work of art, "the circle of" is a group of artists who shared with the artist named the style of the work, and implies a shared geographic origin and close dates for that group.animation of a dot tracking the edge of a circle

When the distance from the center to the outside of a circle is its radius (half its width), and its width is its diameter, the circumference (or perimeter) of a circle equals two times radius times pi (3.14159), or diameter times pi. The area of a circle equals pi times radius squared, or pi times diameter squared divided by 4, or 0.78539 times diameter squared.

A painting within a circle may be called a tondo in Western tradition, and a mandala in Eastern tradition. Each of these are likely to employ radial balance.



Examples of works in which this shape is important:

aerial view of Stonehenge




see thumbnail to rightEngland, Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge, c. 2,500-1,500 BCE, stone, 162 inches high, a Stone Age monumental stone temple / observatory located 330 feet above sea level on the chalk downland of Salisbury Plain, about 80 miles west of London near the town of Amesbury. Also see circle, dolmen, megalith, menhir, and monolith.




see thumbnail to leftRaphael (Raffaello Sanzio) (Italian, 1483-1520), Madonna and Child (Madonna Conestabile), 1502/3, tempera on canvas (transferred from panel), 7 x 7 inches (17.5 x 18 cm), State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. See tondo.





see thumbnail to rightRené Jules Lalique (French, 1860-1945), Necklace, c. 1895-1905, gold, enamel, Australian opal, Siberian amethysts; overall diameter 9 1/2 inches (24.1 cm); 9 large pendants: 2 3/4 x 2 1/4 inches (7 x 5.7 cm), 9 small pendants: 1 3/8 x 1 1/4 inches (3.5 x 3.2 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See Art Nouveau and jewelry.



see thumbnail to leftDesigned by Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959), manufactured by F. Schumacher and Company, New York, Length of Printed Fabric, 1955, silk, printed, Fortisan (?), 88 x 49 3/4 inches (223.5 x 126.4 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See architect, architecture, and textile.



see thumbnail to rightHenri Matisse (French, 1869-1954), Dance, 1910, oil on canvas, 102 x 154 inches (260 x 391 cm), Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. See dance and nude.




see thumbnail to leftFrantišek Kupka (Czech, 1871-1957),Study from Mechanistic Series, 1923-1926, gouache and pencil on paper, 28 x 28.2 cm, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran. See Orphism.




see thumbnail to rightRobert Delaunay (French, 1885-1941), Disks, 1930-33, oil on canvas, 88.3 x 124.5 cm, Museum of Modern Art, NY. See Orphism.




see thumbnail to leftSven Wingquist, designer, manufacturer: SKF Industries, Inc., USA, Self-Aligning Ball Bearing, 1929, chrome-plated steel, 1 3/4 x 8 1/2 inches (4.4 x 21.6 cm) diameter, Museum of Modern Art, NY. MOMA's site says, "Good design was considered by modernists as essential to the elevation of society, and in 1934, this ball bearing was among the first works to enter The Museum of Modern Art's design collection." See design and technology.



Jasper Johns (American, 1930-), Target with Four Faces, 1955, assemblage: encaustic and collage on canvas with objects, 26 x 26 inches. The circles in the target are "concentric" meaning they all have the same point as their center. See Pop Art.




see thumbnail to rightCoca Cola advertising sign, 20th century, enamel on steel. See icon and logo.




see thumbnail to leftSir Eduardo Paolozzi (Scottish, 1924-2005), from "Moonstrips Empire News", [no title], 1967, screenprint on paper, image: 38.0 x 25.5 cm, Tate Gallery, London. This is a set of patterns made entirely with a motif of circles.



see thumbnail to rightChina, Mao is the Red Sun, "Respectfully wish a long life without end to the reddest, reddest sun in our hearts: Chairman Mao," from the People's Republic of China's period known as the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976, poster, Burke Museum, U of WA, Seattle.




see thumbnail to leftSol LeWitt (American, 1928-), Untitled, 2001, linoleum cut, 30 x 30 inches, edition of 100. See conceptual art and Minimalism.



Michael Todd (American, 1935-), Daimaru XV, 1981, lacquered steel, 137 1/2 x 131 1/4 x 40 inches, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, U of Nebraska, Lincoln. "Daimaru" is a Japanese word that means "big circle."




see thumbnail to rightRobert Smithson (American, 1938-1973), Broken Circle, Emmen, Holland, 1971, green water, white and yellow sand flats, diameter 140 feet, canal approximately 12 feet wide, depth of the quarry lake 10 to 15 feet. See earth art.


see thumbnail aboveRichard Long (English, 1945-), A Hundred Mile Walk, 1971-2, pencil, map, printed text, photographs and labels on board, 21.6 x 48.3 cm, Tate Gallery, London. All of Long's work results from solitary walks he has undertaken in different parts of the world. This work documents the circular route he took on a walk made in December and January of 1971-2, by means of a map showing his location, a photograph of part of the landscape passed through and phrases recording his thoughts and reactions. See earth art and line.




see thumbnail to rightRichard Long (English, 1945-), Small White Pebble Circles, 1987, marble pebbles, 4.0 x 200.0 x 200.0 cm, Tate Gallery, London. This is a concentric arrangement on a floor of rocks Long collected while walking.



see thumbnail to leftRichard Long, South Bank Circle, 1991, delabole slate, 10.0 x 199.7 x 199.7 cm, Tate Gallery, London.



Michele Oka Doner (American, contemporary), Ice Ring, 1989, cast bronze, 3 / 3, 18 x 120 x 120 inches, Grounds For Sculpture, NJ.






see thumbnail to rightDamien Hirst (British, 1965-), Valium, 2000.





  • A joke:
    Mom: Why does your exam have a big zero over it?
    Child: It's not a zero. The teacher ran out of stars, so she gave me a moon instead.


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Also see aperture, arc, cone, cylinder, ellipse, fish-eye lens, hyperbola, kaleidoscope, lens, oblong, oval, ovoid, parabola, protractor, regular, sphere, tangent, and teleidoscope.




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