Art Term Tuesday: Horror Vacui

I first encountered the Latin-derived term horror vacui several years ago while researching outsider art from the first half of the twentieth century. Simply put, horror vacui is the fear, or abhorrence, of empty space. In the past hundred years, this term has been used in discussions of interior design (for instance, Mario Praz's critique of Victorian-era design) and artwork in which a two- or three-dimensional space is filled with detail or objects. The presence of horror vacui in visual art can stem from an artist's overwhelming compulsion (perhaps related to mental illness) to leave no space vacant or from a conscious aesthetic decision to forgo negative space.