People have used art as a form of expression for countless generations. While there are countless ways to create art, one common thread running through them is the subject.
The term « subject » is used to describe the central idea or subject of a creative work. The subject is what gives each work of art its meaning and what allows viewers to engage with it on a deeper level, whether it be a painting, a sculpture or a photograph.
In this article, we discuss the nature of artistic subjects and their contemporary relevance.
What is the subject in art?
The subject of the artwork is the main idea or theme. It contains everything the artist hopes to say with his work. Everything from everyday objects and scenes to abstract ideas and feelings can serve as inspiration for an artist.
The inspiration for an artistic creation can come from anywhere: the artist’s own life, mythology, history, current events, social or political issues, feelings or beliefs.
When making art, the artist uses the subject as a springboard to express himself.
The different types of subjects in art
In art there is a wide variety of subjects, each with its own specific qualities. Some examples of the most common topics include the following:
A portrait is a work of art or writing that depicts a specific individual, usually in whole or in part.
Nature, such as mountains, forests or bodies of water, is central to landscape art.
Still life subjects depict inanimate objects such as flowers, fruit or other everyday goods.
Historical or mythological
The term « historical » or « mythological » refers to stories or characters with a prominent role in history, mythology or religion.
Everyday life is the primary emphasis of this genre, which often features scenes of individuals performing mundane tasks such as eating, drinking, or working.
The term « abstract » is used to describe works of art that do not attempt to represent real-world objects or scenes.
Relying on visual elements to convey abstract ideals such as love, death and freedom.
Political or social
The subject matter of this genre typically addresses pressing political and social concerns in an attempt to spark debate and question accepted norms.
These are just a few of the many different categories of artistic subjects. Artists can express their message or feeling through multifaceted works of art by combining and manipulating these subjects in different ways.
Why is the subject important in art?
The subject is essential to art because it serves as a vehicle for the artist’s self-expression and gives the work its ultimate value. Here are a few examples why artists should pay close attention to their chosen themes:
- The subject creates a bond between the creator and the audience by giving the artist an insight into their own lives, feelings and thoughts. This allows them to empathize with or understand the work on a more fundamental level.
- Subject helps to place the work in its proper historical, geographic and cultural setting, which is essential to appreciate the full scope of the artist’s intentions in creating the piece.
- An artist’s choice of subject matter can serve as a means of highlighting social injustice, questioning accepted practices, or conveying an important message to the general public.
In general, the subject matter of a work of art influences how it is received by the public, both emotionally and intellectually.
Subject vs Content
The terms subject and content are sometimes used interchangeably in the art world, although there is a nuanced difference between the two.
The term « subject » is used to describe the subject of a work of art, be it a person, landscape or still life. It is the main point the artist wants to make.
The content of an artwork, on the other hand, is its actual meaning or message. It is up to the artists to decide whether the content is an emotional expression, a political critique or a social commentary.
For example, a painting of a bowl of fruit may contain little more than a simple still life. The subject of the work may have something to do with prosperity, the transience of life or the aesthetic value of everyday objects.
In a nutshell, the subject of a work of art is what can be seen with the naked eye, while the content is what lies beneath the surface.
Subject for contemporary artists
The subjects that contemporary artists choose to depict tend to reflect changing social customs and political climates. Portraits, landscapes and still lifes are still important in the art world, but many modern artists are exploring more experimental forms of expression.
Art in the modern era often draws on current themes to comment on pressing social, political and environmental issues. Climate change, social inequality and mental health are just a few of the issues they could raise in their art.
They often represent the digital age we live in by incorporating technological elements and multimedia into their works. As our societies become more varied and multicultural, new types of subjects, such as identity and representation, are being explored by contemporary artists.
With their work they critique rigid ideas about gender, ethnicity and sexuality, while also praising the infinite diversity of the human experience.
The ability to push the boundaries of art and create works that engage, challenge and inspire audiences is a direct result of contemporary artists’ willingness to explore new and novel subjects.
One of the most important aspects of any creative work is the subject matter, which gives the creator a platform on which to express their deepest thoughts, feelings and experiences.
The shapes vary from realistic to abstract and symbolic. Although the subject of the artwork can serve as a starting point for the viewer, it is the actual content of the work that gives the ultimate meaning and value.
Artists can create works of art that touch people on an emotional and intellectual level by choosing the subject matter carefully.
The ability to manipulate and combine different parts allows artists to create important and profound works of art whether the subject matter is representational or abstract.