What is the first thing that strikes a chord – right or wrong – when you glance at a painted piece of art on canvas? Its theme of course. It is often said that more than half of a painting’s worth is its choice of subject. Choosing your subject somewhere has to be a trade-off between its saleability and your passion for a topic. Historically, era and the then prevailing genres affected paintings and their subjects, ranging from trite to more profound depictions. Throughout, the field of art has witnessed connects between the styles and the subjects of the painters. Arguably though, some preferred a wider selection and experimented with diverse thoughts.
Focusing back on the most ancient form of art, the ‘Cave Paintings,’ you can find the depictions of huge wild animals existing in those times, bountifully. These paintings mainly reflect the thought process of primitive human race, which had a day-to-day interaction with animals, and whose main occupation was hunting. The ‘Realist’ painters concentrated on real life subjects – humans, flora, & fauna – and created lifelike works. Although, the nineteenth century ‘Impressionist Art’ also carried similar subjects, its focus on lighting, color contrasts, bold brushstrokes, and shadows, were its distinguishing features. The advent of Photography inspired and challenged ‘Impressionism.’ ‘Surrealism,’ on the other hand, was more of an ‘Abstract’ form of art, where artists used bold colors to capture their flights of fantasy. A manipulation of color schemes was the characteristic identifiable with this sect of art. The paintings of ‘Victorian’ times were more of narratives, set in the themes of the Bible, mythology, literature, or modern life. Nonetheless, artists active during the World Wars often painted the gory pictures of the battlefields, the plight of the war prisoners and common masses. Present day art, better known as ‘Modern Art,’ corresponds most closely to its predecessor, ‘Surrealism, which is marked with fantastical and an abstract depiction of a wide variety of subjects.
The use of the medium of paintings also plays a role in the choice of subject. For instance, ‘Oil’ is considered to be the most versatile medium that gives the artist the liberty to choose from nature, people, occasions, abstract, still life, and various other subjects. Another handy medium is ‘Acrylic,’ with benefits similar to oil, the versatility of watercolors, and the additional quality of permanence.
Another, seemingly detached factor that in fact greatly affects the subject is the artist’s motive – whether it is purely to express his love for painting or to create a commercial product. However, there are certain subjects that both the schools of thought accept. Some of these themes include landscapes, erotic themes, abstract art, and portraits. The discussion on art and its attributes can go on endlessly, the bottom line remains that the manifestations of pure art cut across the boundaries of caste, creed, nations, and time!