What the Subject Reveals in an Artwork

Dora Aguero
October 20, 2021

The subject in an art piece can be an object, person, or event represented in the artwork. It is what often catches the eye of viewers as they gaze upon the piece at an art gallery.

After looking upon the artwork long enough, there is a satisfying sensation of uncovering the subject and putting together the clues to what the theme of the piece is. Here is what the subject can help us grasp about an artwork.

Explaining the Artist’s Message and Enhancing a Collection

Subjects are the main component of any work of art and are normally defined as the center of the piece. Artists select a specific item or figure for the purpose of conveying a deeper message. For example, an artist who wants to display the beauty of falling in love might use a young couple to represent the excitement of the experience, or an aging couple to show mature love. Depending on the purpose and theme of their work, artists must think of the ways falling in love can be represented through their own perspective.

Subject Representation Matters in Art Collecting

The subject may not always be clear what the artist wants to tell the audience. In the case of abstract art, there is no direct and clear subject; what the viewer is left with most of the time is the material itself, whether paint, metal, sand, etc. The subject in abstract art is the style, the shapes, and the colors in the works. The subject’s meaning changes due to how they are represented in a piece, and often needs to be accompanied by the explanation of the theme or concept the artist is choosing to represent.

Artists must have an understanding and handling of their subjects to rightly convey the message or theme of their work. The most successful pieces of the art managed to have this perfect connection, and thus become more valuable for it. This can be the deciding factor in determining whether it is a piece that is worth the viewer’s attention, interest, and time.


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