explore subjects in art

The term subjects in art refers to the main idea that is represented in the artwork. The subject in art is basically the essence of the piece. To determine subject matter in a particular piece of art, ask yourself: What is actually depicted in this artwork? What is the artist trying to express to the world... what is his or her message? And how are they conveying that message?

In this section, we'll learn about 6 main subjects that artists have been exploring in art for centuries:

  • still life - a collection of inanimate objects arranged together in a specific way

  • landscape - natural scenery such as mountains, cliffs, rivers, etc

  • nature - a focused view or interpretation of specific natural elements

  • portraiture - an image of a particular person or animal, or group thereof

Click on a subject matter above to read an in-depth description and see examples of artwork focusing on that subject. You will also find a depiction of what specific mediums can achieve within that subject matter.

If you want to paint or draw, but you need some ideas and inspiration, remember that subjects in art can be anything you want them to be - whatever your imagination conjures up. The most important thing is to choose a subject matter that interests you - something that you can happily immerse yourself in while working on your piece.

Below you'll see a sample of artworks that I created pertaining to each subject matter. To see many more examples, click on each subject:

Still Life

Landscape

Portraiture

Abstract

Nature

Day of the Dead


Learn how to appreciate art!

To learn about different art subjects, and the hidden signs and symbols they often contain, check out this course from the Great Courses Plus: How to Look at and Understand Great Art. This comprehensive, 36-lecture video course will give you the skills and foundational knowledge to appreciate all art genres. If you sign up for the free trial, you'll get access to the course immediately, and I'll receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) that will help support this site.

How to Look At and Understand Great Art