Common Themes and Subjects of Contemporary Art

Galerie Michael   •  Dec 15, 2017


While what definitively is or is not contemporary art can be a source of debate, it is generally agreed that contemporary art is work produced by artists within the last two hundred years. Cubism, surrealism, and modernism are some of the art movements that have been part of contemporary art, and inspired millions of people around the world. Like any period of time in history, contemporary art is a reflection of how people relate to the world around them. What you see in any piece of art can be shaped by your own tastes and experiences, but it is possible that what one artist chooses to paint could easily be chosen by another artist, even if they are separated by time, oceans, and culture. When an artist chooses a subject, it would be due to an emotional attachment to the subject, or it could simply be a case of unintended inspiration – whatever the reason, some themes and subjects are seen over and over again, and their popularity resonates with artists and non-artists alike.


It could be argued that still-life paintings and engravings date back to the world before the fall of the Roman Empire. A still life is any piece whose subject is an inanimate object. Fruits, vegetables, pottery, and furniture are all widely-used and loved still life subjects. Some still life paintings will feature the objects in bright light, and others will paint still lifes that are covered in shadows. While many, if not most still lifes are bright, and colorful, still lifes painted with the right shadows can be spooky, or mysterious. Today, still lifes featuring food and drink are popularly used to decorate kitchens in residential homes and hotel rooms.


Few people in the United States have gone their entire lives without seeing paintings and photographs of women milking cows, or men tending flocks of sheep. Whether it is of a painting of a barn at twilight, or or an unpaved road winding into the distance, depiction of life lived outside of cities and towns stirs romantic images of deep nights and candlelit storytime. One favorite contemporary painter of country and small-town life is Thomas Kincaide, whose controversial personal life repelled some while drawing others.


Nudes, particularly women, have always been popular in all art mediums. Just as will still life paintings, paintings, drawings, and carvings of nudes date back to ancient times. Michaelangelo’s David is probably the most famous piece depicting a nude. By the time the early twentieth century arrived, Pablo Picasso’s style was shaking up the art world, and many came to view his unique take on the painting of nudes.


Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, ‘The Last Supper,’ is one of the most recognizable paintings in the world. During the Renaissance, Christ’s last days were done of the most popular subjects for painters, along with Greek Mythology. Recently, the most popular subjects featuring Christ have been portraits, including portraits of Jesus Christ with features of different ethnicities. There has been more emphasis on the birth of Christ as Christmas has become a worldwide event involving the expenditure of copious amounts of money. As art grows and changes, so does the popularity of certain themes and subjects.