Content has to deal with the subject of an art piece, but not all pieces of art have a subject. This is especially true of art works in architecture and sculpture. Some paintings don’t have subject matter, too. They don’t have any references to nature, historical events or situations. Instead, such works of art mostly focus on colors, mass and volume, lines and other elements.
Even though many pieces of art do not have subject matter, all of them do have content in which they seek to communicate a message, feelings, beliefs and values.
Content may come from a variety of sources and places, including political, social, ethnic and economic values and contexts in which a piece of art was created. The intention of an artist and the reception of the audience are also parts of content. Art historians study art by applying different interpretation methods to it. This leads to single works of art often containing more than one meaning, especially if these works or art are directed at several different audiences at once.
The study of subject matter is also known as iconography. This word literally means “the study of images.”