Art Prints by Motifs
The selection of pictures by motifs is an important opportunity for many visitors to orient themselves in the flood of images.
When selecting the criteria, we followed common patterns.
Of course, this selection can never be complete. On the other hand, too many categories lead to confusion.
Please note that not all images from our extensive program are already assigned to motif categories. So if you do not find your pictures here, it's best to use the search function.
Abstraction refers to art unconcerned with the literal depiction of things from the visible world, not excluding the referring to an object or image which has been distilled from the real world. Artwork that reshapes the natural world for expressive purposes is called abstract; that which derives from, but does not imitate a recognizable subject is called nonobjective abstraction. In the 20th century the trend toward abstraction coincided with advances in science, technology, and changes in urban life, eventually reflecting an interest in psychoanalytic theory. Later still, abstraction was manifest in more purely formal terms, such as color, freedom from objective context, and a reduction of form to basic geometric designs.
Animal representations are among the oldest motifs of human painting (as we find them in prehistoric cave painting) as well as of fine art.They inform us about the relation between man and animal in their time. However, pure animal images, where animals are not only symbolical attributes of the persons depicted, are a rather young development. In ancient times and in the Middle ages animals referred mostly to certain qualities of the depicted persons or they symbolized gods. In the Renaissance perception and representation of animals changed. A first high point of the representation of animals was the Dutch animal genre painting of the 17th century. In modern times it was the expressionist Franz Marc who created a great number of animal pictures.
This implies the representation of constructional objects (houses, squares, bridges etc.) for their own sake, thus serving not only as staffage, background, or as attribute. There were architecture pictures already in ancient Pompeji. In Middle Ages depicted constructions just indicate a certain scene. The actual architecture picture arises in the 16th century in Netherlands(f. e. “Brueghel's Tower of Babel”). Dutch artists prevailed here up until the 17th century, and were followed by Italian artists in the 18th century. In modern times the representation of architecture has become a domain of photographers.
Cities / Townscape
Here we find representations of the urban life and architecture. For a long time the symbolizing and typifying charakter has been dominating the cityscape in fine arts. In the17th century the real town finally becomes the main source of inspiration, especially in Dutch painting. Due to the increasing industrialisation and mechanisation it is above all – especially in photography – the large city, that attracts the interest of the artists.
The double portrait depicts two real persons that are related to each other, often man and wife. It follows the physiognomy of the persons and it ensures a recognizability. Effigies of couples and friends are typical examples of the double portrait, which is quite different fom the representation of two random persons.
These pictures seek to express emotions as joy and fear. They contain symbolic as well as figurative motifs (people, landcapes etc.).
Fantasy landscapes often show a balanced mix of real and unreal elements. A characteristic feature is the abdication of historical or scientific correctness. Fantasy is equally influenced by mythical topics and science-fiction literature. Fantasy landscapes are located in a fictional archaic age or in a distant future, they lead us into idealized Middle Ages or they allow us a glimpse into distant galaxies. Often they show us man on a magical journey.
The flower piece is a special form of the still life renouncing the artificial arrangement of dead things on an image scene (table, bowl etc) and providing thus a stronger impression of reality. The flower piece has been known since the 16th century.
Genre paintings in the closer sense depict everyday scenes of rural, bourgeois or courtly life. Here the term Genre is extended to all areas of human life. The early Genre paintings represent their motifs realistically, however oftentimes the image contents are to be understood as allegories, sometimes even as moralising artworks either praising idylls or denouncing human misconduct. Later in the 19th century the realistic component was brought again to the fore.
This kind of painting was borne in the Netherlands of the 16th and 17th century. It portrays a group of persons not only aiming at the recognizable representation of these persons but also trying to present the relationship between them. A very popular motif became the family portrait representing the family mostly idyllic or representative.
Being part of the coastal landscape the lighthouse pictures actually belong to the categories “Seescape“ or “Landscape“. But due to the great number of images focussing on the lighthouse these pictures deserve to be recognized as a category of its own.
Music had been a popular motif already in early fine arts when mostly music scenes with religious reference were represented. However, already in ancient times we find secular pictures of music playing people f.e. in Egypt as symbol of courtly refined lifestyle on frescos and tomb walls. Representations of music in Rome and Greece – often as part of mystery scenes – testify the high social reputation of music. The Middle Ages brought forth many representations of music playing angels, secular representations of music can be found in manuscripts of songs respectively Minstrels' manuscripts. The genre paining of the 16th century depicts music scenes realistically, in the baroque period the first portraits of famous composers are created.
This designates every representation of the nude human body. Since prehistoric time, humans, both male and female, have been depicted in all states of dress, including all states of undress. Nudity in all styles has been and continues to be found in art. The artistic interest focuses on the realistic representation of the correct human anatomy as well as the representation of the body in movement.
Ocean / Seascape
This is a special form of the landscape painting. It contains the presentation of sea and coast. These pictures show ships, ports, sea battles, icebergs as well as coastal motifs like strands, beach chairs or breakwaters. Also animal pictures can be found in this category.
An optical illusion is caused by the visual system. It creates images that can be deceptive or misleading to our brains. Artists who have worked with optical illusions are f.e. C.M. Escher, Salvador Dali and Victor Vasarely. Styles like Op Art and Trompe-l'oeil use optical illusions.
The portrait emphasizes the individual features (of a certain person) or the typical features (the depicted person as representative of his class or estate). At the beginning of the portrait painting there was the whole figure, then the restriction to the upper half of the person followed (half-figure) and finally to the face (bust portrait). Profile and front view are the common forms of presentation. Until the 14th century the individual effigy was of less importance – portraits were symbols of an office or an estate represented by the depicted person. The emphasis on the true physiognomic composition of a face, thus the “discovery of the individual” in fine arts is due to Renaissance.
Religious motifs belong to the oldest and most widely spread motifs of fine arts. Unlike Judaism and Islam that largely obey the mosaic ban on icons christianity – after some initial reluctance – stimulated the representation of religious themes, using as source the characters and stories of the bible as well as apocryphycal gospels and innumerable hagiographies.
The self-portrait depicts the artist himself showing recognizably his physiognomic and physical appearance. The appearance of the the self-portait in the history of arts is a sign of the artist's increasing self-confidence, who emancipates from the role of the craftsman acting on behalf of a principal.
Motifs from the field of sporting activity, mostly motorsport, tennis, basketball und boxing. Most of the pictures from this subject area are photographs. The representation of dynamic movements improve the impression of reality. We find here not only representations of sporting performance but also portraits, especially of charismatic personalities as the US-American Box Champion Mohammed Ali.
Still life contains the depiction of dead or motionless objects arranged in a certain way. The range of representations extends from everyday objects to precious items. Thus there are distinguished inter alia flower, book, fish, breakfast and hunting still lifes. The attraction of the still life arises from the exciting relation between materiality und symbolism of the depicted objects; the still life is a preferred form of presentation for the Vanitas theme.