… It is about the world of the individual who feels himself most free, most conscious, most himself when he is sharply perceiving …
Continuing through Worldview in Painting — Art and Society by Meyer Schapiro (1999):
… The themes that appear most often in modern art are the following. In the first place, the painters and sculptors represent those things that belong to the direct experience of the eye — all that we consider spectacles or aesthetic objects within life itself. An enormous amount of painting is directed toward landscape, still life, and beautiful human beings and toward imagery of sport and entertainment: in other words, that part of our everyday world that we experience simply by looking at it. It is the world of recreation and pleasurable perception — an important part of our lives.
… A second essential body of themes in modern art we may call the world of the artist, that is, the representation of the studio, the immediate environment of the artist as a place of work, with model posing, and with the objects that are bound up with his awareness of his own role in the world.
… A third part of modern art is devoted in a curious way to the consciousness of art itself. There are many paintings that are made up of patches of color, lines, figured spots, sometimes called abstract art. It appears to be an art completely emancipated from any subject matter. But if we reflect upon it, we discover that these shapes, these rectangles and these circles, are not “pure” forms. The work is not well ordered because it is built of circles and rectangles.
[line break added] Its quality depends on how the circles and rectangles or those freer painted marks or operations of the hand that we call touches or strokes are organized. There are bad abstract works and good abstract works. What is common to all of them is that the constituting elements — the geometrical figures, the strokes, lines, marks, and touches — do not form images or signs for objects, but are themselves ideal figures or elementary operations in the shaping of things; these, too, are an important subject matter of art, drawn from art itself.
Finally, and especially in the last twenty-five or thirty years, an immense part of modern painting has to do with the world of the self, that is, the interior world of the artist, those experiences that are not open to direct inspection by others, how he feels, what he imagines and dreams, the free associations and other spontaneous formations of the personality.
… If the art of the Middle Ages is about supernatural beings whom one never saw directly or in ordinary vision, if the art of the Renaissance is about mythological and historical figures, and if the art of the Baroque period is rich in moral and political allegories, then the art of the last seventy-five years is about ourselves.
[line break added] It is about the world of the individual who feels himself most free, most conscious, most himself when he is sharply perceiving, when he is actively aware of his own inwardness, and when he exploits inventively the essential materials and processes of his profession more fully conscious that the irreducible and indescribable aspect of his inner life is no less real than the things outside. In other words, what happens in his mind is just as much a part of reality as what goes on outside his skin …