Foreground and background
In visual artworks (such as paintings, drawings, photographs, animation, or film), the background of a picture is whatever is seen behind the principal subject, e.g. figures, flowers, which may be called the foreground. There is also midground to refer to a third area that is between foreground and background.
Foreground and midground
Usually, the foreground is where the most prominent or important part of the image is, and a midground, if present, serves as a "first" background, with another background further back. In some image compositions, the main action can be put in the midground, with some less important object in the foreground, in order to give depth to a scene (such as a tree trunk in the foreground for a scene set in a forest).
Purpose of the background
The background typically has the purpose of showing the setting or the environment of the scene. It determines not what is happening (this is the foreground's job), but where it is happening.
Omitting the background
In drawing, it is trivially easy to eliminate a background by simply leaving the background white (or in a plain color). This artistic technique concentrates the focus on the foreground, and gives room for the viewer's imagination. It also makes the foreground action appear "floating in time and space".
In photographs and videos, background is difficult to eliminate except with back-lighting or complete darkness.
In spanking art
In spanking art, the foreground typically shows people - e.g. a spanker and a spankee, and certain items of furniture they use, such as a chair. The background may show the room or an outdoor setting where the scene takes place. Background can also show other people who are watching (minor characters) or an assisting person. In judicial spanking, other people are shown in the background as witnesses.
In this drawing by Louis Malteste, only a foreground is drawn, no background, putting the focus entirely on the two characters with no distraction.
In this drawing, the background gives the viewer an impression of the setting, in this case, the living room of a wealthy and modern home (of the time).