artists and art galleries of the world

The Art World on Facebook
The Art World on Twitter
The Art World on Pinterest

Art Encyclopedia - Genre

Art information > Art Encyclopedia > G > Genre

Genre is a term used in art history and art criticism for paintings depicting scenes from daily life. A type of picture usually small in size, depicting not so much a subject as everyday life and surroundings. Usually paintings of subjects not otherwise painted. The word genre does not describe landscape and still-life painting as these are specialities. Genre does not represent idealised life. Its charm is that of familiarity.

Genre themes appear in nearly all art traditions. Painted decorations in ancient Egyptian tombs often depict banquets, recreation, and agrarian scenes, and even medieval prayer books such as the Book of Hours are decorated with "peasant" scenes of daily life. The Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder made peasants and their activities the subject of many of his paintings, and genre painting was to flourish in Northern Europe in Brueghel's wake. Adriaen and Isaac van Ostade, David Teniers, Aelbert Cuyp, Johannes Vermeer and Pieter De Hooch were among the many painters specializing in genre subjects in the Netherlands during the 17th century. The generally small scale of these artists' paintings was appropriate for their display in the homes of middle class purchasers.

With the decline of religious and historical painting in the 19th century, artists increasingly found their subject matter in the life around them. Realists such as Gustave Courbet upset expectations by depicting everyday scenes in huge paintings—at the scale traditionally reserved for "important" subjects—thus blurring the boundary which had set genre painting apart as a "minor" category. History painting itself shifted from the exclusive depiction of events of great public importance to the depiction of genre scenes in historical times, both the private moments of great figures, and the everyday life of ordinary people. Subsequently the Impressionists, as well as such 20th century artists as Pierre Bonnard, Edward Hopper, and David Park painted scenes of daily life, but in the context of modern art the term "genre painting" has come to be associated mainly with painting of an especially anecdotal or sentimental nature, painted in a traditionally realistic technique. The works of American painter Ernie Barnes and those of illustrator Norman Rockwell could exemplify a more modern type of genre painting. | Contact Us | List Your Art | List Your Art Gallery | Site Map

The Art World - Artists, Art Galleries and Art Information Throughout The Art World