Genre Art

38,021 artworks, 4,474 artists
Genre painting depicts aspects of everyday life by portraying ordinary people engaged in common activities; therefore it is a form of genre art, ‘an everyday genre”. Art theorist Max Friedländer defines genre scene in painting as “the depiction of a person’s activity without historical, mythological and religious significance”. Such paintings contain the elements of landscape, still life, interior and represent the subjects without any embellishment, heroization or pathos. The subjects of the paintings are people, but not individuals, and the subject maters do not suppose the reality of the event. It distinguishes the everyday genre from landscape, portrait or historical painting. Genre paintings lack the names of the models: they are just the Dutch girls, funny revelers or peasants in the field. Spectators will never know whether the artist painted the scene from nature or reconstructed it from one’s imagination.

The scenes of peasants and artisans’ life appeared on medieval manuscripts, and in the 17th century the images of everyday life formed an independent genre. The Dutch painters had new patrons — merchants, bourgeois, landowners who wanted to decorate their houses with small-format paintings depicting the recognizable people and understandable subjects. The representatives of the Golden Age of Dutch realism created the outstanding paintings of urban and rural life.

In their works, artists conveyed admiration for observing ordinary people, portrayed people with undisguised sympathy and made the audience curiously observe the subject. The representatives of the Dutch school of painting preferred to paint everyday and family scenes in the interior, they filled their paintings with satirical motifs, symbols and hints, illustrated the subtleties of social relationships. The genre painting by French and Italian artists pleased viewers with their lightness, comicism, and emphasis on “gallant scenes” of social life. The everyday scenes by English artists depicted the behavior of the middle class, focusing the viewer's attention on the dignity, nobility and satisfaction status of the subjects.

Famous genre paintings:
The Conjurer” 1502 by Hieronymus Bosch; “The Merry Family” 1664 Jan Steen; “Dutch Girl at Breakfast” by Jean-Étienne Lyotard; “Haymaker and Sleeping Girl” 1781; “Charity” 1784 by Thomas Gainsborough; “Breakfast” 1875 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir; “In bed” 1878, “For tea” 1893 by Federico Zandomenegi.

Famous genre artists:
Jan Vermeer, Frans Hals, Georges de Latour, Antoine Watteau, Thomas Gainsborough, François Boucher, Jean François Millet, Federico Zandomenegi, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Vladimir Makovsky.