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Genre painting




Vincent van Gogh | The reaper after Millet, 1889

Genre painting (or petit genre), a form of genre art, depicts aspects of everyday life by portraying ordinary people engaged in common activities.
One common definition of a genre scene is that it shows figures to whom no identity can be attached either individually or collectively - thus distinguishing petit genre from history paintings (also called grand genre) and portraits.
A work would often be considered as a genre work even if it could be shown that the artist had used a known person - a member of his family, say - as a model.
In this case it would depend on whether the work was likely to have been intended by the artist to be perceived as a portrait - sometimes a subjective question.
The depictions can be realistic, imagined, or romanticized by the artist. Because of their familiar and frequently sentimental subject matter, genre paintings have often proven popular with the bourgeoisie, or middle class.

Edouard Manet 1832-1883 - Genre painting
Edouard Manet 1832-1883

- 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. Often the subject of a genre painting was based on a popular emblem from an Emblem book.
This can give the painting a double meaning, such as in Gabriel Metsu's The Poultry seller, 1662, showing an old man offering a rooster in a symbolic pose that is based on a lewd engraving by Gillis van Breen 1595-1622, with the same scene.

Edouard Manet 1832-1883 - Genre painting
Edouard Manet 1832-1883

Paul Cézanne - Genre painting
Paul Cézanne

Rose and Amélie - Edvard Munch 1894 - Genre painting
Rose and Amélie 1894, Edvard Munch

Wilhelm August Lebrecht Amberg 1822-1899 - Genre painting
Wilhelm August Lebrecht Amberg 1822-1899

Edgar Degas - Genre painting
Edgar Degas 1834-1917

- In Italy, a "school" of genre painting was stimulated by the arrival in Rome of the Dutch painter Pieter van Laer in 1625. He acquired the nickname "Il Bamboccio" and his followers were called the Bamboccianti, whose works would inspire Giacomo Ceruti, Antonio Cifrondi, and Giuseppe Maria Crespi among many others.
- Louis le Nain was an important exponent of genre painting in 17th century France, where the 18th century would bring a heightened interest in the depiction of everyday life, whether through the romanticized paintings of Watteau and Fragonard, or the careful realism of Chardin.

Johannes Vermeer - Young Woman with a Water Pitcher - Genre painting
Johannes Vermeer 1632-1675 - Young Woman with a Water Pitcher

Johannes Vermeer - Young Woman with a Water Pitcher - Genre painting
Johannes Vermeer 1632-1675 - Young Woman with a Water Pitcher

- In England, William Hogarth conveyed social criticism and moral lessons through canvases that told stories of ordinary people, often in serial form.
William Powell Frith is perhaps the most famous English genre painter and was admired by many of his contemporaries.
Other English genre painters include Augustus Leopold Egg, George Elgar Hicks, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
- Scotland produced two influential genre painters, David Allan 1744-96 and Sir David Wilkie 1785-1841. Gustave Courbet 1819-77 one of France's most famous genre painters, based his celebrated painting 'After Dinner at Ornans' 1849 on Wilkie's 'The Cottar's Saturday Night' 1837.
Famous Russian realist painters like Vasily Perov and Ilya Repin 1844-1930 also tried out in the genre paintings.

Rembrandt van Rijn - The Anatomy Lesson - Genre painting
Rembrandt van Rijn - The Anatomy Lesson

- Spain had an old tradition standing since before The Book of Good Love of social observation and commentary based on the Old Roman Latin tradition and to this many of its painters,and illuminated miniature painters followed work.
Pedro Berruguete brought his social scenes and critic with many of its works.What at the height of the Spanish Empire was continued including scenes of street life picaresque and at its slow falling eventually produced many works by the painters of The Spanish Golden Age, Velázquez, Murillo and others.
The Spanish artist Francisco De Goya used genre painting as a medium for dark commentary on the human condition.

- The first true genre painter in the United States was German immigrant John Lewis Krimmel, who learning from Wilkie and Hogarth, produced gently humorous scenes of life in Philadelphia from 1812-21.
One of the more notable genre painters from the United States was Harry Roseland, who focused on scenes of poor African Americans in the post-American Civil War South.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida - Genre painting
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida

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.

At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance - Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance - Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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