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Index by Period

The Rise of Genres
(1700 - 1799)

Founded to celebrate and confirm the generally accepted doctrines of art - the concept of a hierarchy of genres, of morally and intellectually ennobling art, of the ascendancy of History.
Behind this academic hierarchy of genres lay a feeling that the value of art depends on its embodiment of some interpretation of life, whether religious or philosophical or poetic. Genre paintings - neither ideal in style, nor elevated in subject - were admired for their skill, ingenuity, and even humour, but never confused with high art.

contributed by Gifford, Katya



18th Century Portrait (1700 - 1799)
Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy, insisted that the importance of portraiture was in the appeal to the educated eye, above the needs of mere likeness. He aimed to reconcile the 'grand style' and portrait painting, and to make sitting for a portrait fashionable and interesting. His portraits, with thinly applied veneers of classical symbols, appealed to the 'rich and famous' of his day, and helped to elevate the portrait in the eyes of the buying public.

18th Century Landscape (1700 - 1799)
In the hierarchy of genres, landscape was considered the most inferior of topics. Landscape was simply setting for human drama in the form of history painting (or perhaps portraiture, if the sitter was important enough). New philosophies of nature, however, and the Romantic movement's emphasis on the importance of man's harmony with nature inspired a generation to look to landscape as a worthy genre of its own.

Still Life/Other (1700 - 1800)
Tradition said that the value of art depends on its embodiment of some interpretation of life, whether religious or philosophical or poetic. Genre paintings - neither ideal in style, nor elevated in subject - were admired for their skill, ingenuity, and even humour, but never confused with high art.

18th Century Narrative Painting (1750 - 1800)
Injecting history and morality (and even sometimes comedy) into narrative works, the artist looked to invoke the viewer's moral judgement. Artists addressed the mind, emphasising the importance of will, discipline and common sense in conducting one's life and affairs.

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Genre Painting in America


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