Hierarchy of genres

Hierarchy of genres

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A hierarchy of genres is any formalization which ranks different genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

s in an art form in terms of their prestige and cultural value.

In literature, the epic
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 was considered the highest form, for the reason expressed by Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

 in his Life of John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

: "By the general consent of criticks, the first praise of genius is due to the writer of an epick poem, as it requires an assemblage of all the powers which are singly sufficient for other compositions." Below that came lyric poetry
Lyric poetry
Lyric poetry is a genre of poetry that expresses personal and emotional feelings. In the ancient world, lyric poems were those which were sung to the lyre. Lyric poems do not have to rhyme, and today do not need to be set to music or a beat...

, and comic poetry, with a similar ranking for drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

. The novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 took a long time to establish a firm place in the hierarchy, doing so only as belief in any systematic hierarchy of forms expired in the 19th century.

In music, settings of words were accorded a higher status than merely instrumental works, at least until the Baroque period, and opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 retained a superior status for much longer. The status of works also varies with the number of players and singers involved, with those for large forces, which are certainly more difficult to write and more expensive to perform, given higher status.

The hierarchies in figurative art are those initially formulated for painting in 16th century Italy, which held sway with little alteration until the early 19th century. These were formalized and promoted by the academies
Academy
An academy is an institution of higher learning, research, or honorary membership.The name traces back to Plato's school of philosophy, founded approximately 385 BC at Akademia, a sanctuary of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and skill, north of Athens, Greece. In the western world academia is the...

 in Europe between the 17th century and the modern era, of which the most influential became the French Académie de peinture et de sculpture
Académie de peinture et de sculpture
The Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture , Paris, was founded in 1648, modelled on Italian examples, such as the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Paris already had the Académie de Saint-Luc, which was a city artist guild like any other Guild of Saint Luke...

, which held a central role in Academic art
Academic art
Academic art is a style of painting and sculpture produced under the influence of European academies of art. Specifically, academic art is the art and artists influenced by the standards of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts, which practiced under the movements of Neoclassicism and Romanticism,...

. The fully developed hierarchy distinguished among:
  • History painting
    History painting
    History painting is a genre in painting defined by subject matter rather than an artistic style, depicting a moment in a narrative story, rather than a static subject such as a portrait...

    , including narrative religious mythological and allegorical subjects
  • Portrait painting
    Portrait painting
    Portrait painting is a genre in painting, where the intent is to depict the visual appearance of the subject. Beside human beings, animals, pets and even inanimate objects can be chosen as the subject for a portrait...

  • Genre painting or scenes of everyday life
  • Landscape
    Landscape art
    Landscape art is a term that covers the depiction of natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, and especially art where the main subject is a wide view, with its elements arranged into a coherent composition. In other works landscape backgrounds for figures can still...

     (landscapists were the "common footmen
    Infantry
    Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

     in the Army of Art" according to the Dutch theorist Samuel van Hoogstraten) and cityscape
  • Animal painting
  • Still life
    Still life
    A still life is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural or man-made...



The hierarchy was based on a distinction between art that made an intellectual effort to "render visible the universal essence of things" (imitare in Italian) and that which merely consisted of "mechanical copying of particular appearances" (ritrarre). Idealism
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 was privileged over realism
Realism
Realism, Realist or Realistic are terms that describe any manifestation of philosophical realism, the belief that reality exists independently of observers, whether in philosophy itself or in the applied arts and sciences. In this broad sense it is frequently contrasted with Idealism.Realism in the...

 in line with Renaissance Neo-Platonist philosophy.

The term is mostly used within the field of painting, and from the High Renaissance
High Renaissance
The expression High Renaissance, in art history, is a periodizing convention used to denote the apogee of the visual arts in the Italian Renaissance...

 onwards, by which time painting had asserted itself as the highest form of art. This had not been the case in Medieval art
Medieval art
The medieval art of the Western world covers a vast scope of time and place, over 1000 years of art history in Europe, and at times the Middle East and North Africa...

 and the art-commissioning sectors of society took a considerable period to fully accept this view. The Raphael Cartoons
Raphael Cartoons
The Raphael Cartoons are seven large cartoons for tapestries, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, painted by the High Renaissance painter Raphael in 1515-16 and showing scenes from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles...

 are a clear example of the continuing status of tapestry
Tapestry
Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom, however it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length and those parallel to the width ; the warp threads are set up under tension on a...

, the most expensive form of art in the 16th century. In the Early Medieval period lavish pieces of metalwork had typically been the most highly regarded, and valuable materials remained an important ingredient in the appreciation of art until at least the 17th century. Until the 19th century the most extravagant objéts d'art remained more expensive, both new and on the art market, than all but a few paintings. Classical writings which valued the supreme skills of individual artists were influential, as well as developments in art which allowed the Renaissance artist to demonstrate his skill and invention to a greater degree than was usually possible in the Middle Ages.

Renaissance art


The hierarchy grew out of the struggle to gain acceptance of painting as one of the Liberal arts
Liberal arts
The term liberal arts refers to those subjects which in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts. In medieval times these subjects were extended to include mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy...

, and then controversies to establish an equal or superior status within them with architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

 and sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

. These matters were considered of great importance by artist-theorists such as Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

, and Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

. Against the sculptors, Leonardo argued that the intellectual effort necessary to create an illusion of three-dimensionality made the painters' art superior to that of the sculptor, who could do so merely by recording appearances. In his Della Pictura of 1436 Alberti had argued that multi-figure history painting was the noblest form of art, as being the most difficult, which required mastery of all the others, because it was a visual form of history, and because it had the greatest potential to move the viewer. He placed emphasis on the ability to depict the interactions between the figures by gesture and expression.

Theorists of the Early and High Renaissance accepted the importance of representing nature closely, at least until the later writings of Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

, who was strongly influenced by neoplatonism
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

. By the time of Mannerist theorists such as Gian Paolo Lomazzo
Gian Paolo Lomazzo
Gian Paolo Lomazzo was an Italian painter, more remembered for his writings on art theory, belonging to the second generation that produced Mannerism in Italian art and architecture.Gian Paolo Lomazzo was born in Milan from a family emigrated from the town of Lomazzo...

 and Federico Zuccari
Federico Zuccari
Federico Zuccari, also known as Federigo Zuccaro , was an Italian Mannerist painter and architect, active both in Italy and abroad.-Biography:Zuccari was born at Sant'Angelo in Vado, near Urbino ....

 (both also painters) this was far less of a priority. Both emphasized beauty as "something which was directly infused into the mind of man from the mind of God, and existed there independent of any sense-impressions", a view bound to further reduce the status of works depending on realism. In practice the hierarchy represented little break with either medieval and classical thought, except to place secular history painting in the same class as religious art, and to distinguish (not always clearly) between static iconic religious subjects and narrative figure scenes, giving the latter a higher status. Ideas of decorum
Decorum
Decorum was a principle of classical rhetoric, poetry and theatrical theory that was about the fitness or otherwise of a style to a theatrical subject...

 also fed into the hierarchy; comic, sordid or merely frivolous subjects or treatment ranked lower than elevated and moral ones.

During the Renaissance landscape, genre scenes and still lifes hardly existed as established genres, so discussion of the status or importance of different types of painting was mainly concerned with history subjects as against portraits, initially small and unpretentious, and iconic portrait-type religious and mythological subjects. For most artists some commitment to realism was necessary in a portrait; few could take the high-handed approach of Michelangelo, who largely ignored the actual appearance of the Medici
Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...

 in his Medici Chapel
Medici Chapel
The Medici Chapels is a structure in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy. It comprises two structures added to Brunelleschi's original design, each intended to celebrate the power of the Medici as Grand Dukes of Tuscany. One is the Sagrestia Nuova, the "New Sacristy", designed by...

 sculptures, supposedly saying that in a thousand years no one would know the difference (a retort Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape painter.-Suffolk:Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk. He was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods. At the age of thirteen he impressed his father with his penciling skills so that he let...

 is also said to have used, with a shorter timeframe). Many portraits were extremely flattering, which could be justified by an appeal to idealism as well as the sitter's vanity; the theorist Armenini claimed in 1587 that "portraits by excellent artists are considered to be painted with better style [maniera] and greater perfection than others, but more often than not they are less good likenesses". On the other hand, numbers of courtly sitters and their parents, suitors or courtiers complained that painters entirely failed to do justice to the reality of the sitter.

The question of decorum in religious art became the focus of intense effort by the Catholic Church after the decrees on art of the Council of Trent of 1563. Paintings depicting biblical events as if they were occurring in the households of wealthy contemporary Italians were attacked, and soon ceased. Until the challenge of Caravaggio
Caravaggio
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque...

 at the end of the century, religious art became thoroughly ideal.

17th and 18th century art


The new genres of landscape, genre painting, animal painting and still life came into their own in the 17th century, with the virtual cessation of religious painting in Protestant countries, and the expansion of picture buying to the prosperous middle class. Although similar developments occurred in all advanced European countries, they were most evident in the enormously productive schools of Dutch Golden Age painting
Dutch Golden Age painting
Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years War for Dutch independence. The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe, and led European trade,...

 and Flemish Baroque painting
Flemish Baroque painting
Flemish Baroque painting is the art produced in the Southern Netherlands between about 1585, when the Dutch Republic was split from the Habsburg Spain regions to the south by the recapturing of Antwerp by the Spanish, until about 1700, when Habsburg authority ended with the death of King Charles II...

. However no theorists emerged to champion the new genres, and the relatively small amount of Dutch theoretical writing, by Karel van Mander, Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten
Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten
Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten was a Dutch painter of the Golden Age.-Biography:Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten was born and died in Dordrecht. He was...

, Gerard de Lairesse
Gerard de Lairesse
Gerard or Gérard de Lairesse was a Dutch Golden Age painter and art theorist.Lairesse was born in Liège. His broad range of talent included music, poetry, and the theatre. He was perhaps the most celebrated Dutch painter in the period following the death of Rembrandt...

 and others, was mostly content to rehash Italian views, so that their writings can seem oddly at variance with the Dutch art actually being produced in their day. The hierarchy was mostly accepted by artists, and even genre specialists such as Jan Steen
Jan Steen
Jan Havickszoon Steen was a Dutch genre painter of the 17th century . Psychological insight, sense of humour and abundance of colour are marks of his trade.-Life:...

, Karel Dujardin
Karel Dujardin
Karel Dujardin was a Dutch painter.-Biography:Karel Dujardin was a Dutch painter and etcher, born in Amsterdam in 1622. Although active as a portrait and history painter, he is best known for his Italianate landscapes. Typical of his landscape paintings is Farm Animals in the Shade of a Tree...

 and Vermeer produced a few history paintings, which were better paid when commissions could be obtained, but in general far harder to sell. The unhappy history of Rembrandt's last history commission, The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis
The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis
The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis is a 1661–62 oil painting by the Dutch painter Rembrandt, which was originally the largest he ever painted, at around five-by-five metres in the shape of a lunette. The painting was commissioned by the Amsterdam city council for the Town Hall. After the work had...

(1661) illustrates both his commitment to the form and the difficulties he had in finding an audience. In Flanders, as well as great quantities of pure genre works, there was a trend towards history paintings with a major genre element, whether animals, landscape or still life. Often the different elements were painted by different artists; Rubens
Rubens
Rubens is often used to refer to Peter Paul Rubens , the Flemish artist.Rubens may also refer to:- People :Family name* Paul Rubens Rubens is often used to refer to Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), the Flemish artist.Rubens may also refer to:- People :Family name* Paul Rubens (composer) Rubens is...

 and Frans Snyders often co-operated in this way.

An influential formulation of 1667 by André Félibien
André Félibien
André Félibien , sieur des Avaux et de Javercy, was a French chronicler of the arts and official court historian to Louis XIV of France.-Biography:...

, a historiographer, architect and theoretician of French classicism became the classic statement of the theory for the 18th century:
Celui qui fait parfaitement des païsages est au-dessus d'un autre qui ne fait que des fruits, des fleurs ou des coquilles. Celui qui peint des animaux vivants est plus estimable que ceux qui ne représentent que des choses mortes & sans mouvement ; & comme la figure de l'homme est le plus parfait ouvrage de Dieu sur la Terre, il est certain aussi que celui qui se rend l'imitateur de Dieu en peignant des figures humaines, est beaucoup plus excellent que tous les autres ... un Peintre qui ne fait que des portraits, n'a pas encore cette haute perfection de l'Art, & ne peut prétendre à l'honneur que reçoivent les plus sçavans. Il faut pour cela passer d'une seule figure à la représentation de plusieurs ensemble ; il faut traiter l'histoire & la fable ; il faut représenter de grandes actions comme les historiens, ou des sujets agréables comme les Poëtes ; & montant encore plus haut, il faut par des compositions allégoriques, sçavoir couvrir sous le voile de la fable les vertus des grands hommes, & les mystères les plus relevez.


Allegorical painting was raised above other types of history painting
History painting
History painting is a genre in painting defined by subject matter rather than an artistic style, depicting a moment in a narrative story, rather than a static subject such as a portrait...

; together they were the grand genre, including paintings with religious, mythological, historical, literary, or allegorical subjects—they embodied some interpretation of life or conveyed a moral or intellectual message. The gods and goddesses from the ancient mythologies represented different aspects of the human psyche, figures from religions represented different ideas, and history, like the other sources, represented a dialectic or play of ideas. Subjects with several figures ranked higher than single figures. For a long time, especially during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, history painting often focused on depiction of the heroic male nude; though this waned in the 19th century.

After history painting came, in order of decreasing worth: portraits
Portrait painting
Portrait painting is a genre in painting, where the intent is to depict the visual appearance of the subject. Beside human beings, animals, pets and even inanimate objects can be chosen as the subject for a portrait...

, scenes of everyday life (called scènes de genre, or "genre painting", and also petit genre to contrast it with the grande genre), landscapes
Landscape art
Landscape art is a term that covers the depiction of natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, and especially art where the main subject is a wide view, with its elements arranged into a coherent composition. In other works landscape backgrounds for figures can still...

, animal painting, and finally still life
Still life
A still life is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural or man-made...

s. In his formulation, such paintings were inferior because they were merely reportorial pictures without moral force or artistic imagination. 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. The hierarchy of genres also had a corresponding hierarchy of formats: large format for history paintings, small format for still lifes. This had occasionally been breached in the past, especially in large Flemish works, and the monumental Young Bull of the Dutch artist Paulus Potter
Paulus Potter
Paulus Potter was a Dutch painter, specialized in animals in landscapes, usually with a low point of view. Before Potter died of tuberculosis, 28-years old, he succeeded in producing about a hundred paintings, working continuously.-Life:Few details are known of Potter's life...

, as well as the large Butchers' Shop of Annibale Carracci
Annibale Carracci
Annibale Carracci was an Italian Baroque painter.-Early career:Annibale Carracci was born in Bologna, and in all likelihood first apprenticed within his family...

. But for the most part the relative prices obtainable for the different genres ensured the hierarchy of size also; it would not have been economic to paint a very large subject from the lower genres, except for commissioned group portraits. Rubens' largest landscapes were painted for his own houses.

Félibien argued that the painter should imitate God, whose most perfect work is in man, and show groups of human figures and choose subjects from history and fable. "He must", writes Félibien, "like the historians, represent great events, or like the poets, subjects that will please; and mounting still higher, be skilled to conceal under the veil of fable the virtues of great men, and the most exalted mysteries."

The use of the pictorial elements of painting such as line and color to convey an ultimate unifying theme or idea was regarded as the highest expression of art, and an idealism was adopted in art, whereby forms seen in nature would be generalized, and in turn subordinated to the unity of the artwork. It aimed at universal truth through the imitation of nature. Later dissenting theorists, such as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature...

, held that this focus on allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 was faulty and based on a wrong analogy between the plastic arts and poetry rooted in the Horatian
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

 dictum ut pictura poesis
Ut pictura poesis
Ut pictura poesis is Latin, literally "As is painting so is poetry." The statement occurs most famously in Horace's Ars Poetica, near the end, immediately after the "other" most famous quotation from Horace's treatise on poetics, "bonus dormitat Homerus", or "even Homer nods" :Horace meant that...

 ("as is painting so is poetry").

The British painter Sir Joshua Reynolds in his Discourses of the 1770s and 1780s, reiterated the argument for still life to the lowest position in the hierarchy of genres on the grounds that it interfered with the painter's access to central forms, those products of the mind's generalising powers. At the summit reigned history painting, centred on the human body: familiarity with the forms of the body permitted the mind of the painter, by comparing innumerable instances of the human form, to abstract from it those typical or central features that represented the body's essence or ideal.

Though Reynolds agreed with Félibien about the natural order of the genres, he held that an important work from any genre of painting could be produced under the hand of genius: "Whether it is the human figure, an animal, or even inanimate objects, there is nothing, however unpromising in appearance, but may be raised into dignity, convey sentiment, and produce emotion, in the hands of a painter of genius. What was said of Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

, that he threw even the dung about the ground with an air of dignity, may be applied to Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

; whatever he touched, however naturally mean, and habitually familiar, by a kind of magic he invested with grandeur and importance."

Though European academies usually strictly insisted on this hierarchy, over their reign, many artists were able to invent new genres which raised the lower subjects to the importance of history painting. Reynolds himself achieved this by inventing the portraiture style that was called the Grand Manner
Grand manner
Grand Manner refers to an idealized aesthetic style derived from classical art, and the modern "classic art" of the High Renaissance. In the eighteenth century, British artists and connoisseurs used the term to describe paintings that incorporated visual metaphors in order to suggest noble qualities...

, where he flattered his sitters by likening them to mythological characters. Jean-Antoine Watteau invented a genre that was called fêtes galantes, where he would show scenes of courtly amusements taking place in Arcadian setting; these often had a poetic and allegorical quality which were considered to ennoble them. Claude Lorrain
Claude Lorrain
Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English (also Claude Gellée, his real name, or in French Claude Gellée, , dit le Lorrain) Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English (also Claude Gellée, his real name, or in French...

 practised a genre called the ideal landscape, where a composition would be loosely based on nature and dotted with classical ruins as a setting for a biblical or historical theme. It artfully combined landscape and history painting, thereby legitimising the former. It is synonymous with the term historical landscape which received official recognition in the Académie française when a Prix de Rome
Prix de Rome
The Prix de Rome was a scholarship for arts students, principally of painting, sculpture, and architecture. It was created, initially for painters and sculptors, in 1663 in France during the reign of Louis XIV. It was an annual bursary for promising artists having proved their talents by...

 for the genre was established in 1817. Finally, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities...

 was able to create still life paintings that were considered to have the charm and beauty as to be placed alongside the best allegorical subjects. However, aware of this hierarchy, Chardin began including figures in his work in about 1730, mainly women and children.

19th century


Until the middle of the 19th century, women
Women artists
Women artists have been involved in making art in most times and places. Often certain certain media are associated with women, particularly textile arts; however, these gender roles in art change in different cultures and communities...

 were largely unable to paint history paintings as they were not allowed to participate in the final process of artistic training—that of life drawing, in order to protect their modesty. They could work from reliefs, prints, casts and from the Old Masters, but not from the nude model. Instead they were encouraged to participate in the lower painting forms such as portraiture, landscape and genre. These were considered more feminine in that they appealed to the eye rather than the mind.

Toward the end of the 19th century, painters and critics began to rebel against the many rules of the Académie française, including the status accorded to history painting
History painting
History painting is a genre in painting defined by subject matter rather than an artistic style, depicting a moment in a narrative story, rather than a static subject such as a portrait...

, which was beginning to be bought mainly by public bodies of one sort or another, as private buyers preferred subjects from lower down the hierarchy. In Britain the Pre-Raphaelite movement tried to revitalize the history painting, with mixed success; other movements made similar efforts. Many Pre-Raphaelites ended their careers mainly painting other subjects. New artistic movements included the Realists
Realism (visual arts)
Realism in the visual arts is a style that depicts the actuality of what the eyes can see. The term is used in different senses in art history; it may mean the same as illusionism, the representation of subjects with visual mimesis or verisimilitude, or may mean an emphasis on the actuality of...

 and Impressionists
Impressionism
Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s...

, which each sought to depict the present moment and daily life as observed by the eye, and unattatched from historical significance; the Realists often choosing genre painting and still life, while the Impressionists would most often focus on landscapes.