The idea of Genre can be dated back to ancient Greece and is intrinsically linked with the tradition of differentiating different varieties of texts from each other on the basis of their genres. The conception of genre has found its place beyond language-based texts. Genres in relation to art, music, and other non-verbal methods of human communication are also not unheard of. Genre painting often referred to as genre scene or petit genre deals with portrayal of mundane stories of ordinary people engaged in ordinary activities. Genre paintings usually have recognizable touching themes which make it hugely popular amongst bourgeoisie or the middle class. Genre themes are a recurrent idea in virtually every art tradition. Genre paintings have often been referred to as “images of unheroic forms of life.”
History of Genre painting
Genre paintings dates back to the Egyptian times when their tombs were adorned with paintings of the people from ancient Egypt. Genre paintings resurfaced again in the late Middle ages and were depicted mainly in the religious calendars. During the early Renaissance period in Italy Genre paintings became quite popular. Genre paintings blossomed later on and reached the desired levels of perfection in the works of the Flemish artists Pieter Brueghel the Elder, David Teniers, and Adriaen Brouwer.
The most famous school of Genre painting was that of the Netherlands in the 17th century.
Similarly, French Genre paintings bloomed considerably in the works of Antoine Watteau, Nicolas Lancret, and Jean-Siméon Chardin.
It is interesting to note that in the field of painting there is a "hierarchy of genres". The Genres in hierarchical order are as follows-
Famous Genre painters Some of the famous genre painters are as follows-
- Pieter Brueghel the Elder
- Isaac van Ostade,
- David Teniers,
- Aelbert Cuyp,
- Johannes Vermeer
- Pieter De Hooch
- Pieter van Laer
- Louis le Nain
- William Powell Frith
- Dame Laura Knight
In the 19th century religious and historical subject matter started going went out of use in painting as art practitioners in both United States and America concentrated on depicting the life around them. Even 20th century artists like Pierre Bonnard, Edward Hopper loved portraying scenes from everyday life and gradually this art form entered the realm of greatness.
Genre paintings which were neither ideal in style nor elevated in subject matter became a favorite with painters who wanted to capture the everyday activities of an ordinary soul. Genre paintings provide a glimpse into the mundane activities of the past epoch and "serve as deeply encoded conversation pieces on the mores of the day".