Genre Paintings in Visual Art – Realizing Life on Canvas

Genre – The Concept
Visual Arts is a broad terminology, encompassing the essence of Fine Arts, Contemporary Arts, and Applied Arts. Its all about capturing an artist’s vision on a canvas, mural, ceramic, or in the form of sculpture for the visual palate of the viewers. Genre Painting, a very important dimension of Visual Art, realistically depicts people and their lives by capturing real life situations.
The Details
The subject matter for Genre Paintings, also known as Genre Scene or Petit Genre includes views describing men working, women folks doing the household chores, and scenes from the street. All these work, whether realistic, imagined, or romanticized ‘must’ include people in their themes.
The Correlation
Owing to its vast thematic coverage of people and routine life, Genre Painting includes many other styles as well, like Marine Painting, Animal Painting, Architectural Painting, Still Life, and Landscape Painting. A concept similar to Genre Painting is Staffage. Though art is treated similarly in both the cases, the difference lies in the importance given to the depiction of animal and the human figures. In Genre, the figures are an essential feature, whereas in Staffage the figures are not the subject matter.
The History
The emergence of Genre dates back to the early 16th century. At that time, the protestant countries revolted against the Church of Rome, resulting in a decline of the Renaissance Art forms (15th-16th centuries), which the churches and secular leaders developed and propagated to inspire moral and religious values in public. During the same time, the European artists took fancy to oil paintings, which offered greater accuracy in work. These factors led to the budding of Genre Paintings on small scale initially. Jan Vermeer (Dutch 1632-75), Hendrick Terbrugghen (1588-1629), Gerard Terborch (1617-81), Rembrandt (1606-69) were some of the key proponents of this form. They belonged to the early 17th century school of Dutch Realism. The early 18th century saw Genre spreading through France to the still Renaissance influenced Italy. By the 19th century, more artists started looking into daily life for creative inspiration. At the time when French Impressionism was at its pinnacle, Genre reached its decline. The 20th century did see some artists creating refined quality artworks in the form, but only in small patches.
The Artists and the Artworks
Few of the very prominent works in the initial stages of emergence of genre form were works by Dutch artists Marinus van Reymerswaele (1490-1567), Quentin Massys (1466-1530), and Pieter Bruegel (1525-69). ‘The Money Lender and His Wife’ (1514) by Massys, and ‘Peasant Wedding Feast’ (1567) & ‘Peasant Dance’ (1568) by Bruegel are some very popular Genre Paintings. ‘The Café Royal in London’ (1912) by Sir William Orpen (Irish, 1878-1931), ‘Les Demoiselles D’Avignon’ (1907) by Pablo Picasso (Spain, 1881-1973), ‘Berlin Street Scene’ (1913) by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German, 1880-1938) are some other milestones of the modern times.