04/04/2019, 2:11 PM
The historical genre in painting is called upon to revive the pictures of the past, to resurrect in memory the “deeds of bygone days”. Moreover, these deeds may well be the fruit of the imagination of the masters of art, and the personalities captured in their works, the product of the legends of ancient times. Artists of the historical genre can recreate stories from the life of both real-life characters and mythical heroes from folk legends or religious beliefs of different countries and peoples.
Artworks of the historical genre can be paintings, sculptures or fresco, works made in the genre of graphics, miniatures or relief, which depict personalities or events that form historical memory in any country or around the world, or, perhaps, only in a particular region or city.

As is often the case, it all started with the era of the ancient Egyptians. One of the earliest works of the historical genre can be called a stone plate of Pharaoh Narmer dated to the 4th millennium BC. It captures the victory of one region over another  Upper Egypt over Lower. This important event marked the beginning of the statehood of Ancient Egypt. No less archaic monuments of the historical genre come from Assyria and India. These are reliefs and frescoes, which reflect the events of the history of these countries.

Bacchanal with a Wine Vat by Mantegna, Andrea Mantegna, 1470. 

Hercules by Piero della Francesca, after 1465.

The traditions of the historical genre were continued by the artists of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, and later by the masters of the genre of historical miniatures from the Byzantine Empire and Western Europe, eventually by the creators of paintings of the Renaissance.

Such dissimilar works belong to the historical genre, such as the relief of the arch of Titus in the Italian capital created in 81, the column of Trajan, also located in Rome, dating back to the beginning of the 2nd century, praising the victories of the Roman Empire, and something completely homely and cosy - carpet from Bayo, on the surface of which scenes of the conquest of England by the troops of the Normans are woven. This genre also includes a mosaic located in Ravenna, Italy, created in the 6th century BC. It depicts the Byzantine emperor Justinian along with his retinue. This mosaic is located in the Basilica of San Vitale. And miniatures in a handwritten book of the 15th century The Jena Codex from the Czech Republic, on the pages of which the national heroes of this country are immortalized, is also a historical genre.

The Death of Germanicus by Nicolas Poussin, 1627. 

Entry of Alexander into Babylon by Charles Le Brun, 1665. 

The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez, 1634–1635.

Renaissance artists Andrea Mantegna and Piero della Francesca produced works in the spirit of historical painting, reviving the traditions of antiquity, comprehending and reproducing the style of that era. They considered the heroic ideals of that time to be a role model.

Nevertheless, the historical genre became an independent movement of painting only by the 18th-19th centuries.
It was considered an “haute” genre in the 17th-18th centuries, at a time when academicism reigned in art, the classical approach to painting was held in high esteem. Masters of the brush sought not only to reproduce events from history, but also to embellish them, or invent them, hence their love for antiquity, for mythology.
The artist from France, Nicolas Poussin, preferred to paint works on historical and mythological themes. His colleague and compatriot Charles Le Brun, who worked at the royal court, is the author of a series of historical works dedicated to the life and victories of the ancient king-commander Alexander the Great.

The court painter of the Spanish king was Diego Velázquez, whose paintings with scenes from ancient myths make it possible to judge the skill of the painter. In the works of the artist from France, Jacques-Louis David, created in the second half of the 18thearly 19th centuries, the motives of the myths of the ancient era also sound.

An impressive and expressive work of the historical genre, in the first half of the 19th century, belongs to the brush of Eugène Delacroix, and is called Liberty Leading the People. This was the time when romanticism gained popularity in painting. However, even with the advent of the modern era, scenes from the past continued to inspire painters.

Leonidas at Thermopylae by Jacques-Louis David, 1814. 

Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix, 1830.

New artworks of the historical genre as a whole retain its distinctive features. The main task of the works of this movement is to preserve the memory of the events of the past, to glorify the heroes of bygone times, and to embody the historical myth. Therefore, in the twentieth century artworks made in the historical genre were often used as an ideological weapon in the hands of totalitarian regimes. With their help, patriotic education was carried out, or, more simply, brainwashing of the younger generations. And such use of art for by no means peaceful purposes, alas, has not stopped even today. But real art always remains above momentary goals. And in our time, artists do not forget to create new works in this genre. You can buy a work of the history painting in the Jose Art Gallery online gallery.