Genre painting is a style of art that portrays scenes from everyday life, typically featuring ordinary people engaged in various activities.
Genre painting refers to a style of art that focuses on depicting scenes from everyday life, featuring regular people engaged in various activities, whether at work or leisure. These scenes are typically rendered in a realistic and true-to-life manner, offering a glimpse into the ordinary experiences of individuals. Genre painting sets itself apart from other genres of art like landscapes, portraits, still life, religious themes, historical events, or subjects that are traditionally idealised.
This term originated in 18th-century France, originally used in a somewhat derogatory manner by proponents of the ideal or grand style in art to describe painters who specialised in one particular kind or ‘genre’ of picture, whether it be flowers, animals, or middle-class life. However, by the late 19th century, as seen in works like Jacob Burckhardt's 'Netherland Genre Painting' (1874), the term took on a more approving connotation and came to represent its current sense.
In its contemporary usage, 'genre painting' is most commonly associated with the works of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painters, including artists such as Jan Steen, Gerard Terborch, Adriaen van Ostade, David Teniers the Younger, Pieter de Hooch, and Johannes Vermeer, who excelled in capturing intimate scenes from daily life with a focus on precise observation of character types, clothing, and settings.