Types (or Genres) of Painting

A portrait is a picture of a person, or of several people.

This is a portrait of Antonia Zarate, painted by Francisco Goya.

Anthony Van Dyck painted this family portrait.

A history painting is a painting of a story. Some stories in history paintings actually happened. Others did not happen.

This is a history painting by Pierre Mignard. It depicts Alexander the Great showing magnanimity towards the family of a defeated enemy.

A religious painting is a painting of something that happened in a religious book, especially the Bible. It is a kind of history painting.

"Abraham's Sacrifice" by Rembrandt is a religious painting. According to the Bible, God commands Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, but at the last minute sends an angel to stop him.

This religious painting by Rubens is called "The Descent from the cross".

A mythological painting is a painting of a scene from a myth,
for example, a Greek myth. It is a kind of history painting.

This mythological painting by Titian is called "Danae".
The Greek God Zeus appears in Danae’s room in the form
of a golden rain.

An allegorical painting is a kind of history painting which has
a second meaning. In an allegorical painting characters symbolize ideas and concepts.

“The Union of Earth and Water” is an allegorical painting by Rubens. The figures (Cybele and Neptune) represent the prosperity of Antwerp and the river Sheldt – the trade waterway to the sea.

Remember, the term “history painting” includes religious, mythological and allegorical painting. They are all paintings of stories, and often have a lesson— do this, don’t do that!

A landscape painting is a painting of nature. It depicts an area of land, for example, fields, mountains or forest. It may also include animals and people. A seascape and a townscape are types of landscape.

This is a landscape painting by George Morland called
"Approaching storm".

This seascape was painted by Jan Porcellis.

A genre painting is a painting of a scene from everyday life.

This genre painting by Jan Steen is called "The Patient and the Doctor".

Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin created this genre painting. It is called "The Laundress".

A still life is a painting of small objects that don’t move,
usually laid out on a table.

This "Still Life with Drapery" was painted by Paul Cezanne.

“The Still Life with Fruit, Shells and Insects" painted by
Balthasar van der Ast also includes flowers and even birds.

Time for a test!

Identify the types of the following paintings:

Jacob van Ruisdael "Waterfall in Norway"

Gerard Terborch "A Glass of Lemonade"

Fra Filippo Lippi “The Vision of St. Augustine”

Joshua Reynolds “Infant Hercules Strangling Serpents”

Pierre Paul Prudhon “Innocence, preferring Love to Wealth”

Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin "Attributes of the Arts"