Hierarchy of Painting genres

1.0 Art and Sculpture 1.9.4 Genre digests

The French Academie des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts) was founded in 1648. It was not the first such academy: the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno was founded by the Medici family in the early 1560s for the arts of Florence; In the 1580s the Pope founded the Accademia di San Luca for the art of Rome.

The French Academy was originally called the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture). It was abolished temporarily during the French Revolution before being renamed as the Academie de Peinture et de Sculpture (Academy of Painting and Sculpture).

In 1669 Andre Felibien, Secretary to the French Academy, announced a hierarchy of painting genres that would form the basis of the Academy’s awards of prizes and sholarships. It would determine what could be shown at its Salon. Though originally theoretic, this was autocratically applied, together with rules on style, colour palette and the method and brushwork to be used in paintings. Corralling artists is akin to herding cats, it created dissent and directly affected the value of the paintings produced.

The French Academy’s hierarchy was set as:

  • History Painting
  • Portraiture
  • Genre Painting
  • Landscapes
  • Still Life

Simplistically, this approach values the paintings with people in them, and demotes those that have none. It didn’t consider rating animal paintings in the list, and of course abstract art was yet to emerge. Further, despite its name including the word ‘Sculpture’, this had no separate arrangements, its subject had to squeeze it into one of their five categories.

ultcult.com adds a ninth category, at the end chronologically but not in terms of its impact and value – this is Public Art.

So here ultcult.com presents our digest of nine genres from among our database:

Enjoy the journey through each!

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