Talk:Hierarchy of genres

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2005 discussion[edit]

"genre paintings were considered as the lowest form, everyday life was of no interest to the upper classes, and they were investing the most, which was in the other painting genres."

Unfortunately its hard to have a discussion with the person who has been changing the order of the genres, because he doesn't have a username and his IP address changes. I am changing it back to get your attention first, so at least we can have a discussion--there is no other way I can see to do it. I would like to know which source you are refering to which put genre paintings at the bottom of the hierarchy. None of the theorists who codified hierarchies, Felibien, or Reynolds, put it at the bottom. From everything I read, every source, the main dispute was whether still life or landscape was the lowest rung. Some sources place portraiture above genre painting, but never place it at the bottom. There was some dispute on the lines between history painting and genre painting. The main concern was whether a painting could communicate an idea, to these academics, not whether they were of interest to upper classes. The idea with genre paintings was that they could convey a certain wit, but nothing 'grand'. Paintings that centered around humans were automatically given more credit. Still lifes were near the bottom because they were thought by many they could convey nothing (in fact certain artists stuck allusions to human presence in still life or landscape paintings just to legitimize them). The whole system was thought out and fit in with academic theory, and was not just a rough guide of aristocratic tastes. I could have found many sources on the web to point you at within a few minutes (which is more difficult now since most search items for the term are mirrors of this article), or could find books. By the mid-19th century, the art world wasn't necessarily dominated by the upper classes, anyway, but the bourgeoise who actually adore genre paintings more so than the intellectuals would want, seen in sales. In the 18th century when hierarchies came about, its simply wrong to say the art world was disaffected with genre painting. Genre painting of Chardin and Greuze were admired among French intellectuals. Diderot wrote an essay on how 'manner' is conveyed through art, and how it could convey grace, specifically referring to paintings such as Chardin's. During the 19th century, the hierarchy of genres I ordered was mostly kept to in France. Things were different in Germany, where for a while history painting was actually prohibited by the academies, because of the idea that genre paintings and portraits had more moral character to them. All of the major German artists of the Biedermeier period were genre painters.

User:Bodypolitic Hi: I am not the person who has changed this before, but am a trained art historian and am pretty sure portraiture was second in the French Academy. I read the article and was struck by the idea that genre was second. This would never have been the case for academicians because of its "low-class" subject matter. Portraiture could depict "great men"; genre depicted inconsequential peasants (in the view of a 17th c. French aristocrat). The fact that Diderot liked certain genre painters did not affect the Academy's hierarchy. Things may have changed in the 19th c., but not enough to displace the portrait, I don't think (though I'll try to check).

User:Brianshapiro I have seen some versions of the hierarchy that put portraiture above genre painting. I think Felibien didn't even talk about genre painting in his own hierarchy, though others did. But from what I know it was a very conceptual scheme---genre painting isn't exclusively about the lower classes, paintings of aristocratic life are also considered genre paintings (this is a later example, but Tissot is genre--Watteau's paintings were also mostly genre works--featuring aristocrats at festivities); the point is that they depict situations that are not of great historical or mythological importance--they didn't represent any serious ideas. But often genre painting could still communicate some wit, poetry, or point; to academicians. There was also some dispute on the line between genre painting and history painting. Portraits were just pictures, unless made by a talented artist or someone who transformed the individuals into larger than life personas (whether Joshua Reynolds, or Hans Makart). It may be so that some people put genre below portraiture, but genre painting was never to my knowledge below still life subjects and landscape. Like I said it was a conceptual scheme, on the value of a type of painting to represent some truth. It wasn't just that Diderot admired some genre paintings; he wrote an essay on how just depicting the manner of people in life gave moral meaning to the paintings. At any rate the hierarchy of genres was most important in the 19th century, when society had already changed a bit; it was controversial then because it served as a framework for exhibitions and contests that were 'official' functions and for training

Wrong academy....[edit]

It wasn't the Academie_Francaise who made the rules with regard to the visual arts, it was the Académie_de_peinture_et_de_sculpture, you tards! Sounds like the person who wrote this took a night class in art history and is now suddenly an expert...—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:10, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

Gerard de Lairesse[edit]

Hallo Johnbod, sorry for my mistake. Here are a few interesting lines, I just added at Gerard de Lairesse:

In the main reception room there should be tapestries or paintings on the wall with life size figures ... and in the kitchen, images of kitchen equipment and the spoils of the hunt, the picture of some maid, servant, dog or cat. De Lairesse, for whom pictorial illusionism was of utmost importance, also wrote about the place of pictures on walls. For example, urged that landscapes (and indeed all paintings) should be hung at a height where their horizons were even with eye level. De Lairesse urgend that portraits that are hung high, should have a low viewpoint. Gerard de Lairesse was cognisant of the problems posed by viewing paintings from a distance and drew connection between the hanging position and the scale and style of individueal paintings. He noted ... that a piece ten feet large, with life-size figures, should be viewed at ten feet distance, and that a smaller one five feet hight, whith life-size, half-length figures, must have five feet distance.[1] Taksen (talk) 11:13, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

Gerard de Lairesse wrote in his Groot Schilderboek:

Also Asemissen wrote:

Lessing wrote:


  1. ^ In: Loughman, J. & J.M. Montias (2000) Public and Private Spaces. Works of Art in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Houses, p. 34, 41, 106, 117-118.
  2. ^ Weber, Gregor J.M. (1991) Der Lobtopos des 'lebenden' Bildes: Jan Vos und sein "Zeege der Schilderkunst" von 1654, S. 61. ISBN 3-487-09604-8.
  3. ^ Asemissen, H.U & G. Schweikhart (1994) Malerei als Thema der Malerei, p. 160. Berlin. ISBN 3-05-002547-6.
  4. ^ Lessing, G.E. (1987) Laokoon - oder über die Grenzen in der Malerei und Poesie (1766), Kap III, S. 22/23
  5. ^ Netta, I. (1996) Das Phänomen Zeit bei Jan Vermeer van Delft, S. 205. Hildesheim. ISBN 3-487-10160-2.
No problem - I should have mentioned Lairesse. I can't read the German properly I'm afraid (I can get the Lessing in English of course). I wonder how commonly followed Lairesse's prescriptions were - large paintings in the main reception room certainly, but I doubt Vermeer's milkmaid ever spent time in a kitchen somehow. Large pictures are often shown in paintings, but small ones relatively less often. One imagines they were in cabinet (room)s and bedrooms. Johnbod (talk) 12:06, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

Hello Johnbod, I can't understand your last sentence. Something missing?Taksen (talk) 12:14, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

No - I'm just saying I think that is where small paintings were most often placed. Johnbod (talk) 12:18, 12 October 2009 (UTC)