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Genre Artist: Painting Daily Life of Common Men and Women

Genre painters choose the ordinary life of common men as subject. This style of paintings is alsocalled genre scenes or genre views. These paintings are pictorial representations in any ofvarious media that represent scenes or events from everyday life, such as markets, domesticsettings, interiors, parties, inn scenes, and street scenes. The artists are free to use theirimaginations; as such representations may be realistic, imagined, or romanticized. Here arepaintings done by some of the Genre Painters.


Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits, with the exception of some cityscape. Vermeer had painted those moments of life wherein one feels alone and immersed in one’s thoughts
Unlike modern time, the number of paints available was quite less in 17th century. Regarding permanence, his colours were of different characteristics, workability, and drying time. Vermeer used white, red madder, green earth, raw umber and ivory black, yellow ochre and vermilion.

The Milk Maid or The Kitchen Maid -By Vermeer

Vermeer: Vermeer's paintings speak the language of cool observation, involving the viewer in an experience of deepening relation and visual discoveries painted in the acts of daily life. There is no other seventeenth century artist who early in his career employed, in the most lavish way, the exorbitantly expensive pigmentlapis lazuli, or natural ultramarine. However no drawings have been positively attributed to Vermeer; nor paintings offer clues to preparatory methods. Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits.

Bruegel: Paintings of Daily Activities


Theme: Genre Painting--the painters of the peasants.

Peasant's Wedding, Bruegel (1568) Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna Oil on Canvas

There are artists who paint believing that the viewers are like the audience sitting before them and they address them, from height. There are artists who feel themselves sitting near a window of a cafe and believe that all other fellows in the cafe are looking the scene they are going to paint. They make the viewers feeling themselves more active and even participating in the scene itself. Bruegel belongs to the second category of the artists.

Bruegel (1525 – 1559) was a Renaissance painter who lived and worked in Netherland. He did marvellos landscapes, but was known for his peasant scene, the genre paintings. he tried depicting the daily activities of the common people: the labourers, the artisans, blacksmith, woodsmith, shoemaker and all. He is the poineer of 'Genre Painting' Movement, making the art of painting the art of common people instead of the royal men and women.

The Artist: Bruegel received the nickname 'Peasant Bruegel' for his alleged practice of dressing up like a peasant. He liked mixing with common people at weddings and other celebrations, thereby gaining inspiration and authentic details for his genre paintings. The artists of the movement called 'Genre paintings’ make pictorial representations in any of various media that represent the activities of everyday life, such as markets and domestic settings.

The Art: Bruegel's paintings were the responses he gave to the situations and the routine life he saw in his surrounding. His paintings are the near to the dust response to the pulsating life of those who sweat under the sun and who try enjoying the smallest events of their life. He looked at the fisherman, the water woman, the tillers, and those who merrily serve food to the guests in a social function. We can arrive at a conclusion that, Bruegel might have been standing with his colours and canvas when the very scenes were being actually lived by the people. Such is the immediacy of his approach; such is the visual representation by his brush strokes.

He liked mixing with common people at weddings and other celebrations, thereby gaining inspiration and authentic details for his paintings. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Here the in a scene from a peasant's wedding, the characters painted are in harmony and in relaxed mood. They carry no sign of the routine hardships on their faces. If we look closely, we can identify the involvments of every man and woman as if the wedding is in his or her home. The working group is painted in bright colours, the colour of activity, showing the power of involvement in work. While the seated people who are eating give us feel of the pleasure they enjoy. The whole scene helps enhancing the harmony within whole frame. Bruegel's paintings marvellously depicted the country life, the acts of laboures and their pleasure.

The working life and routine acts of the common had are subjects of genre painters, the painters of activities. Under this type, Bruegel, being a pioneer painter of the movement, depicted peasants working in the fields or in houses, His characters always looked enjoying the leisure they gained from the work itself. Perhaps their buyers who sponsored or purchases the paintings might have liked the depiction of the life different from theirs. His clients were naturally from the elite class. ( Images Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The working life and routine acts of the ordinary people had been main subject of genre painters. Under this type, the painters depicted peasants working in the fields or in houses and enjoying the leisure, too, they gain from the work itself. Perhaps their patrons, who sponsored or purchases the paintings might have liked the depiction of the life different from theirs, as the purchsers were naturally from elite class.

Here the labourers are painted in harmony and in their relaxed mood. There is no sign of hardships on their painted faces. Here we can roughly identify two groups of persons; one of those who are working and another resting under the shadow of a tree. The working group is painted in bright colours, showing the power of alertness and in standing postures. While the seated people are on a peaceful background that gives us feel of the calm the resting people are enjoying. It helps enhancing the harmony within the whole frame.

The working life and routine acts of the ordinary people had been main subject of genre painters. Under this type, the painters depicted peasants working in the fields or in houses and enjoying the leisure, too, they gain from the work itself. Perhaps their patrons, who sponsored or purchases the paintings might have liked the depiction of the life different from theirs, as the purchsers were naturally from elite class.

In seventeenth and eighteenth century, the subjects of genre painting ran around the peasant’s acts of joy. These acts were like dancing, participating in festivals and many a time doing household and professional works for earning. Most of these subjects explored the sensual experience of the common people, especially the acts of pleasure.
As confined by the definition, and the concept that outline the scope of genre painting, the artists have remained preoccupied in painting the reality. These artists, mainly the Dutch painters, preoccupied themselves in painting the costumes and daily practices of the people living in their immediate surround. The art had never been mere exposition of what the artists saw. These artists applied their observations and artistic analysis while painting scenes before their eyes.
( Above Image, The Peasant Dance , courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Genre Artist: Painting the Changing Perspective


No form of art can remain untouched by the social changes. The art of painting also is being affected by the ever changing social thinking and patterns. Take the case of Genre Painting. It is the style of painting depicting the life of common people. The art based on these people’s life would be affected when the life of these ordinary men and women experiences changes. It has gone through fresh idea and the artists have tried new perspectives.

View of Leerdalsoren by Themistocles von Eckenbrecher

No form of art can remain untouched by the social changes. The art of painting also is being affected by the ever changing social thinking and patterns. Take the case of Genre Painting. It is the style of painting depicting the life of common people. The art based on these people’s life would be affected when the life of these ordinary men and women experiences changes. It has gone through fresh idea and the artists have tried new perspectives.

The artists in the American and European countries have taken the lead, as they were good at showing the present lifestyle of the people involved. Their paintings appeal to the curiosity of the viewers, as they have experimented drastic changes in the field of altering the subject matter and forms of the objects being painted. Coupled with uses of latest technical help and applying renewed observation of the people whose life have undergone a big change, these artists have tried to depict novel ideas conceived in their minds.

In past the genre artists would concentrate his or her efforts in depicting the joy of the common people. This was the main objective of the artists. If we look the works of Dutch painters like Bruegel, Vermeer and his contemporaries, there would be paintings showing people enjoying the marriages, or harvesting, or the dancing on the days of festivals. These were the subjects where in the artist endeavoured to explore the sensuality embedded in these activities. Thus during seventeenth and eighteen the century, the eyes of the painters targeted the down to earth activities of the common people, enjoying the pleasure of life, forgetting the pain.

If we go by the general definition of the Genre Painting, it would refer to a concept that ran around showing the reality. The genre artists would paint what is seen by the eyes: the people living in the surrounding, their activities, and their costumes, their pleasure and pain. However when we analyze the painting keeping an artistic values in mind, we can see that these painting were not merely the depiction of ordinary happenings in the people life; they were the icons which would open a scope of the vast details about the life of the people involved.(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Other Paintings by the Genre Painters


GENRE ARTIST: Painting Joy of Peasants

Unlike our modern time, the number of paints available was quite less in 17th century. Moreover the colours were of different characteristics in respect of permanence, workability, and drying time. Vermeer mainly used white, red madder, green earth, raw umber and ivory black, yellow ochre and vermilion.

The Wineglass -By Vermeer

Here he had used almost his whole palate. Look at the position of the grey hat of the young man, the subtle greenish colour of the glass in the girl’s hand, and red and yellow used for the couple’s dresses. The presence of broad hat is typical, as it highlights the two figures.

Vermeer had elegantly used the natural ultramarine in this painting, The Wineglass (Oil on Canvas, size 65X77 cm). Here the shadows of red satin dress are under-painted natural ultramarine. Due to this underlying layer, the red lace and vermilion colour applied over it acquire a slightly purple, cool and crisp appearance--making the painting powerful. (Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Theme: Genre Painters Depicting the Life of a Fish Seller, Painting life of ordinary persons.
Genre painters choose the ordinary life of common men as subject. This style of paintings is also called genre scenes or genre views.

The Fishwife by Adriaen Van Ostade

Genre painter Adriaen Van Ostade had depicted country life, the acts of laboures and their pleasure. In the above painting The Fishwife (Oil on Canvass Size 36.5 X 39.5 cm) the main subject was pleasure of the life the artist had painted. The painting presently is in Rijksmusium, Amsterdam.

Paintings of working women is a favourite subject of the artists since ages.The woman working here is shown with maintaining harmony with her working, and she is not shown as a poor or a person burdened with hardships. She is merrily doing her work. The colours of the palate used radiates the rest of the message. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Carl Spitzweg

Genre Artists, Painting Joy and Activities of Common People. Unlike the other types of paintings like landscapes, portrait paintings, the paintings based on historical or religious themes, the genre paintings depicts life of common people.

In the garden by Carl Spitzweg

In this painting the master genre painter Carl spitzweg had painted a woman reading a book. she is sitting in a small garden of her house, perhaps she might be taking some rest between two domestic works.

When an artist of genre painting takes brush and colour-loaded palate in hand, he or she has no big imaginations in mind. These artists do not paint the dramatic scenes of great events and theories idealizing the virtues. They put emphasis in painting the activities of laymen.

The genre paintings are the products of the artists’ shrewd observation of the scene or the people painted on their canvases. Here in these painting we can see a man plaguing his land, a cobbler doing his work, or a domestic servant doing his or her routine work. They wore no dramatic costumes; they have their regular clothes, which they wear while working or doing rest. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Genre painters choose their subjects from the ordinary life of the people and their events. The domestic life of ordinary men and women and the activities of agriculture provided subjects for the many masterpieces. The scenes of dancing, enjoying their feasts and playing music were the major source of the genre paintings artists. In the painting given hereunder we can see a group of farmers enjoying their holiday.

Sunday stroll, Oil on wood, by Carl Spitzweg (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

It is said that the painting is not everyone's cup of tea. But if any layman looks at Vermeer's painting, he or she would understand what the artists wanted to communicate through it.e Vermeer was a prolific painter who had painted the moments of life when one feels alone and immersed in one’s thoughts. 'Letter' was his favourite subject. He had executed several paintings taking the letter in centre of canvas. In this painting he had used his favourite colour, Lapis Lazuli , that was the costliest colour in that time.

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