History of Painting

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Date Submitted: 10/13/2009 11:37 AM

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History painting

The painting of scenes with narrative content from classical history, Christian history, and mythology, as well as depicting the historical events of the near past. These include paintings with religious, mythological, historical, literary, or allegorical subjects--they embodied some interpretation of life or conveyed a moral or intellectual message. The historical events chosen would be iconographic, not only depicting important events, but ones of particular significance to the painter's society, as for instance, the signing of the declaration of independence in American history painting. The event, if suitable, does not need to have actually occurred, and artists have frequently taken great liberties with historical facts in order to portray the message desired.



Benjamin West (1738(1738)–1820(1820))

"The Death of General Wolfe"

Oil on canvas


Karl Briullov (1830-33).

The Last Day of Pompeii


Jacques-Louis David

The Oath of the Horatii

Oil on canvas

History painters

A history painter is not only a painter of historical motifs but depicts, in a "grand" style, man in general, and particularly the great events of Greek and Roman fable and history, the capital subjects of scripture history, a scene from a great literary work, or a famous event in the life of a baroque potentate. The subject commonly ought to be either some eminent instance of heroic action or heroic suffering, with characters painted in classical poses.

History painting was the dominant form of academic painting (the painting that came from the various national academies) in the 19th century, in particular, but also in the post-revolutionary France as well. As such, history painting was a target for later movements. The Impressionists rejected all historical subjects and tableau. In other nations, such movements as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England focused on subjects from national literature and myth, rather than...