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The bestsellers are the great painters of art history, highlights of
international museums, renowned paintings in great art exhibitions.
Mythological or religious motifs in painting are a large part of genre
or portrait paintings. They mostly concern allegorical portrayals. All
depictions are to be seen as portrayals of divine beauty, such as the
paintings of Botticelli. These are concepts like beauty, virtue, morality,
love, sin, which are depicted in allegorical form from mythology and
Genre painting is the depiction of scenes from everyday life, it
portrays the human figure in its social or scenic setting. With its
division into courtly, middle-class and rural life, it blossomed in 16th
and 17th century Netherlands. In the 19th century, through Courbets
depictions of workers and farmers, genre painting gained a new dimension
and thus became the forerunner of impressionism. In 1900, Munich became the
center of European genre painters.
Paintings with oriental themes constitute a genre as well. Landscape or
portrait painting. The painters of Orientalism maintained a realistic
depiction in their motifs and in so doing created a contemporary document
of the Orient at that time. The major painters of Orientalism are Frederick
Arthur Bridgman, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Théodore Jacques Ralli and Fabio
The depictions of animal painting belong to realistic painting. The best
known artist of realistic animal depiction in the 15th century is Albrecht
Dürer. Dürer developed realistic animal painting in still life, later
known as "animal piece". Depictions of animals are also often set
symbolically, especially in the Early Christian depictions. In the middle
of the 19th century, Christian Malli especially devoted himself to animal
painting, his speciality being cattle and sheep. One of the best known
representatives of the 20th century is Franz Marc.
Floral painting, also known as flower pieces, belongs to still life
painting. In its perfect imitation of reality and magnificent
representation, baroque flower pieces were a reflection of the prosperity
and splendor of Dutch society of the past. The choice of flowers depicted
and compositions of bouquets with various flowers also portray, apart from
aesthetic and representational depiction, the symbolic meaning of vanitas,
withering and transience.
Still life is the genre of painting which realistically depicts dead or
motionless objects. The composition follows from the subject matter and/or
aesthetics. There are thus a variety of still life subjects, e.g., kitchen,
flower, hunting or weapon still lives. In the baroque, still life blossomed
in Holland and Flanders. The arrangements of still lives often depicted
symbolically coded messages, showing a detailed development of realistic
depictions of nature. The magnificent Dutch still lives show harmonious
compositions as depictions of wealth. Trompe l'oeil is the culmination in
realistic still life painting, reality and painting can no longer be
distinguished by the eye. The baroque still life always showed in its
variety, its perfect, realistic way of painting with harmonious
compositions, the appearance of randomness.
Landscape painting depicts landscape for its own sake and for this
reason belongs to realistic painting. In landscape painting, nature or its
details are depicted, as with town scenes or marine, realistic or ideal
landscapes. The varied facets of landscape painting range from the
melancholy working scenes of the 17th century, the transcendental natural
depictions of Caspar David Friedrich, the expressive landscapes of Vincent
van Gogh, to the bright, colored, open air paintings of impressionists such
as Claude Monet.
Marine painting depicts seashores and seas, mostly with ships, as well
as harbors, naval battles and fishermen scenes. These marine paintings are
also known as sea pieces. Marine painting developed into a variation of
landscape painting, and developed into a distinct variation in the 16th
century in the Netherlands and blossomed in the 17th century. Nevertheless,
the concept of marine painting first appears in the 19th century. Sea
captain paintings are a particular rarity among sea pieces. This concerns
ship portraits which were painted specially for certain ships.
Town or city scenes are in the genre of veduta painting. This concerns
objectively and perspectively accurate townscapes. Town scenes form a link
between veduta painting and landscape painting. Major veduta painters are
Giovanni Antonio Canale, also known as Canaletto, and Bernardo
Building and street scenes are also considered to be veduta painting.
Inner city depictions of buildings and places provide realistic
representations, as did later the photograph or postcard. By contrast,
there is the capriccio in which separate elements of architecture are
assembled as one pleases. Nevertheless, veduta painting is in this genre.
In the 18th century, the veduta became the "postcard" of English
tourists of Italy and experienced here its peak.
In addition to the revolution of the society around the turn of the
century a whole new way of artistic expression has arisen. The art was
then kind of an enormous medium for experiments with new styles. Artists
began searching for new motives, painting techniques and shapes and turning
away from the traditional painting. They try to express their own
perception as well as imparting this to the viewer by using colours and
shapes in a new creative way. This new modernity was criticised and admired
in the art salons in European metropolises.
Nude painting always illustrates undressed, naked humans. The subject of
the nude painting is developed from the movement and proportion studies in
the academic art training. Up until the late 19th Century nude painting was
bound by strict standards in art training. An example of this is the Birth
of the Venus by Cabanel or the paintings of Albrecht Dürer or Leonardo da
Vinci. Merged into a literary, mythological or religious context, the
exposed female bodies corresponded with the decor of the decorous art; in
this way they served the voyeuristic, but morally legitimate interest.
While Ingres' classic Odalisques under the guise of an imaginary exoticism
formed the scene for the ideal female nude still in representative form,
nude art experienced a profound change with the introduction of Manets
Olympia, in the year 1865.
The picture not only shows a nude woman without any mythological or
religious reference, but confronts the viewer with a prostitute, who shows
herself self-confidently to the viewer. After the invention of photography
which permitted nakedness to be fixed in detail, it was now also artists
such as Manet, Courbet, Renoir or Degas who fixed the exposed female body
on the canvas without consideration of the moral code. Thus the scenes and
context of the nude representations became increasingly more varied, opener
and more liberating. With Modiglianis nude series, the subject
experienced a change again at the beginning of the 20th Century: Without
individual tracts, his naked females are not only a symbol for form-nascent
beauty, but also an open to view exhibition of sensuality. In the modern
trend the nude painting of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Henri Matisse or
Pablo Picasso continued its topicality.
Abstract painting - lat. abstract: separate, remove - makes the basic
principles of the western painting completely invalid. It foregoes all
pretence of reality, all imitation of a nature model or artistic
representation of material existing objects. The artists operate
exclusively with the means of form, colour, lines and geometrical forms.
The representations avoid any reference to material reality, the abstract
compositions are experienced as harmony or discord as order or disorder.
The birth of abstract painting is in about the year 1910 although abstract
painting techniques were already recognisable in the 19th century, e.g.
William Turner or Gustave Moreau. In 1915 Kasimir Malewitsch shocked the
art world with his abstract work Black square against white background.
Later it was Jackson Pollock who created Action Painting with his
expressive-spontaneous works. With Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Theo
van Doesburg, Kasimir Malewitsch or Paul Klee the art world
enthusiastically embraced abstract painting but it also met with polemic
and sharp criticism - even today.