Hierarchy of genres

most-elevated genrecategory of paintinggenregenre affiliationHierarchy of genres in artliterary paintingslow" genrelower genresmore prestigious genrewas seen
A hierarchy of genres is any formalization which ranks different genres in an art form in terms of their prestige and cultural value.wikipedia
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Genre

subgenregenressubgenres
A hierarchy of genres is any formalization which ranks different genres in an art form in terms of their prestige and cultural value.
The concept of the "hierarchy of genres" was a powerful one in artistic theory, especially between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Portrait painting

portrait painterportraitureportrait
Portrait painting
Portrait painting is a genre in painting, where the intent is to depict a human subject.

History painting

history painterhistoryhistorical
History painting, including historically important, religious, mythological, or allegorical subjects
History paintings were traditionally regarded as the highest form of Western painting, occupying the most prestigious place in the hierarchy of genres, and considered the equivalent to the epic in literature.

Genre art

genregenre worksgenre painter
Genre painting or scenes of everyday life
Painting was divided into a hierarchy of genres, with history painting at the top, as the most difficult and therefore prestigious, and still life and architectural painting at the bottom.

Academic art

Academicacademicismacademism
These were formalized and promoted by the academies in Europe between the 17th century and the modern era, of which the most influential became the French Académie de peinture et de sculpture, which held a central role in Academic art.
A hierarchy of genres, originally created in the 17th century, was valued, where history painting—classical, religious, mythological, literary, and allegorical subjects—was placed at the top, next genre painting, then portraiture, still-life, and landscape.

Still life

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Still life
Still life occupied the lowest rung of the hierarchy of genres, but has been extremely popular with buyers.

Animal painter

wildlife artanimal paintingwildlife artist
Animal painting
Animal painters came lower down in the hierarchy of genres, but the best painters could make a very good living; many royal and aristocratic patrons were more interested in their subject matter than that of the more prestigious genres.

Dutch Golden Age painting

Dutch Golden Age painterDutch Golden AgeDutch
Although similar developments occurred in all advanced European countries, they were most evident in the enormously productive schools of Dutch Golden Age painting and Flemish Baroque painting.
The widely held theory of the "hierarchy of genres" in painting, whereby some types were regarded as more prestigious than others, led many painters to want to produce history painting.

The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis

Claudius CivilisConspiracy of Claudius CivilisThe Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis
The unhappy history of Rembrandt's last history commission, The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis (1661) illustrates both his commitment to the form and the difficulties he had in finding an audience.
History paintings were regarded as the highest in the hierarchy of genres in the 17th century (a view Rembrandt shared), and the Batavian revolt was regarded, and romanticised, as a precursor of the recently ended war against the Spanish.

Karel van Mander

Mander, Karel vanCarel van ManderVan Mander
However no theorists emerged to champion the new genres, and the relatively small amount of Dutch theoretical writing, by Karel van Mander, Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten, Gerard de Lairesse and others, was mostly content to rehash Italian views, so that their writings can seem oddly at variance with the Dutch art actually being produced in their day.
He was a firm believer in the hierarchy of genres.

Claude Lorrain

ClaudeLorrainClaude Lorraine
Claude Lorrain practised a genre called the ideal landscape, where a composition would be loosely based on nature and dotted with classical ruins as a setting for a biblical or historical theme.
His landscapes are usually turned into the more prestigious genre of history paintings by the addition of a few small figures, typically representing a scene from the Bible or classical mythology.

The Young Bull

Young BullThe BullThe Bull'' (painting)
This had occasionally been breached in the past, especially in large Flemish works, and the monumental The Young Bull of the Dutch artist Paulus Potter, as well as the larger of the two Butchers' Shop canvases of Annibale Carracci.
At about life-size, this is an unusually monumental animal painting that challenges the hierarchy of genres by its almost heroic treatment of an animal.

Landscape painting

landscapelandscape painterlandscapes
Claude Lorrain practised a genre called the ideal landscape, where a composition would be loosely based on nature and dotted with classical ruins as a setting for a biblical or historical theme. Landscape and cityscape art (landscapists were called "common footmen in the Army of Art" by the Dutch theorist Samuel van Hoogstraten)
A major contrast between landscape painting in the West and East Asia has been that while in the West until the 19th century it occupied a low position in the accepted hierarchy of genres, in East Asia the classic Chinese mountain-water ink painting was traditionally the most prestigious form of visual art.

Art of the United Kingdom

BritishBritish painterBritish art
Romanticism greatly increased the status of landscape painting, beginning in British art and more gradually that of genre painting, which began to influence history painting in the anecdotal treatments of the Style Troubadour in France and equivalent trends elsewhere.
An exception to the dominance of the "lower genres" of painting was Sir James Thornhill (1675/76–1734) who was the first and last significant English painter of huge Baroque allegorical decorative schemes, and the first native painter to be knighted.

Decorum

decoroussocial decorumsuitable
Ideas of decorum also fed into the hierarchy; comic, sordid or merely frivolous subjects or treatment ranked lower than elevated and moral ones.
In seventeenth-century France, the notion of decorum (les bienséances) was a key component of French classicism in both theater and the novel (see French literature of the 17th century), as well as the visual arts - see hierarchy of genres.

Grand manner

swagger portraitGrand Style
Reynolds himself achieved this by inventing the portraiture style that was called the Grand Manner, where he flattered his sitters by likening them to mythological characters.
Originally applied to history painting, regarded as the highest in the hierarchy of genres, the Grand Manner came thereafter also to be applied to portrait painting, with sitters depicted life size and full-length, in surroundings that conveyed the nobility and elite status of the subjects.

André Félibien

Andre FelibienAndre FélibienFelibien
An influential formulation of 1667 by André Félibien, a historiographer, architect and theoretician of French classicism became the classic statement of the theory for the 18th century: Celui qui fait parfaitement des païsages est au-dessus d'un autre qui ne fait que des fruits, des fleurs ou des coquilles.
Félibien's codification of the aesthetic values of the classic arts in the hierarchy of genres is perhaps his most enduring legacy.

World landscape

Until the Romantic period the price and saleability of what were essentially landscapes could be increased by adding small mythological or religious figures, creating a landscape with..., a practice that went back to the beginnings of landscape painting in the Flemish world landscapes of Joachim Patinir in the early 16th century.
Claude in turn became enormously influential, and until the early 19th century his style continued to have the advantage of giving a painting of a "landscape with" a higher place in the hierarchy of genres, and consequently a higher price, than a mere pure landscape.

Romanticism

RomanticRomantic movementromanticist
Romanticism greatly increased the status of landscape painting, beginning in British art and more gradually that of genre painting, which began to influence history painting in the anecdotal treatments of the Style Troubadour in France and equivalent trends elsewhere.
John Constable, born in 1776, stayed closer to the English landscape tradition, but in his largest "six-footers" insisted on the heroic status of a patch of the working countryside where he had grown up—challenging the traditional hierarchy of genres, which relegated landscape painting to a low status.

Epic poetry

epic poemepicepics
In literature, the epic was considered the highest form, for the reason expressed by Samuel Johnson in his Life of John Milton: "By the general consent of criticks, the first praise of genius is due to the writer of an epick poem, as it requires an assemblage of all the powers which are singly sufficient for other compositions."

Samuel Johnson

JohnsonDr JohnsonDr. Johnson
In literature, the epic was considered the highest form, for the reason expressed by Samuel Johnson in his Life of John Milton: "By the general consent of criticks, the first praise of genius is due to the writer of an epick poem, as it requires an assemblage of all the powers which are singly sufficient for other compositions."

John Milton

MiltonMiltonicMiltonian
In literature, the epic was considered the highest form, for the reason expressed by Samuel Johnson in his Life of John Milton: "By the general consent of criticks, the first praise of genius is due to the writer of an epick poem, as it requires an assemblage of all the powers which are singly sufficient for other compositions."

Lyric poetry

lyriclyric poetlyrical
Below that came lyric poetry, and comic poetry, with a similar ranking for drama.

Drama

dramasdramatic artsFamily Drama
Below that came lyric poetry, and comic poetry, with a similar ranking for drama.

Novel

novelsmodern novelthe novel
The novel took a long time to establish a firm place in the hierarchy, doing so only as belief in any systematic hierarchy of forms expired in the 19th century.