In the work of art, it’s not only important to appreciate its formal structure, that is, its composition, which is related to the organization of all its elements of visual expression, such as color, texture, line, light, shape, space, volume, balance, rhythm, and tension, since it is also essential to distinguish its thematic content. It is convenient to know to which pictorial genre the works of art belong, since they allow us to have a better idea of the subject and its meaning.
Since the Renaissance, painting began to be divided into genres, classifying them in terms of their theme, as a way of grouping them by categories, according to their common characteristics in terms of content. So, since that time, there has been talk of artistic genres differentiated by themes, which have been recurrent in the history of art, as you can see below.
About History. It addresses themes inspired by history (ancient and modern), religious, mythological, literary, or allegorical scenes — artworks with a great symbolic meaning.
Portrait. Paintings of real or mythological people, individual or group. There are full body or where only the face, head and shoulders can be seen, whose figures reflect their physical, moral, or psychological qualities.
Nude art. The nude has various interpretations and meanings, it has been approached from the mythological, religious point of view, as an anatomical study and, particularly, aesthetic, as a representation of physical beauty, real or ideal.
Still life. It represents inanimate objects -natural or created by people- arranged on a table, such as fruits, flowers, bread, birds, fish, rabbits, kitchen tools, books, jewelry, among others.
Landscape. As an independent genre, landscape painting consists of compositions whose images represent panoramic, country views, including mountains, hills, valleys, forests, trees, rivers, and seascapes -whose main inspiration is the sea.
Costumbrist. Compositions that represent scenes of daily life, reflecting the social behavior of a group belonging to a certain time, place, and culture.
Although this is a classification that has its origins in the Renaissance, which formed the basis of academic art taught in all schools of the European and American continents, many of the artists of the 19th century opposed this classification system due to the rigid and conservative practices of artistic education taught in these institutions. However, these themes didn’t cease to be treated in the painting that opposed the classical canons, as did the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Expressionists, Cubists and all the artistic movements that emerged throughout the 20th century, until today, but those pictorial genres have been reconsidered and approached — formally, technically, and conceptually — from a modern and contemporary aesthetic vision.
Written by José Gregorio Noroño