Genre Artist: Painting Daily Life of Common Men and Women

The Milk Maid -By Johannes Vermeer

Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits, except for some cityscapeVermeer had painted those moments of life wherein one feels alone and immersed in one’s thoughts. 

Vermeer: Master of Genre Painting;  Genre painters choose the ordinary life of common men as the subject. This style of paintings is also called genre scenes or genre views. These paintings are pictorial representations in any of various media that represent scenes or events from everyday life, such as markets, domestic settings, interiors, parties, inn scenes, and street scenes. The artists are free to use their imaginations; as such representations may be realistic, imagined, or romanticized. Here are paintings that were done by some of the Genre Painters. 

Unlike modern time, the number of paints available was quite less in the 17th century. Regarding permanence, Vermeer'S 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.

Vermeer's paintings speak the language of cool observation, involving the viewer. The viewers would have an experience of deepening relationships 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. It was a natural ultramarine. However, no drawings have been positively attributed to Vermeer; nor the paintings offer clues to preparatory methods. Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits. 

The Wineglass -By Vermeer

Genre Artist: Painting Joy of Peasants Unlike our modern time, the number of paints available was quite less in the 17th century. Moreover, the colours were of different characteristics with respect to permanence, workability, and drying time. 

Vermeer mainly used white, red madder, green earth, raw umber and ivory black, yellow ochre and vermilion. 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 a 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 the 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. 

Karl Paul Themistokles von Eckenbrecher,
View of Leerdalsoren by Themistocles von Eckenbrecher

Genre Artist, Painting the Changing Perspective:  No form of art can remain untouched by social changes occurring in the surrounding. 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 lives would be affected when the life of these ordinary men and women experiences changes. It has gone through the 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 with drastic changes in the field of altering the subject matter and forms of the objects being painted. Coupled with uses of the latest technology help and applying renewed observation of the people whose lives 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 on depicting the joy of the common people. This was the main objective of the artists. If we look at 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 wherein the artist endeavoured to explore the sensuality embedded in these activities. Thus during the 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 Genre Painting, it would refer to the concept that ran around showing 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 artistic values in mind, we can see that these paintings were not merely the depiction of ordinary happenings in the people life; they were the icons which would open the scope of the vast details about the life of the people involved.

The Fishwife by Adriaen Van Ostade

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

This painting presently is in Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Paintings of working women is a favourite subject of artists for ages. The woman working here is shown with maintaining harmony with her working, and she is not shown as poor or a person burdened with hardships. She is merrily doing her work. The colours of the palate used to radiate the rest of the message. 

In the garden by Carl Spitzweg

Carl Spitzweg:   Genre Artists, Paints Joy and Activities done by the Common People. Unlike the other types of paintings like landscapes, portrait paintings, the paintings based on historical or religious themes, the genre paintings depict the life of common people. 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 the 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 on 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 this 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. 

Sunday stroll, Oil on wood, by Carl Spitzweg 

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. 

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. 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 the centre of the canvas. In this painting, he had used his favourite colour, Lapis Lazuli, which was the costliest colour at that time.


Genre painters get their subjects from the ground level. These artists search for the life of ordinary people and pick up their subjects. They love painting people working in their daily routine. The works of master genre painters are a feast to the eyes of those who love paintings and reality.  [All the paintings are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons] 

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