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Scenes of Everyday Life

Amy Bennett
Cereal Boxes, 2020
Oil on panel
8.9 x 17.8 cm (3.5 x 7 in.)
Courtesy of the artist

Scenes of everyday life, also known as ‘Genre Painting’, describes paintings which capture ordinary people in a realistic manner, partaking in everyday activities - either documented or staged. Often inspired by themes such as childhood, work, and home interiors, these works are characterised by their intimacy and close attention to the details of people’s costumes, tools and settings, and the elimination of any imagined content.

This art form developed in the 17th century in Europe in a turn away from idealized depictions of classical figures and royalty, and is thought to have specifically originated amongst the painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Its intention was to represent the issues and contradictions in contemporary society, marking the beginnings of Social Realism. Artists today continue this legacy in works that focus upon seemingly mundane aspects of domestic life, from shopping to walking down the street. Initially, Genre Painting was criticised as ‘low culture’ and outside of the canon, given its ordinary subject matter.

Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675, Netherlands) is perhaps the most famous Genre Painter of all time, specializing in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life, such as The Milkmaid (1657 – 1958). In the 18th century, artists such as Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725 – 1805, France) began to develop works which combined aspects of History Painting with Genre Painting, to attempt to appeal to the art historical canon. Still, Greuze’s works were rejected by the French Académie at the time, as they represented ‘common people’. Genre Painting was accepted by the 19th century as artists began to turn more towards representing social issues and everyday life with other movements like Impressionism.

Related categories

Painting

Landscape Painting

Canvas

Still Life

Trompe l’oeil

Impressionism

Site-specific Installation

Everyday Objects

Social Issues

Pop Art

Human and Society

Diaspora / Migration

Urban Landscape

Daily Life Experience

Surrounding Environment

Domestic Objects

Artist Studio

Family/Friend

19th Century Art

Domestic Scenes

18th Century Art

Dutch Art

17th Century Art

Interior Spaces

Link to the City

Labor/Worker

The Seasons