How are fine art paintings categorized?
The most common method for classifying fine art paintings is by genre (or theme). Genre is a French word that means “type” or “kind”, and what this means is, it refers to the type of image a painting portrays as its subject matter. Whether it is a landscape, portrait, still life, seascape, etc., paintings are categorized by what is depicted in them.
Common Painting Themes
Abstract Art is artwork that looks like it has been accidentally created by a two year old. It has no defined meaning and seeks to break away from the traditional representation of physical objects in real life. More often than not, abstract art is a collection of meaningless shapes, texture and colors thrown haphazardly onto a canvas. Its purpose is to let the viewer interpret its meaning for him/herself. Pictured is an example of abstract art.
Cityscapes, or as it is sometimes called Urban Landscapes, are paintings whose subject matter is the physical aspects of the city, urban life, city sections (like a city block, street corner, outdoor café, rooftops, etc.) or other urban area. A Townscape is similar to a cityscape, only it is of a township with a smaller population and perhaps less modern architecture as well. Shown is an example of a cityscape or urban landscape.
Genre Art is scene art of everyday life which depicts real life in action with ordinary people at work or in recreational situations. These type artworks include intimate scenes of daily life, costumes, domestic settings, interiors, celebrations, tavern scenes, markets and other street situations. It could also show a busy street, a beach party, a dinner gathering, or anyplace where living goes on. The subject matter is often are portrayed realistic style. See example of genre art.
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History Paintings or Historical Paintings portray a moment in history and are not to be confused with a genre painting which is scenes of everyday life. History paintings can include a range of subjects and topics and these paintings often illustrate a part of a story or a significant event. An example of historical or history painting is shown.
Landscape paintings depict the beauty of the great outdoors with its natural scenery of mountains, valleys, meadows, trees, rivers, forests, sky and weather. It can even include the countryside, farms, and structures that one would expect to find there. For instance fencing, a bridge, barn, windmill, or farmhouse. See example of landscape painting. Title: The Grand Teton Mountains
Marine Art or Maritime Art derives its inspiration from the sea. This genre of art depicts life on the open seas, boats and ships, fishermen, etc. It includes art showing shipping on rivers and estuaries, beach scenes and all art showing boats and ships. It almost always includes some element of seafaring vessel. Ship-portraits is a type of marine art that is still popular in which a single vessel is portrayed. Notice example of marine or maritime art.
Naïve Art is works of art characterized by a childlike simplicity that possesses minute detail, bright saturated colors, disproportionate figures and lack of perspective. It portrays simple, easy-to-understand and often romanticize scenes of everyday life. The absence of perspective often creates the illusion that figures within naïve paintings are weightless or floating. Naïve artists are often self-taught artists with very little or no formal art training. An example of naïve art is pictured to the right.
Portraits are artistic representations of a person, especially the face. Besides the likeness, the essence of a portrait also captures the mood and personality of the subject. A portrait of an individual may be of the face-only, or it may be head and shoulders, or the full-body. Many portraits are composed of the person in a still position and often the subject is looking directly at the painter. Included in this genre are Group-portraits (consisting of more than one individual), self-portraits and pet-portraits. A Self-portrait is one in which the artist does an artwork of him/herself. Pet-portraits of a beloved pet could also be in this category, however, animals usually fall into the wildlife category.
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Religious Art or Sacred Art is any artistic representation using religious inspiration to express a message intending to elevate the morals of the one observing the artwork. The subject matter can be either a scared story or a profession of the artist’s faith. Religion means any set of individual beliefs, either Christian or non-Christian, which are regarded as sacred, holy, spiritual or divine. Shown is an example of religious art and is titled The Communion Table.
Space Art (sometimes referred to as Astronomical Art) is a genre of art that attempts to communicate ideas and appreciation related to the infinite variety and vastness of outer space by depicting interstellar and interplanetary elements as its subject matter. All this is made possible with the invention of telescopes making it possible to look off our world. Artists can now render what is seen out there and attempt to capture the wonders and majesty of our universe. Planets, stars, constellations, spacecraft, astronauts, black wholes, moons, comets, and other heavenly bodies can found in space art. Some other art terms related to this category include lunar landscape, moonscape, moonset, etc.
Seascape paintings are much like landscapes, only this genre of art depicts the sea with marine landscapes, beach scenes, fish and marine animals, or views of the ocean itself. Fish and other marine animals can also be categorized as wildlife. Seascapes should not be confused with Maritime Art which depicts life out on the open sea, not necessarily a marine landscape.
Still Life paintings feature an arrangement of everyday inanimate objects laid out on a table or similar surface. The objects used can be either natural or man-made. Examples of natural objects could be flowers, food, wine, rocks, seashells, dead animal skulls, etc. and manufactured items could be drinking glasses, books, bottles, pottery, coins, dishes, musical instruments and so forth.
Wildlife Art is characterized as works of art which portray the natural world and the wildlife or domesticated animals that inhabit it. It is one of the earliest forms of art dating back to prehistoric cave paintings. Portraits of animals or fish (whether wildlife or family pets) could also fit into this genre. The wildlife art sample shown is titled Raging African Elephant.