Classifications of Fine Art Paintings by Genre

The most common method for classifying fine art paintings is by genre (or theme). The term “genre” comes from the French word for “type” or “kind,” and it refers to the type of image that serves as the subject of a painting. Fine art classifications mean that the genre of a painting is classified as a landscape, portrait, still life, seascape, wildlife, or another theme.

Genres of Fine Art Paintings

classification of Fine Art paintings
Abstract Art

Abstract Art is artwork that appears to have been created by a two-year-old. It has no clear meaning, and it seeks to break away from the traditional representation of physical objects in real life. Abstract art is frequently a haphazard collection of meaningless shapes, textures, and colors thrown onto a canvas. Its purpose is to allow the viewer to interpret its meaning for themselves.

classification of fine art

Cityscapes (or Urban Landscapes) are paintings that depict the physical characteristics of a city, urban life, and sections of a town (such as a city block, street corner, outdoor café, rooftops, etc.), or other metropolitan areas. A Townscape is similar to a cityscape; only it is of a township with a smaller population and perhaps less modern architecture. See the example of a cityscape.

classification of Fine Art by genre
Genre Scene Art

Genre Art is scene art of everyday life. It depicts real life in action with ordinary people at work or having fun. Intimate scenes of daily life, costumes, domestic settings, interiors, celebrations, tavern scenes, markets, and other street situations are depicted in these works. It could also depict a busy street, a beach party, a dinner gathering, or any place where living goes on. The subject is frequently depicted realistically.


Historical Paintings (or History Paintings) incorporate themes from classical history, mythology, and the Bible. They can represent a wide range of historical events, issues, and topics. Often it depicts a scene from a story or a significant event from the past. This classification of art should not be confused with genre paintings that depict everyday events. The sample shown is a Historical painting.

Fine Art paintings

Landscapes are paintings that showcase the natural beauty of the great outdoors with its mountains, valleys, meadows, trees, rivers, woods, sky, and weather. It can even include the countryside with farms and structures. Things that one would expect to find there, such as fencing, bridges, barns, windmills, or farmhouses. See the example of a landscape painting.

example of marine maritime art
Maritime Art

Maritime Art (or Marine Art) derives its inspiration from the sea. This art genre depicts life on the high seas, boats and ships, fishermen, and so on. It includes art showing shipping on rivers and waterways, as well as all art depicting boats and ships.  It almost always consists of some element of a seafaring vessel. Ship portraits are a popular style of maritime art that depicts a single vessel.

example of naive art
Naïve Art

Naïve Art is characterized by its childlike simplicity, which includes minute detail, vibrant colors, disproportionate figures, and a lack of perspective. It depicts basic, easy-to-understand situations of everyday life that are frequently romanticized. The lack of perspective frequently gives the impression that figures within naïve paintings are weightless or floating. Naïve artists are frequently self-taught and have very little or no formal training in art.

Portrait Painting of Tera
Portrait of Tera by Teresa Bernard

Portraits are artistic representations of a person, particularly their face. Aside from likeness, the essence of a portrait captures the subject’s mood and personality. A portrait of an individual can be of just the face, the head and shoulders, or the entire body. Portraits typically depict the subject in a still position, with the subject looking directly at the painter. This genre includes Group Portraits (consisting of more than one person), Self Portraits (one in which the artist does an artwork of themself), and Pet Portraits (a beloved pet.)

Communion Table still life
Religious Art

Religious Art (or Sacred Art) is a kind of visual expression that draws on religious inspiration to convey a message intended to improve the morals of those who view it. The subject can be either a sacred story or a profession of the artist’s faith. Religion means any set of individual beliefs, either Christian or non-Christian, regarded as sacred, holy, spiritual, or divine. An example of religious art is shown.

OR coast south of the sea lion caves

Seascapes are paintings that are similar to landscapes, except that they depict the sea with marine landscapes, lighthouses and 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. A seascape is shown as an example.

space art
Space Art

Space Art (or Astronomical Art) is a genre of art that attempts to communicate ideas and appreciation for the infinite variety and vastness of outer space. Its subjects are frequently interstellar and interplanetary elements. Thanks to the invention of telescopes, artists can now depict the grandeur and majesty of our universe by rendering what they see out there. Planets, stars, nebulas and galaxies, spacecraft, astronauts, black holes, moons, comets, asteroids, and other celestial bodies are often depicted in space art. Other art terms related to this category include starscapes, lunar landscapes, moonscapes, and so on. The sample shown is a space art painting.

classification of paintings
Still Life

Still Life paintings feature an arrangement of inanimate everyday objects laid out on a table or similar surface. The objects used can be either natural or man-made. Examples of natural objects are flowers, food, wine, rocks, seashells, dead animal skulls, etc. Examples of manufactured items are drinking glasses, books, bottles, pottery, coins, dishes, musical instruments, and so forth. A still life is depicted in the example shown above.

african wildlife painting
Wildlife Art

Wildlife Art depicts the natural world and the animals that live in it, whether wild or domesticated. This genre is one of the earliest forms of art, dating back to prehistoric cave paintings. Portraits of animals, insects, or fish (whether wildlife or family pets) would fit into this genre. A sample of wildlife art is shown.

Additional Reading

Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

What Are The Classifications of Art?

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