genre (zhänˈrə) [key], in art-history terminology, a type of painting dealing with unidealized scenes and subjects of everyday life. Although practiced in ancient art, as shown by Pompeiian frescoes, and in the Middle Ages, genre was not recognized as worthy and independent subject matter until the 16th cent. in Flanders. There it was popularized by Pieter Bruegel, the elder. It flourished in Holland in the 17th cent. in the works of Ter Borch, Brouwer, Metsu, De Hooch, Vermeer, and many others, and extended to France and England, where in the 18th and 19th cent., its major practitioners were Watteau, Chardin, Greuze, Morland, and Wilkie. In Italy genre elements were present in Carpaccio's and Caravaggio's paintings, but not until the 18th cent. did genre become the specialty of an Italian artist, Pietro Longhi. The French impressionists often painted genre subjects as did members of the American ashcan school.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.