The Dutch painters of the 17th cent. had made popular group portraits of members of the rising burgher class, military companies, professional groups, and the like, and as the popularity of portraits spread throughout the social classes, portraits of couples, families, and other groups became common. The 18th-century English conversation piece was a small portrait group in a domestic or landscape setting, representing people in conversation. Hogarth, Zoffany, and Gainsborough excelled at this genre. Of modern masters Renoir, Degas, and Sargent were noted for their family groups.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.