Paintings are made for people. To enjoy, to dream away or to make you think. And it is precisely genre paintings that often evoke something explicit, because they depict daily life, with people in the lead role. The word "relationships" perhaps best describes genre paintings. Figures that relate to something or each other. People who communicate, play, caress, stroll. Genre paintings are perhaps the coziest paintings in our collection.
Genre pieces, a name that was not coined for 'everyday' performances until the 19th century, come in all kinds of variants. In our collection under "Genre" you can find farm and fisherman scenes, cafes and terraces, zoos, parties, candlelight scenes, fashion paintings and sports and theater performances. Humorous depictions of courtship or rejected worshipers are also included in the subject "Genre". In the broad sense of the word, genre pieces are actually timeless. The early Egyptians were already masters in depicting, for example, Pharaoh Akhenaten, surrounded by his court or wife Nefertiti and children. In prehistoric caves paintings have been found of groups of hunters chasing prey with spears. Later too, when Western art is mainly dominated by the Christian faith, all kinds of "cosiness" are added to scenes of the Holy Family or images from the Old Testament. In fact, it can be said that genre pieces also feature in many other subjects. In a romantic ice scene by Andreas Schelhout, skaters in a cookie-en-zopie form a genre piece in themselves, but they are subordinate to the winter landscape. Many painters in the 19th century loved to enliven their seascapes, landscapes and cityscapes with small, narrative scenes. In Impressionism and the movements after it, the boundaries of the typical genre painting become blurred. The subject becomes more subordinate to the way it is painted.
From the 16th century, the everyday life of the common man became fashionable as the subject for a painting, in addition to the existing religious, mythological, historical themes and portraiture. Painted everyday scenes are called genre pieces or genre scenes. Genre art flourished in the Netherlands during the 17th century through artists such as Frans Hals, Judith Leyster, Johannes Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch and Jan Steen. In their paintings we see living room, kitchen and pub scenes, which sometimes have a deeper educational meaning.
In the 18th and 19th centuries genre painting also became popular in France and England. The genre did not receive that name until the 19th century. Genre painting is thus already recognizable in the late 16th century, but reached a peak in the 19th century. The number of subjects is very varied, but several frequently recurring themes can be distinguished: living room and coffee scenes, kitchen scenes, markets and inns and depictions of figures from various professions. The persons depicted were usually anonymous, although there are also cases in which famous persons were portrayed in everyday activities. In the latter case, one speaks of 'genre-like' pieces.
In the 19th and 20th century, genre painting took on an extra dimension. This period is characterized, among other things, by the rise of socialism and with it the focus on the fate of the working class. A well-known example of what can be called a genre piece from this period is Vincent van Gogh's The Potato Eaters.