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 Liberty Leading the People, Delacroix (French Romantic art, Liberty Leading the People, Delacroix, 1830)

Painting is a branch of plastic arts that represents a possible reality in two-dimensional artistic images created with the colors applied on a surface (cloth, paper, wood, glass, etc.). The goal is to get a composition with shapes, colors, textures and drawings that give birth to a work of art in accordance with aesthetic principles.

Much of the painting of Western and Oriental art is dominated by religious motives; examples of this type of painting are biblical scenes taken from the walls of the catacombs and the inner ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and in Oriental art there are the scenes from Buddha’s life or the paintings of the Egyptian pharaohs’ tombs representing the shift to immortality.

André Félibien, an architect and theorist of classicism, showed a hierarchy of genres of classical painting, these being “history, portrait, landscape, seas, flowers and fruits.”

Painting is one of the oldest human artistic expressions. As for the aesthetics or the theory of modern art of painting, it is considered a universal category that includes all artistic creations made on surfaces.


As has been said above, painting is a branch of plastic arts that interprets reality in two-dimensional images. The word “painting” may also mean:

  • an artistic work performed by a painter; the ensemble of plastic works that define the personality of a painter; the ensemble of works, styles and procedures specific to painters from a country, from an epoch, from a school, etc .;
  • in the literature, a suggestive description of the physical and figure character, of scenes of real life and nature.

Painting genres

The landscape

Titian, La Vierge au Lapin à la Loupe (The Virgin of the Rabbit) (Titian, La Vierge au Lapin à la Loupe (The Virgin of the Rabbit), 1530, Louvre, Paris. Idealized Italianate landscape background)

Since the end of the sixteenth century, when artists began to experience it as a self-contained genre, the landscape quickly evolved into their preferences, becoming their favorite expression in a short time.

This option was made possible by the openness that such an image offers to the artist and to the receiver, not only on the epic or pictorial level, but also the emotional one. That’s why, for almost half a millennium, it has been – and the subject is still far from exhausted – one of the most fascinating and complex adventures of the universal artistic phenomenon.

In the last decades, due to the new attempts of visual expressions (media, performance, happening, etc.) there is an attempt to marginalize all “classical” art forms, implicitly of the landscape, especially by the young creators who believe them desquamate, and in contradiction with what they consider performance. It is an excessive vision which, although natural to age, and especially to the moment of crisis that art has been going through for a long time, finds no support in reality at the level of artists, and even less so by the art consumer.

Still life

Lublin Baugin (1610-1663), Le Dessert de gaufrettes (Lublin Baugin (1610-1663), Le Dessert de gaufrettes (c.1631), Louvre Museum, Paris, France)

Still life is the representation in the visual arts of inanimate objects, of nature or ordered in a voluntary manner. By definition, the still life is a kind of graphic or pictorial representation of a group of natural inanimate objects, consisting of pot with flowers, fruits or vegetables on a bowl, hunting, vase, glass, amphora, hookah or kettle, cups, plates, pieces to which there are sometimes added books, a folded newspaper, in an artificial combination and a textile or two, as a chromatic support.

This type of painting can be found inside the Egyptian tombs. There were objects that would have been served in the beyond-life of the deceased. In ancient Greece, the apogee of this genre is reached through the third and second centuries BC. These works did not survive the time, being only mentioned in various writings.

The term began to be used only in the 17th century. Thus, Giorgio Vasari uses the expression cose naturali (“natural things”) when referring to the paintings of Giovanni da Udine. By mid-century Flanders, it was used the term stilleven, soon adopted by the Germans as Stilleben and then by the English in the form of still life.

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