The Hierarchy of Genres

Back in the heyday of the Academy system, artists used to have an official list detailing which types of paintings were more important than others.

01
of 06

History Painting

Image © National Gallery, London; used with permission
Agnolo Bronzino (Italian, 1503-1572). An Allegory with Venus and Cupid, ca. 1545. Oil on wood. 146.1 x 116.2 cm (57 1/2 x 45 3/4 in.). Purchased 1860. NG651. National Gallery, London. Agnolo Bronzino (Italian, 1503-1572). An Allegory with Venus and Cupid, ca. 1545.
02
of 06

Portraiture

© 2008 Smithsonian Institution, Courtesy, National Portrait Gallery; used with permission
Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828). George Washington (the Lansdowne portrait), 1796. Oil on canvas. 97 1/2 x 62 1/2 in. (247.6 x 158.7 cm). Acquired as a gift to the nation through the generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828). George Washington (the Lansdowne portrait), 1796.
à la bosse
03
of 06

Genre Painting

© Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; used with permission
Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-1675). The Milkmaid, ca. 1658. Oil on canvas. 17 7/8 x 16 1/8 in. (45.5 x 41 cm). SK-A-2344. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-1675). The Milkmaid, ca. 1658.
04
of 06

Landscape Painting

© Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; used with permission
Jacob van Ruisdael (Dutch, 1628/29-1682). Landscape with a Mill-run and Ruins, ca. 1653. Oil on canvas. 59.3 x 66.1 cm (23 5/16 x 26 in.). Jacob van Ruisdael (Dutch, 1628/29-1682). Landscape with a Mill-run and Ruins, ca. 1653.
05
of 06

Animal Painting

The Royal Collection © 2009, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; used with permission
George Stubbs (English, 1724-1806). The Prince of Wales's Phaeton, 1793. Oil on canvas. 102.2 x 128.3 cm (40 3/16 x 50 1/2 in.). Painted for George IV. George Stubbs (English, 1724-1806). The Prince of Wales's Phaeton, 1793.

However, it would be a mistake to think that Animal Painters weren't admired, valued and made fantastic commissions. The patrons who eagerly sought their services were royal, noble and incredibly wealthy. What better way to tout one's ownership of a thoroughbred racehorse or prized bull than by showing off a portrait?

06
of 06

Still Lifes

Image © Dahesh Museum of Art; used with permission
Blaise-Alexandre Desgoffe (French 1830-1901). Still Life with Fruit, Glass of Wine, 1863. Oil on panel. 21 1/4 x 24 in. (54 x 61 cm). 1996.3. Dahesh Museum of Art. Blaise-Alexandre Desgoffe (French 1830-1901). Still Life with Fruit, Glass of Wine, 1863.