history painting, the painting of scenes from classical and Christian history and mythology. It was taught in the academies of art, from the Renaissance to the 19th cent., as the highest form of art in an hierarchical grouping that ranked still-life painting lowest on the list. Included in the category were scenes from contemporary history, such as Velázquez's Surrender at Breda, and commemorative works and apotheoses, such as Rubens's Life of Marie de' Medici. Scenes from antiquity dominated 18th-century painting, and modern subjects were exalted by treating them in classical terms. A modern work cited as falling within the history-painting tradition is Picasso's Guernica.
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