Paintings of everyday life

An insight in the work and entertainment of common people

The study of paintings of everyday life is relatively new and is called Genre Art. It is the pictorial representation from everyday life such as markets, domestic settings, interiors, parties, inn scenes, and street scenes. These representations may be realistic, imagined, or romanticized by the artist. Some variations of the term genre art specify the medium or type of visual work, as in genre painting. Rather confusingly, genre works, especially when referring to the painting of the Dutch Golden Age and Flemish Baroque painting—the great periods of genre works—may also be used as an umbrella term for paintings in various specialized categories such as still-life, marine painting, architectural painting and animal painting, as well as genre scenes where the emphasis is on human figures. Painting was divided into a hierarchy of genres, with historical painting at the top, as the most difficult and therefore prestigious, and still life and architectural painting at the bottom. But historical paintings are a genre in painting, not genre works. This collection concentrates on painting, but genre motifs were also extremely popular in many forms of the decorative arts, especially from the Rococo of the early 18th century onwards. Single artists or small groups also decorated a huge variety of objects such as porcelain, furniture, wallpaper and textiles. This value of this source collection is that it tells a lot about social history, with the emphasis on the daily lives of ordinary people. Most history is taught via important people like kings, sovereigns, presidents, dictators or other leaders, while the ordinary people do not receive that much attention. With this source collection, this other side of history is given a place. The source collection is organised in a thematic order. The first part contains elements of working life, or people travelling. The emphasis is on the common people: peasant families play an important role. The second section illustrates that even in paintings that represent everyday life, differences in class appear. This is followed by a part that contains sources with people enjoying themselves, spending their free time, mostly scenes from outside. The final section is one that contains images from a little later and contains sources with (playing) children.

Acknowledgements: This source collection has been developed by Bjorn Pels with the support of Laura Steenbrink. The source collection makes use of sources provided by the Rijksmuseum, Hamburg Museum, Lithuanian Art Museum, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Wolverhampton Arts and Museums, Statens Museum for Kunst, Derby Museum and Art Gallery, The Wellcome Library, University of Edinburgh, Crawford Gallery, National Gallery of Slovenia, Nottingham City Museums and Galleries and Faaborg Museum.

Working late

This is a painting from Antanas Žmuidzinavičius (1876 — 1966), called “All Through the Night”. The painting has a simple, sober composition with a domestic atmosphere. It is dark outside and there is only one light. The man, the young Lithuanian writer, Konstantinas Jasukaitis, seems to be writing something and books are piled up on the table, which leads to the impression that he is working late. The warm colours and almost romantic atmosphere emphasise the domestic, daily life. The Lithuanian writer Žemaitė said that the painting had an impact on her and became a symbol for the opposition of intellectuals against imposed opposition. The Lithuanian National Revival of the late 19th century thus came to use the painting as a metaphor and used a simple, domestic and everyday-life painting for political purposes. (Lithuanian Art Museum, CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Working late

This is a painting from Antanas Žmuidzinavičius (1876 — 1966), called “All Through the Night”. The painting has a simple, sober composition with a domestic atmosphere. It is dark outside and there is only one light. The man, the young Lithuanian writer, Konstantinas Jasukaitis, seems to be writing something and books are piled up on the table, which leads to the impression that he is working late. The warm colours and almost romantic atmosphere emphasise the domestic, daily life. The Lithuanian writer Žemaitė said that the painting had an impact on her and became a symbol for the opposition of intellectuals against imposed opposition. The Lithuanian National Revival of the late 19th century thus came to use the painting as a metaphor and used a simple, domestic and everyday-life painting for political purposes. (Lithuanian Art Museum, CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Peasant family

This painting is the interior of the house of a peasant family by Cornelis Kruseman (1797 – 1857). It offers an insight in the everyday life of a peasant family in the 19th century. The man is lighting a pipe, while the woman is sitting behind a spinning wheel. Although this was the period of the industrial revolution, it did not start in all countries at the same time and did not involve all people. It is also possible that from this family, the man was working in a factory, but his family had to work additional hours at home to be able to make enough money. (Rijksmuseum SK-A-1067, Public Domain Marked, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

Peasant family

This painting is the interior of the house of a peasant family by Cornelis Kruseman (1797 – 1857). It offers an insight in the everyday life of a peasant family in the 19th century. The man is lighting a pipe, while the woman is sitting behind a spinning wheel. Although this was the period of the industrial revolution, it did not start in all countries at the same time and did not involve all people. It is also possible that from this family, the man was working in a factory, but his family had to work additional hours at home to be able to make enough money. (Rijksmuseum SK-A-1067, Public Domain Marked, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Cranbrook Colony

This oil painting by Frederick Daniel hardy (1827-1911) shows a simple domestic interior. A mother is preparing dinner, watched by her daughter, whilst another woman, probably the grandmother, takes a nap next to a spinning wheel. Like other works of this period the cottage interior is detailed. Although he did not attend the Royal Academy Schools, nor did he travel like his brother, Frederick is considered the most prominent member of the Cranbrook Colony, a group of 19th century painters that took inspiration from the Flemish and Dutch 17th century painters. They are famous for their genre paintings. (Wolverhampton Arts and Museums WAGMU_OP231, CC BY-NC http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/by-nc/3.0/80x15.png

Cranbrook Colony

This oil painting by Frederick Daniel hardy (1827-1911) shows a simple domestic interior. A mother is preparing dinner, watched by her daughter, whilst another woman, probably the grandmother, takes a nap next to a spinning wheel. Like other works of this period the cottage interior is detailed. Although he did not attend the Royal Academy Schools, nor did he travel like his brother, Frederick is considered the most prominent member of the Cranbrook Colony, a group of 19th century painters that took inspiration from the Flemish and Dutch 17th century painters. They are famous for their genre paintings. (Wolverhampton Arts and Museums WAGMU_OP231, CC BY-NC http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/)

Everyday life of a philosopher

This painting by Joseph Wright (1734 - 1797) shows a philosopher (wearing the red gown) who demonstrates how the solar system works while using an Orrery, a clockwork model. The figures appear to reflect Newton’s theory of the universe, their illuminated faces recalling the faces of the planets as they orbit the sun. The painting illustrates the everyday life of a non-everyday figure, a philosopher. It does show how he is teaching or explaining his point of view to those listening to them, even involving children. (Derby Museum and Art Gallery, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/by-nc-nd/3.0/80x15.png

Everyday life of a philosopher

This painting by Joseph Wright (1734 - 1797) shows a philosopher (wearing the red gown) who demonstrates how the solar system works while using an Orrery, a clockwork model. The figures appear to reflect Newton’s theory of the universe, their illuminated faces recalling the faces of the planets as they orbit the sun. The painting illustrates the everyday life of a non-everyday figure, a philosopher. It does show how he is teaching or explaining his point of view to those listening to them, even involving children. (Derby Museum and Art Gallery, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0)

Travellers in a 3rd class compartment

This painting shows travellers in a third class compartment of a train and is painted by Hans Smidth (1839 -1917). The painting does not have one point of attention and simply seems to give a look in the everyday life of common people. (Statens Museum for Kunst KMS3666, Public Domain Marked, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

Travellers in a 3rd class compartment

This painting shows travellers in a third class compartment of a train and is painted by Hans Smidth (1839 -1917). The painting does not have one point of attention and simply seems to give a look in the everyday life of common people. (Statens Museum for Kunst KMS3666, Public Domain Marked, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

Wealthy family on the riverside

This painting, of whom the creator is unknown, is probably created around 1830. The painting breathes movement and is probably also painted with this purpose. A group of people, probably a family, seems to be spending a relaxing day on the riverside of the Alster, a river in Germany near Hamburg. Two children are playing with a ball, people are playing music and on the bridge in the background, carriages, pedestrians and horsemen are passing by, while a windmill is spinning. The family does not appear to be poor, however. Their cloths indicate that they are a wealthy family, possibly living in the city. (Hamburg Museum, CC BY-NC http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/by-nc/3.0/80x15.png

Wealthy family on the riverside

This painting, of whom the creator is unknown, is probably created around 1830. The painting breathes movement and is probably also painted with this purpose. A group of people, probably a family, seems to be spending a relaxing day on the riverside of the Alster, a river in Germany near Hamburg. Two children are playing with a ball, people are playing music and on the bridge in the background, carriages, pedestrians and horsemen are passing by, while a windmill is spinning. The family does not appear to be poor, however. Their cloths indicate that they are a wealthy family, possibly living in the city. (Hamburg Museum, CC BY-NC http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0)

Everyday life scene?

This painting of Vladimir Lukich Borovikovskiy (1757 - 1825) portrays Anna Gavrilovna (1782–1856) and Varvara Gavrilovna (1784–1808) Gagarina, the daughters of an important Russian privy councillor. The girls are depicted against a countryside background. They are portrayed as an artistic duo, one playing the guitar and the other reading a piece of paper, possibly a poem. Although they may not represent the common people of the time, the setting has a simple and sober nature and could illustrate the everyday life of the two girls. (Государственная Третьяковская Галерея / The State Tretyakov Gallery 404, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

Everyday life scene?

This painting of Vladimir Lukich Borovikovskiy (1757 - 1825) portrays Anna Gavrilovna (1782–1856) and Varvara Gavrilovna (1784–1808) Gagarina, the daughters of an important Russian privy councillor. The girls are depicted against a countryside background. They are portrayed as an artistic duo, one playing the guitar and the other reading a piece of paper, possibly a poem. Although they may not represent the common people of the time, the setting has a simple and sober nature and could illustrate the everyday life of the two girls. (Государственная Третьяковская Галерея / The State Tretyakov Gallery 404, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Winter fun for those who can afford it

People are enjoying the ice near a town in the Netherlands. The painting is made by Hendrick Avercamp (1585 – 1634). The painter probably thought it to be a special moment and decided to make a painting of the scenery. Paintings of this kind, the kind that a large group of people is simply enjoying life, are rare. However, it illustrates that in the Netherlands, even though this was the time of the Little Ice Age (around 1650), they made a form of entertainment out of it. But not everybody is simply enjoying life. A beggar begs for money, while another man made a whole in the ice to catch some fish. The painting thus represents the differences between the people in Dutch society in the 17th century. (Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

Winter fun for those who can afford it

People are enjoying the ice near a town in the Netherlands. The painting is made by Hendrick Avercamp (1585 – 1634). The painter probably thought it to be a special moment and decided to make a painting of the scenery. Paintings of this kind, the kind that a large group of people is simply enjoying life, are rare. However, it illustrates that in the Netherlands, even though this was the time of the Little Ice Age (around 1650), they made a form of entertainment out of it. But not everybody is simply enjoying life. A beggar begs for money, while another man made a whole in the ice to catch some fish. The painting thus represents the differences between the people in Dutch society in the 17th century. (Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

The Gamblers

David Teniers the Younger (1610 – 1690) has painted a group of men gambling with dice. Three more middle-class men are playing, while two peasants are watching them. We know that leaders sometimes have big troublers with gamblers and problems that could come out of it. We are now in a period that many regions in Europe become more strict and try to forbid gambling. This painting, however, gives an insight to see how gambling went in the past. When games of chance involved money, class played a role. Yet here Teniers is not passing judgment: he is simply recording the scene. (Rijksmuseum SK-C-300, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/ )

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

The Gamblers

David Teniers the Younger (1610 – 1690) has painted a group of men gambling with dice. Three more middle-class men are playing, while two peasants are watching them. We know that leaders sometimes have big troublers with gamblers and problems that could come out of it. We are now in a period that many regions in Europe become more strict and try to forbid gambling. This painting, however, gives an insight to see how gambling went in the past. When games of chance involved money, class played a role. Yet here Teniers is not passing judgment: he is simply recording the scene. (Rijksmuseum SK-C-300, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/ )

Game of Bocce

In the period that David Teniers the Younger (1610 – 1690) made this painting, it is not easy to find many paintings of ordinary people, let alone while playing a game. These men are playing Bocce, an Italian ball game that is similar to the French-origin jeu de boules. (Statens Museum for Kunst KMSsp260, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

Game of Bocce

In the period that David Teniers the Younger (1610 – 1690) made this painting, it is not easy to find many paintings of ordinary people, let alone while playing a game. These men are playing Bocce, an Italian ball game that is similar to the French-origin jeu de boules. (Statens Museum for Kunst KMSsp260, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

After a long day travelling

This painting by Adriaen van Ostade (1610 – 1685) shows travellers while resting. They appear to be hunters by the gun and game bag lying next to him, and are enjoying the rest with a pipe and a drink. Before the 17th century, many painters worked only for what would gain them most, and thus did not very often paint everyday life settings. This painting is an example of the change of this, and shows average men enjoying themselves. (Rijksmuseum SK-A-299, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

After a long day travelling

This painting by Adriaen van Ostade (1610 – 1685) shows travellers while resting. They appear to be hunters by the gun and game bag lying next to him, and are enjoying the rest with a pipe and a drink. Before the 17th century, many painters worked only for what would gain them most, and thus did not very often paint everyday life settings. This painting is an example of the change of this, and shows average men enjoying themselves. (Rijksmuseum SK-A-299, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

A game of cricket

Oil painting. Unknown creator. Maybe we see some things that changed in the game. It could be interesting to see who played the game. The Wellcome Library, http://wellcomeimages.org/ixbin/hixclient.exe?MIROPAC=V0017630, CC BY, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/by/3.0/80x15.png

A game of cricket

Oil painting. Unknown creator. Maybe we see some things that changed in the game. It could be interesting to see who played the game. The Wellcome Library, http://wellcomeimages.org/ixbin/hixclient.exe?MIROPAC=V0017630, CC BY, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Going out

Cornelis Saftleven (c. 1607 – 1681) painted a group of men in front of the inn of a village. The painting gives an insight on what common men did in their free time in the 17th century. (Rijksmuseum SK-A-715, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

Going out

Cornelis Saftleven (c. 1607 – 1681) painted a group of men in front of the inn of a village. The painting gives an insight on what common men did in their free time in the 17th century. (Rijksmuseum SK-A-715, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Board game

The Board Game Players. Pieter Symonsz Potter (1597 — 1652). So board games are not new. Who played it? Where dit they played it? Statens Museum for Kunst, KMSsp381, CC0, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/zero/1.0/80x15.png

Board game

The Board Game Players. Pieter Symonsz Potter (1597 — 1652). So board games are not new. Who played it? Where dit they played it? Statens Museum for Kunst, KMSsp381, CC0, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

Domino

Two seamstresses are playing a game of domino, probably while taking a break from their work. It is a very realistic setting that shows the life of two female workers. The painting is made by Frank Bramley (1857–1915). (Crawford Gallery 24-P, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

Domino

Two seamstresses are playing a game of domino, probably while taking a break from their work. It is a very realistic setting that shows the life of two female workers. The painting is made by Frank Bramley (1857–1915). (Crawford Gallery 24-P, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Game of cards

This painting by Almanach (1600) shows card players playing a game, while they are served wine. They play the Italian game Trappola, a very popular game in the 17th century, not only in Italy but also in central Europe. (Narodna galerija, Ljubljana / National Gallery of Slovenia NG S 3049, CC BY-SA, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

Game of cards

This painting by Almanach (1600) shows card players playing a game, while they are served wine. They play the Italian game Trappola, a very popular game in the 17th century, not only in Italy but also in central Europe. (Narodna galerija, Ljubljana / National Gallery of Slovenia NG S 3049, CC BY-SA, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

Fair day

A big crowd is set on a green, next to a village or a city. Some people are eating, serving or simply enjoying themselves. The painting is extraordinary because these parties probably did not happen very often, but it shows the life of common people entertaining themselves. The painting is created by John Holland (1805-1880). (Nottingham City Museums and Galleries NCM 1946-262, CC BY-NC-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/by-nc-sa/3.0/80x15.png

Fair day

A big crowd is set on a green, next to a village or a city. Some people are eating, serving or simply enjoying themselves. The painting is extraordinary because these parties probably did not happen very often, but it shows the life of common people entertaining themselves. The painting is created by John Holland (1805-1880). (Nottingham City Museums and Galleries NCM 1946-262, CC BY-NC-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/)

Dancing in the hills

Fritz Syberg (1862 -1939) made this painting of a group of people dancing in the Svanninge Hills in Denmark. The sun is setting and indigo colored clouds form a colour-palet with the green of the hills and the colors of the cloths of the people. They wear simple clothes. Together it gives a romantic impression and shows, like a picture, people enjoying themselves on a beautiful evening. (Faaborg Museum, CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/by/3.0/80x15.png

Dancing in the hills

Fritz Syberg (1862 -1939) made this painting of a group of people dancing in the Svanninge Hills in Denmark. The sun is setting and indigo colored clouds form a colour-palet with the green of the hills and the colors of the cloths of the people. They wear simple clothes. Together it gives a romantic impression and shows, like a picture, people enjoying themselves on a beautiful evening. (Faaborg Museum, CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Bubble blowing

This painting of Jacob Maris (1837 – 1899) shows his daughters, probably Tine and Henriëtte. They are blowing bubbles. His children modelled for him regularly. The setting is a calm one, with soft watercolors that emphasise the everyday life aspect of this painting. Maris’s idea was not to make a portrait, but to capture the atmosphere of his playing daughters. Bubbles on paintings in combination with a child used to be bad news. It was a allegory that the child died. We do, however not know if this is the case in this painting. (Rijksmuseum SK_A_3677, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

Bubble blowing

This painting of Jacob Maris (1837 – 1899) shows his daughters, probably Tine and Henriëtte. They are blowing bubbles. His children modelled for him regularly. The setting is a calm one, with soft watercolors that emphasise the everyday life aspect of this painting. Maris’s idea was not to make a portrait, but to capture the atmosphere of his playing daughters. Bubbles on paintings in combination with a child used to be bad news. It was a allegory that the child died. We do, however not know if this is the case in this painting. (Rijksmuseum SK_A_3677, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

A girl with her doll

A girl is sitting in the window, playing with a doll. This painting was made in the early 20th century by Irina Borisovna Kustodiyeva (1905-1981). The painting is an intimate scene and gives an insight in the life of the daughter of the artist. The artist played with movement: the dress of the girl is lively, while the background almost seems to be standing still. The style of the window implies that the house could be in Japan, making it resembling a fairy-land cottage in Japan. (Государственная Третьяковская Галерея / The State Tretyakov Gallery 609, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/publicdomain/80x15.png

A girl with her doll

A girl is sitting in the window, playing with a doll. This painting was made in the early 20th century by Irina Borisovna Kustodiyeva (1905-1981). The painting is an intimate scene and gives an insight in the life of the daughter of the artist. The artist played with movement: the dress of the girl is lively, while the background almost seems to be standing still. The style of the window implies that the house could be in Japan, making it resembling a fairy-land cottage in Japan. (Государственная Третьяковская Галерея / The State Tretyakov Gallery 609, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0)

Children in a winter landscape

This image is the final part of a series of prints on woodblock, created by Eitaku (Shutaro) Kobayashi (1894), all with images of children playing. The series consists of twelve parts, each representing a month of the year. Four boys are making a snowman in a winter landscape. In the preface of the book, Children’s Games, is stated that 'these innocent children's games often give an insight into the fast-decaying customs which their elders have in town long discarded, and even in the country are beginning to forget. They afford never failing subjects to artists bent upon delineating the most characteristic features and institutions of this country.' The painter is combining elements of the Japanese painting style with a more Western-oriented style. (University of Edinburgh RB.FF.63, CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

x:https://licensebuttons.net/l/by/3.0/80x15.png

Children in a winter landscape

This image is the final part of a series of prints on woodblock, created by Eitaku (Shutaro) Kobayashi (1894), all with images of children playing. The series consists of twelve parts, each representing a month of the year. Four boys are making a snowman in a winter landscape. In the preface of the book, Children’s Games, is stated that 'these innocent children's games often give an insight into the fast-decaying customs which their elders have in town long discarded, and even in the country are beginning to forget. They afford never failing subjects to artists bent upon delineating the most characteristic features and institutions of this country.' The painter is combining elements of the Japanese painting style with a more Western-oriented style. (University of Edinburgh RB.FF.63, CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)