Genres are types of painting. These were codified in the seventeenth century as (in descending order of importance) history, portrait, genre (scenes of everyday life), landscape and still life

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  • Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire ...' exhibited 1817
    Joseph Mallord William Turner
    The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire ... exhibited 1817
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1702 x 2388 mm
    Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
  • William Henry Hunt, 'Fruit' date not known
    William Henry Hunt
    Fruit date not known
    Watercolour on paper
    support: 216 x 273 mm
    Presented by Charles Fraser 1905
  • John Constable, 'Hampstead Heath with a Rainbow' 1836
    John Constable
    Hampstead Heath with a Rainbow 1836
    Oil on canvas
    support: 508 x 762 mm
    frame: 755 x 1010 x 95 mm
    Bequeathed by Miss Isabel Constable as the gift of Maria Louisa, Isabel and Lionel Bicknell Constable 1888

This hierarchy of genres, established by the French Royal Academy, was based on the notion of man as the measure of all things. Landscape and still life were the lowest because they did not involve human subject matter. History was highest because it dealt with the noblest events of human history and with religion.