The term history painting was introduced in the seventeenth century to describe paintings with subject matter drawn from classical history and mythology, and the Bible – in the eighteenth century it was also used to refer to more recent historical subjects
The term ‘history painting’ was introduced by the French Royal Academy in the seventeenth century to describe the most important of the types, or genres, of painting. The others in descending order were portrait; genre (scenes of everyday life), landscape, and still life.
The term in fact referred to subject matter drawn from ancient Greek and Roman (classical) history; classical mythology, and the Bible, though towards end eighteenth century modern historical subjects were introduced, for example in Britain by artists Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley.
The style considered appropriate to use for history painting was classical and idealised – the grand style and the result was known overall as High Art.