The French painter Evariste Vital Luminais (1821-1896) who preferred subjects from the barbarian period of French history depicted here a scene from the Merovingian period.
The tortured sons of Clovis (1880)
When in the absence of their father the two sons of Clovis II rebelled, their mother Bathilde had their tendons cut and sent them immobilised down the Seine where they finally reached a Benedictine monastery.
The appealing of the painting is the strong contrast between the peaceful river scene and the cruel story which is indicated by the wounded feet and the dead like bodies.
The American painter Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928) was specialized in oriental subjects. Sometimes he added further a historical scenery. These two paintings underline the success of this method. The second (I don’t know which one was the first, but this doesn’t matter) is more or less a copy with some different columns and some persons more.
Echoes of Roncesvalles (1890) by the Spanish painter Antonio Muñoz Degrain (1840-1924).
This painting refers to the battle of Roncesvalles in 778, where Charlemagne's rear guard was annihilated by the Basques. But it’s far more than the typical pseudo-realistic battle painting.
Muñoz Degrain became well known for his traditional history paintings. But later he moved to impressionism, which changed not only his way of painting but also his view on history. Although there is a canyon with skeletons to be seen, this is obviously not Roncesvalles or at least no realistic depiction of it. The impressionist Muñoz Degrain is not interested in this. History is no portrayable, it’s covered by myths and legends. And because of that he painted only the echoes - the impression.
The crowning of Olav I Tryggvason of Norway (1860) by the Norwegian painter Peter Nicolai Arbo (1831-1892).
Arbo was a romantic painter who specialized in historical and mythological subjects. Here he depicted one of the greatest kings in Norwegian history. This was especially important in the 19th century when Norway was struggling for her independence from Sweden.
Elizabeth Thompson, later Lady Butler (1846-1933) was not only one of the few female painters in Victorian Britain, she was moreover probably the only female war painter. John Ruskin Britain's leading art critic at this time had the opinion "that no women could paint". After seeing Roll Call Ruskin admitted: "But it is Amazon's work, this; no doubt of it, and the first fine Pre-Raphaelite picture of battle we have had."
The Roll Call (1874)
Elizabeth Butler depicts here the exhausted soldiers after battle counting their dead and wounded. Without any doubt a great painting, bur I can not discover any Pre-Raphaelite characteristics.
Remnants of an Army (1879)
This is William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jalalabad. He was the only survivor of an army of 16,500 soldiers, which had left Kabul in January 1842.
History painting dates back to the Renaissance and was long considered to be the "grand genre". Nevertheless it has its peak in the 19th century forged by Neoclassicism and Romanticism. There it became the artistic contribution in the process of the construction of National Identities of the European and American nations.
At the same time history painting under the influence of historism pretended to be "realistic", to show history how it has been. Above all it was this pretension that led to the great failure of History painting AND Realism at the end of the century.
When artists and their public realized that telling history always will be subjective and a painting will always be an illusion Realism and history painting lost their ground to modern painting.