The Colossus of Rhodes (1914) by the Spanish painter Antonio Muñoz Degrain (1840-1924). When he painted this Muñoz Degrain had long moved to impressionism and done several journeys to Turkey, Syria and Egypt. So the painting is less a historical but much more a reflection about light and life in the Near East.
A knight errant from the beginning of the 20th century by the Austrian painter Erwin Stolz (1896-1987).
Maybe he represents Sir Galahad searching the Holy Grail. In the best Art Nouveau manner the painting reduces perspective and colors but is instead full of symbols like the divine light from above or the wild geese an old icon for wandering adventurers,
The Death of Viriathus the chief of the Lusitanians (1807) by the Spanish painter José de Madrazo y Agudo (1781-1859).
Viriathus was the most important leader of the Lusitanian when they resisted Roman expansion into the regions of Western Hispania, today Portugal. Viriathus fought with great success against the Romans until he was betrayed to the Romans and killed in138 BC.
So it’s not astonishing that Viriathus was discovered in the 19th century by the patriots of Portugal and Spain as a kind of early national hero fighting foreign oppressors like Napoleon in their present days. But surprising is at least the fact that Madrazo depicted the barbarian chieftain and his followers as Greek or Romans. The whole painting resembles a lot the “Oath of the Horatii” (1784) by David. The explanation is that Madrazo was a pupil of David in Paris. And as the Lusitanians are looking like their Roman enemies, the Spanish patriot painted like his French adversaries.
Wallensteins on his way to Eger (c.1861/62) by the German painter Karl Theodor von Piloty (1826–1886).
Piloty was the leading German history painter of the late 19th century. Here he depicted the most important General of the Catholic League during the Thirty Years War. Wallenstein on the peak of his power was on his way to Eger. There he planned to start peace negotiations on his own but was murdered by some of his officers.
It was this vicinity of power and failure, the fall from great height what Piloty fascinated. There is a mighty army moving, but in front are already waiting the gravediggers – looks like a quotation of Hamlet.
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.