Columbus at San Salvador by the American history painter Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930). This painting was probably done in the 1920s. Costumes, arms and the backdrop details are much better than on the typical 19th century paintings. But Ferris is already late, he painted in the manner of a bygone epoch. A better decoration didn't make a better painting at this time.
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.