Saint James at the battle of Clavijo (1885) by the Spanish painter José María Casado del Alisal (1832-1886). In the Spanish legend Saint James miraculously appeared to fight for the Christiansduring the battle of Clavijo (844), and became therefore as Santiago Matamoros, or the Moor-slayer the national saint of Spain. Interesting is that Casado del Alisal did here a kind of history painting instead of a religious one. In this manner he is assuring the "historical reality" of the legend.
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.