The Massacre of the
Abencerrages (1874) by the French painter Georges Jules Victor
Clairin (1843-1919). The cruel subject is taken from Chateaubriand's
Aventures du dernier Abencérage (1826)i.e. Boabdil, the last king of
Granada. Boabdil lured the rival tribe of the Abencerrages in the
Alhambra, where all were slaughtered. The legend says that the
fountain flowed not with water but with blood.
After the battle of
Fýrisvellir (1888) by the Swedish painter Mårten Eskil Winge
(1825-1896). In the battle of Fýrisvellir the Swedes repelled an
army of Nordic invaders. Though it's a great nation victory it's
interesting that Winge didn't paint the great heroic deeds but the
contemplative moments after the battle
Mermaids' Rock (c.1894)
by the British painter Edward Matthew Hale (1852-1924). Interesting
is that sirens and mermaids where normally painted in a classical
Greek context. Hale preferred here some Vikings or Celts meaning his
own British ancestors.
The Surrender of Acre
by the French painter Merry-Joseph Blondel
(1781-1853). The most important victory of the Third Crusade. Here
the Muslim garrison surrenders to the French king Philip Augustus and
the English king Richard I. Another piece for the Crusader Gallery
in the National Museum in Versailles.
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.