Its beginnings date back to conditional symbolic compositions of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, to mythological images of ancient Greece, the documentary-narrative reliefs of ancient Roman triumphal arches and columns. The history painting began to develop in Italian art of the Renaissance - in military-historical works by Paolo Uccello, cardboards and frescoes by Andrea Mantegna on themes of ancient history, treated in ideal-generalized, timeless plan in compositions by Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Tintoretto.
History painting came to the fore include the religious, mythological and historical subjects in classicism of the 17th and 18th centuries; within the framework of this style took shape as a type of grand historical and allegorical compositions (Charles Le Brun) as full of ethical pathos and inner nobility paintings, depicting the exploits of antique heroes (Nicolas Poussin). In the 17th century turning point in the development of history painting were works of Diego Velázquez, who brought in image of the historic conflict between Spain and Dutch deep objectivity and humanity, Peter Paul Rubens, who free linked historical reality with fantasy and allegory, and Rembrandt, who indirectly reflected the memories about the events of revolution in the Netherlands in a full of heroic style and inner dramatic compositions.
It was given educational and political meaning to history painting: pictures of Jacques-Louis David, depicting the heroes of republican Rome, became the embodiment of heroism in the name of civic duty, sounded like a call for revolutionary struggle; during the French Revolution (1789-1794) artist depicted the events in heroic and high spirits, equating by that the reality and historical past. The same principle provides the foundation for historical painting of masters of the French romanticism (Theodore Gericault, Eugene Delacroix), as well as Spaniard Francisco Goya, who sated history painting with passionate, emotional perception of dramatic historical and modern public conflicts. Pictures by Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun and Pietro Longhi distinguished oneself by high reliability and careful study of details, in which strongly represented history of a mask and a suit.
In the 19th century, the rise of national identity and the search for historical roots of own peoples conditioned a romantic mood in the historical painting of Belgium (Louis Gallet), Czech Republic (Josef Manes), Hungary (Viktor Madarász), Poland (Piotr Michalowski). The desire for revival of spirituality Middle Ages and early Renaissance identified retrospective character of Pre-Raphaelite works (Dante G. Rossetti, John E. Millais, William Holman Hunt, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, George Frederic Watts, Walter Crane and others) in the Great Britain and Nazarenes works (Friedrich Overbeck, Peter von Cornelius, Franz Pforr, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld and others) in Germany.