Architectural painting

The old City Hall of Amsterdam by Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, 1657, now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Architectural painting (also Architecture painting) is a form of genre painting where the predominant focus lies on architecture, including both outdoor and interior views. While architecture was present in many of the earliest paintings and illuminations, it was mainly used as background or to provide rhythm to a painting. In the Renaissance, architecture was used to emphasize the perspective and create a sense of depth, like in Masaccio's Holy Trinity from the 1420s.

In Western art, architectural painting as an independent genre developed in the 16th century in Flanders and the Netherlands, and reached its peak in 16th and 17th century Dutch painting.[1][2] Later, it developed in a tool for Romantic paintings, with e.g. views of ruins becoming very popular. Closely related genres are architectural fantasies and trompe-l'oeils, especially illusionistic ceiling painting, and cityscapes.

Western artists specialized in architectural painting

16th century

Architectural landscape by Hans Vredeman de Vries, now in the Hermitage Museum

The 16th century saw the development of architectural painting as a separate genre in Western art. The main centers in this period were Flanders and the Netherlands. The first important architectural painter was Dutch Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527-1607), who was both an architect and a painter.[3] Students of Hans Vredeman de Vries, both in Flanders and in the Netherlands, include his sons Salomon and Paul, and Hendrik van Steenwijk I. Through them the genre was popularized and their family and students turned it into one of the main domains of Dutch Golden Age painting.



Antwerp Cathedral by Hendrik van Steenwijk I, now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest

17th century

Paul Vredeman de Vries, 1612, Interior of a Gothic Cathedral, now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art



Andrea Pozzo, 1703, illusionistic ceiling painting in the Jesuit Church, Vienna


Dirck van Delen, 1645, A family beside the tomb of Willem I in the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, now in the Rijksmuseum

In the 17th century, architectural painting became one of the leading genres in the Dutch Golden Age, together with portrait painting and landscapes. Notable Dutch painter of the genre include:

18th century



Architectural paintings, and the related vedute or cityscapes, were especially popular in 18th century Italy. Another genre closely related to architectural painting proper were the capriccios, fantasies set in and focusing on an imaginary architecture.


19th century




Heinrich Hansen, "Sala Delle Quattro Porte, Palazzo Ducale, Venice", 1883




United Kingdom

Thomas H. Shepherd, 1853, New England Bank, now in the British Museum

Modern art

Chinese architectural painting

In China, architectural painting was called "jiehua", and mainly seen as an inferior type of painting. Known masters of the genre include the 10th century painter Guo Zhongshu, and Wang Zhenpeng, who was active around 1300.[4]


  1. ^ Muller, Sheila D. (2013). "Architectural painting". Dutch Art: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 20. ISBN 9781135495749.
  2. ^ Fredericksen, Burton B. (1988). Masterpieces of Painting in the J. Paul Getty Museum: Second Edition. Getty Publications. p. 21. ISBN 9780892361373.
  3. ^ Waagen, Gustav Friedrich (1860). Handbook of Painting: The German, Flemish, and Dutch Schools. John Murray. p. 245.
  4. ^ Chung, Anita (2004). Drawing Boundaries: Architectural Images in Qing China. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824826635.

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