"I would rather be the first painter of common things, than second in higher art." Diego Velazquez What motivated major artists of the early modern era to produce paintings of minor subjects? In the Renaissance and Baroque, the most highly regarded subjects in art were so-called histories: religious, mythological, or historical narratives. Yet many of the era’s most progressive artists poured their creative energies into the less-esteemed genres of portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and scenes of daily life. This course highlights landmark paintings from each of the four genres and explores how their creators—El Greco, Leonardo, Vermeer, Velazquez, and others—transformed “lowly” subjects into works of “high” art greatly valued by collectors across Europe. Many inventive painters created new hybrid subjects that blurred the distinctions among the genres and ultimately contributed to the transformation of the prestigious genre of history painting itself. | Lecture + Q&A.