From Academic Kids
A history painter is not only a painter of historical motifs but depicts, in a "grand" style, man in general, and particularly the great events of Greek and Roman fable and history, the capital subjects of scripture history, a scene from a great literary work, or a famous event in the life of a baroque potentate. The subject commonly ought to be either some eminent instance of heroic action or heroic suffering, with characters painted in classical poses.
History painting was the dominant form in academic painting (the painting that came from the various national academies) in the nineteenth century, in particular, but also in the post-revolutionary France as well. As such, history painting was a target for later movements. The Impressionists rejected all historical subjects and tableau. In other nations, such movements as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England focused on subjects from national literature and myth, rather than Classical subjects. At the turn of the 20th century, it was possible to see paintings emerging from the official national academies depicting Nausicaa at the same time that other painters were leaving the studio to paint in available light and focus only on humble subjects and pure sensation.