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This article looks specifically at the issue of genre as it was understood and debated in relation to painting in early nineteenth-century France. This was a period in which the traditional hierarchy of the genres, established with the foundation of the Academy under Louis XIV, was increasingly under attack. The supremacy of history painting, which traditionally obeyed a number of inflexible requirements as regards size, subject matter etc., was infinged notably by the efforts of the younger generation of painters to depict material of relevance to contemporary history. The argument here is focused specifically on the work of Louis Hersent, Léopold Robert and Paul Delaroche. It advances the more general point that genre distinctions were not simply an obstacle to individual development, but enabled such artists to achieve success through circumventing and trangressing the principles of the regulated hierarchy.