Narrative art

Narrative art is art that tells a story, either as a moment in an ongoing story or as a sequence of events unfolding over time. Some of the earliest evidence of human art suggests that people told stories with pictures. Although there are some common features to all narrative art, different cultures have developed idiosyncratic ways to discern narrative action from pictures.

Diana and Callisto by Rubens, c. 1635. A classic history painting with a subject from Greek mythology. It shows the moment when the pregnancy of Callisto is discovered.
Laocoön and His Sons a sculpture of the 1st century BC or AD, with a scene from classical mythology
Secene of "Rich man giving a rice ball to the monk", from the 12th-century Japanese Shigisan-engi handscroll
The two sides of the Narmer Palette

Prior to the advent of literacy most narrative art was done in a simultaneous narrative style with very little overarching organization. Once literacy developed in different parts of the world pictures began to be organized along register lines, like lines on a page, that helped define the direction of the narrative. This method of linking scenes together led to other ways of telling stories in the 20th century, namely the newspaper, comic strips and comic books.

In painting in traditional Western art since the Renaissance, the concept of history painting covers most narrative scenes.


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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Narrative art, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.