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Narrative art

The meaning of «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.

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.

Though it requires sophisticated conventions to make the narrative clear, narrative art occurs very early in the history of art. A number of reliefs in the European Bronze Age Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin show monoscenic narratives of hunting or battle, the former sometimes indicating the movements of hunter or prey with indications of their tracks in a way similar to modern diagrammatic illustrations. One of the earliest works of Ancient Egyptian art is the Narmer Palette relief in the Louvre Museum, which shows a victory of King Narmer (c. 31st century BC) in several scenes.

Narrative art was employed extensively in the Neo-Assyrian Period. Most significantly, the walls of the major Assyrian royal palaces (the Northwest Palace of Assurnasirpal II at Nimrud,[1] the Central Palace of Tiglath-Pileser III at Nimrud,[2] the Palace of Sargon II at Khorsabad,[3] the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh,[4] and the North Palace of Assurbanipal at Nineveh[5]) were lined orthostats sculpted in low relief with scenes depicting the activities of the king (hunting, battle, and ritual). Sometimes, scenes were also depicted on glazed bricks or wall paintings (e.g. at Til Barsip). Bronze bands decorating the doors of Assyrian temples and palaces were also sometimes decorated with scenes of the king's activities in narrative style. The most famous of these are the "Balawat Gates" commissioned by Shalmaneser III for his palace at Balawat (ancient Imgur-Enlil);[6][7] additional fragmentary bronze gate bands dating to Assurnasirpal II have been found at Balawat,[8] and very poorly preserved fragments from other sites, such as Khorsabad, Nimrud, Assur, and Tell Hadad.[9]

The lives of Jesus and Buddha, the founders of new religions, their followers, and in the case of Buddha also the former lives, were to provide new subject-matter for narrative art, as did elements of older religions such as the Labours of Hercules. Trajan's Column is an exceptional example of Imperial Roman narrative art. In Christian art the Life of Christ in art and Life of the Virgin supplied the most common subjects, based around the incidents celebrated in the major feasts of the church calendar, but the lives of saints gave many others.

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