Narrative Art

Narrative Art


Art has the power to do lot of things. It has the power to tell a story. As they say, one image is equal to a thousand words. A narrative art is one that tells a story. Until the 20th century, most Western art was actually narrative art, which depicted stories from mythology, religion, myth and legend, history and literature. Audiences were assumed to be familiar with the stories in question.  

Narrative Art: 

Narrative art is an abstract art form which depicts various events that have taken place either as a standalone image or a sequence of actions in the form of multiple frames. Sometimes, a story may be compressed into a single image that depicts some event or events that have occurred in the past or are about to occur in near future. 

A narrative art gives the artist complete freedom to decide how the story would be portrayed, what medium will be used and the manner in which the story would be narrated.  

History of Narrative art: 

Use of paintings to narrate some event is very primitive. Even the paintings made by primitive man in the caves are also narrative in nature, one which narrates the way the primitive man led life. Before the advent of literacy, most art was expressed in narrative style. Once people became literate, the narrative art also changed forms. In the 20th century, people developed other ways to narrate a story like comic books or comic strips. 

Different types of narratives: 

There are different types of narratives in use by various artists. Some of the major types are: 

  • Monoscenic Narrative: This depicts a single scene of a story. Here, the scene depicted is very important and can be easily identified.  
  • Continuous Narrative: This depicts multiple scenes from a story in a single frame. Here, many scenes are depicted in a single frame without any dividers.  
  • Synoptic Narrative: This represents a single character or multiple characters in a single scene that are depicted many times in the frame to represent multiple actions taking place. 
  • Panoptic Narrative: This represents multiple scenes and actions without repeating the characters. 
  • Progressive Narrative: This depicts a single scene or action without repeating any character. 
  • Sequential Narrative: This depicts each action and sequence within every frame as a single unit. 


Narrative art is an artform, which 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.