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About Narrative ArtShare

Artists use images for many reasons, among them, to express emotions and ideas (whether political, spiritual, or philosophical) and to depict beauty. Sometimes they use images to tell stories. These stories may draw upon personal events, collective traditions, historical or contemporary events, or texts; or they may spring entirely from the artist’s imagination.

Each of the works of art in this section has a narrative component. These Resources are specially designed to help you explore the formal elements of art and to draw connections among visual art, language arts, and literacy.

If your class is studying modern European history, American history, and/or Jewish history and tradition, you may discover direct links between your social studies and history curricula and the works of art discussed here. Though these connections are not the focus of these resources, we encourage you to explore them further and suggest additional research topics where applicable.

With the images in these Resources, students will also discover connections to genres that are familiar from the world of literature, such as drama, suspense, historical fiction, memoir, autobiography, and biography.
Much like an author or poet tells or evokes a story through words, artists can use visual elements to weave together a story with all the familiar components: characters, setting, plot/scenes, mood, and tone.

Through the Close Looking and Discussion sections, students will learn how artists use formal elements such as line, shape, color,texture, balance, and rhythm to help the viewer “read” an image. These elements are akin to the diction, syntax, and grammar of writing. An artist brings these elements together in his or her composition to express meaning and tell a story.

Just like authors and poets, artists may choose to be explicit or subtle and open-ended with their stories; they may approach the narrative symbolically or concretely. They may detail their imagery richly or sparely. And just as every writer has a unique style, so too do artists. You may come across narrative art that is didactic, moralistic, hyperbolic, or understated.

With the images in these Resources, students will also discover connections to genres that are familiar from the world of literature, such as drama, suspense, historical fiction, memoir, autobiography, and biography.