Narrative art refers to the content of the artwork, in other words, what is being painted not how it is being painted. Narrative art is art that tells a story.
This can be to show a moment in time or infer a sequence of events that happen over a period of time. A narrative artwork will usually evoke an emotion in the viewer.
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.
Narrative Art tells a story. It uses the power of the visual image to ignite imaginations, evoke emotions and capture universal cultural truths and aspirations. What distinguishes Narrative Art from other genres is its ability to narrate a story across diverse cultures, preserving it for future generations.
Among the vehicles of narrative are articulated language, pictures, still or moving, gestures, and an ordered mixture of all those substances; narrative is present in myth, legend, fables, tales, short stories, epics, history, tragedy, comedy, pantomime, paintings, stained-glass windows, movies, local news, conversation. Moreover, in this infinite variety of forms, it is present at all times, in all places, in all societies; indeed narrative starts with the very history of mankind; there is not, there has never been anywhere, any people without narrative.
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.
The Illustrated Dictionary of Art Terms defines “Narrative Art” as: Art which illustrates or tells a story. It usually describes self-explanatory events from daily life or those drawn from a text, well-known folk tale or myth. Some of the stories told in paint are rather straightforward, easily read by most viewers: simple pictures. Others convey content through more obscure symbols, using details freighted with personal, often cryptic meaning—complex images that perhaps reflect the complex circumstances of their creation. But all suggest a basic and enduring fascination with a story well told, with a tale well painted.