Storytelling Through Art

Published August 5, 2011 by caitlinnicoll

Today I have a guest post over at Wicked Tricksy about the horrors of revision if you want to check it out:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

So I’m going to let them do most of the talking.

Paleolithic art from the Lascaux Caves in southern France; c. 15,000 BC

Cave paintings can be found all over the world, and date back to the Paleolithic Era. Stylized and sometimes crude, animals raced across the walls with virile hunters giving chase. During the Ice Age, a hero didn’t win wars or conquered lands, they were the ones who could provide food for the village; the ones who fought off vicious beasts, so it is no surprise that cave paintings mainly depict animals and hunters. I like to think they are a recording of a hero’s triumphant deeds, the momentous events in a village’s history.

In ancient Egypt, paintings were used not just to tell a story, but to record a persons life.

Births, marriages, deaths, wars, ascensions, achievements–all were immortalized on the walls and ceilings of tombs, temples, and sometimes houses. In a way, Egyptian paintings were the first books.

The Renaissance was a time of light, of vivid colors.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli; 1485

It was the age of enlightenment, so it is no surprise that the two most popular themes were Greek/Roman mythology and the Bible.

The Torment of Saint Anthony by Michaelangelo; 1487-1488

The Judgement of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens; c. 1636

Vulcan Presenting Arms to Venus for Aeneas by François Boucher; 1756

The Education of a Princess by Peter Paul Rubens; 1622-1625

Some artists even chronicled the lives of great historical figures. Rubens chronicled the life of Marie de’ Medici in a series of 21 paintings spanning from birth to death.

The Return of the Mother to Her Son by Peter Paul Rubens; 1622-1625

You can’t help but wonder the story behind the painting.

Dance at Bougival by Pierre-Auguste Renoir; 1882

When I see a painting, one of the first things I wonder is who those people were. I start to create stories about the people; what they were doing, how they relate to each other. What brought them to that particular moment in time.

Elizabeth and Thomas Linley by Thomas Gainsboro; 1768

The Card Players by Paul Cezanne; 1892-1895

Given the right subject and the right colors, art can send a powerful message. With each brush stroke, the artist leaves behind a piece of their soul. Each painting and sketch, a reflection of their emotions–their sorrows, their joys, their desires.

Sunrise over the Rohirrim by me; 2004


7 comments on “Storytelling Through Art

  • Hello cookie,

    Here from your link on our excellent Hektor’s comments section.

    A friend of mine had spoken to me of that painting of the torment of St. Anthony, and I had never seen it until now.

    This is an incredible online presence you have going, here.

    All best,

  • I’ve had similar thoughts about who the people might have been. I yearn to be able to put brush to paper and express myself, but I know of my limits. I guess I will stick to the written word instead 🙂

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