Narrative art from Southampton’s collection – Southampton City Art Gallery

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Narrative art from Southampton’s collection


Narrative painting can be traced back to 17th-Century genre painting which depicted scenes and narratives of everyday life, but it wasn’t until the Victorian era that it became enormously popular. Subjects might include religion, history, myth and legend or literature and it was expected that audiences would be familiar with the story being told.

20th Century art has been influenced deeply by narrative artwork, although many modern artists and groups have frowned upon narrative, concentrating more on form and purely visual aspects of their work. Yet coded references to political and social issues or events important to the artist are still commonplace.

This exhibition highlights the theme of narrative found in the city’s diverse holdings. From early works to the present day, sometimes obvious and other times hidden, the works all tell a story in their own way.

Image Credit: Second Class, The Parting, oil on canvas, by Abraham Solomon

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