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Prologue and Prolepsis

For many years (decades), traditional narrative art has fallen into disrepute among art critics and up-to-date cognoscenti. Almost a century ago, Aldous Huxley summed up narrative art’s fall from grace:

“The early twentieth century, under the influence of the French, deplores and ignores, in painting, all that is literary, reflective, or dramatic.” -- (Aldous Huxley, “Bruegel," in Along the Road, 1925)

In spite of this French-inspired dismissal, traditional narrative art continues to hold the attention of art lovers around the world. In addition, the world of advertising continues to draw on the power of narrative images to promote the virtues of sellers’ wares.

Without intending to deprecate the virtues of abstract art, I have gathered  into my virtual museum some of the masterpieces, as well as lesser-known works, that have caught my interest and helped me think about the human condition as it is rendered in traditional forms. The organization  contents of the museum make to pretensions to all-embracing inclusiveness; and a visitor to these pages may well wish I had included more works from other cultures, artists of color, women, or people from a wider perspective of political, sexual, or religious persuasion.

But the great advantage of an online museum is that it can be altered at will at any time. New works, or even whole categories (if I have a Flemish room, why not an Egyptian section?) can be added as I see fit. This flexibility has another virtue: no editor, or editorial assistant, and force me to include or exclude a work based on their conceptions of what the virtual museum should include.

So that that prolepsis (“the anticipation and answering of possible objections”), let’s continue to a consideration of what constitutes the organizing principles of this virtual museum, and what is implied by the concepts of narrative and narrative art.

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Interior and exterior structure based on the Villa Rotunda by Andra Palladio

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“The event is not what happens. The event is that which can be narrated.” Allen Feldman (Formations of Violence, 1991)

Narrative art tells a story, either as a moment in an ongoing experience or as a sequence of meaningful events.

The essence of pictorial narrative art is The Significant Instant: the moment when the face or the act reveals the essence of the personality or the event.

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