Telling Stories

Artists often tell stories through pictures. The artists in this chapter selected stories from religious, mythological, and historical sources, as well as tales from their imaginations.

Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi envisioned an important event from the Bible. Rogier van der Weyden and Raphael painted their interpretations of the story of Saint George. Peter Paul Rubens chose to show climactic moments from biblical and mythological stories. John Singleton Copley depicted a real-life event with great suspense, while Claude-Joseph Vernet painted imaginary adventures. Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Jacob Lawrence honored heroes of the Civil War era.

As you compare the artists in this chapter, think about what choices artists make when depicting a story and what elements of art contribute to telling it.

Fra Angelico, Fra Filippo Lippi, and Giotto
c. 1395–1455 (Fra Angelico); c. 1406–1469 (Fra Filippo Lippi); c. 1266–1337 (Giotto)

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Rogier van der Weyden and Raphael
c. 1399/1400–1464 (van der Weyden); 1483–1520 (Raphael)
British (van der Weyden); Italian (Raphael)

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Peter Paul Rubens

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John Singleton Copley and Claude-Joseph Vernet
1738–1815 (Copley); 1714–1789 (Vernet)
American (Copley); French (Vernet)

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Augustus Saint-Gaudens

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Jacob Lawrence

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Paperback editions of An Eye for Art are available for purchase.


Studying Nature

Questioning Traditions

Playing with Space


Download PDFs:

Edgar Degas (8MB)

Alexander Calder (6MB)

Dan Flavin (3MB)

Martin Puryear (6MB)