Telling stories through pictures has been one of art’s most important tasks for centuries. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, it was considered as not modern in the 20th century, the age of abstraction, conceptualism and ready-mades. Ever since the age of antiquity, stories have been told from the classical sagas of gods and heroes, from Greek and Roman history, and later from the Old and New Testaments or from numerous legends of the saints.
In genre painting since the 17th century, paintings have been used to depict day-to-day happenings, and, more particularly since the beginning of the 19th century, historical events (historical painting).
At the beginning of the 20th century, stories disappeared from art in parallel to the development of abstract painting. It was no longer concerned with creating an image of reality but rather a new reality. The link to recognizable reality was frequently broken, which removed the foundation of the narration. The Dadaists turned the current understanding of art and the world upside down, and the Surrealists portrayed in their works the world of the subconscious and of dreams. Their wish – to achieve liberation from logical reality, an irritation and shift of reality – was not pursued with narrative methods but rather, for example, by the use of écriture automatique.