Looking at Narrative Images
The White Horse
Narrative: Telling a Story
A narrative visual image tells us a story using figures within a particular settinginterior or exterior. Objects, within the images particular setting, allows the viewer to piece together a storyas if piecing together a puzzle. Any prior knowledge or background information helps you to complete the puzzle and allows for a more complete understanding of the visual narrative.
How does the artist tell a story?
Objectively describing the visual elements and physical activities within the picture frame will help you to begin your search
Some questions to ask
Analysis of Constable's 'The White Horse'
This horizontal landscape composition is divided into approximately two equidistant sections: earth and sky. The lower part of the composition is dominated by the quiet waterway that is dotted with shrubbery and trees that pierce into the sky above.
In the foregroundlower left hand cornera flat-bottomed canal boat carries a white tow horse. These shapes drift into the center of the composition. Two men, their backs to the viewer, work the barge poles and move the boat along. The river reflects the color and patterns of he clouds.
In the middle groundleft of centersits a white house with a red tiled roof and chimney. A thatched river structure nestles into the greenery opens on to the river. Several other houses, painted in earthy tones, sit partially hidden by the trees. Three cows, one of which is white, graze near the river.
After objectively describing the elements and composition of the painting, create a subjective interpretation of the image. From prior knowledge and experience, come to some conclusion about what the painting is saying to you.
A role reversal. The role of the tow horse is to pull the canal boat down the river, In this instance, the horse (with its back to the viewer) is the passive passenger, whilst the two men work to push the boat along.
The painting, as does the river, reads from left to right. Our eye is drawn initially to the white horse, up to the white house and then down to the white cow all balanced by the white clouds reflections in the water.
In the early 19th Century, the river and canals were the primary source of goods transportation in England. A system of canals linked major cities and ports allowing agricultural and manufactured goods to be shipped within and out of the country.
This pre-industrial image reflects the harmony of work and nature, as well as a constancy of life.