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Narratology of fine art

1 min read

Later [portraits] were painted for posterity, offering the evidence of the once living to future generations. Whilst still being painted, they were imagined in the past tense, and the painter, painting, addressed his sitter in the third person -- either singular or plural. He, She, They, as I observed them. This is why so many of them look old, even when they are not.

-- John Berger, from Portraits, 2015

(Compare with advertising, which is a present- or future-tense narrative form; "this is why so many of them look new, even when they are not".)