Their ambition is to convey a lived experience of the human body, more broadly, a sense that the body is the first ego, as Freud said, giving it a certain mythical importance, making it the most privileged of all objects, and with that to re-humanize art.
Today, we approach our recent past, especially in this age in which civil rights appear to be in retreat, from myriad vantage points: jaundiced and jaded; vivid if veiled; empathetic or ashamed; sad yet mad; in agony or in peace.
The rest is mere spectacle, almost always pre-packaged, its only salutary attribute being the way that it compels us to perpetually re-consider the relationships between truth and loyalty in a world governed by manipulative deceptions.
Traditional history painting’s stories demonstrated the best in human endeavorsaccording to the bias of their Eurocentric patriarchal culture.
Yes, figurative, representational, realistic painting has made a comeback in the past thirty years or so.
History painting had a bumpy ride in the 20th century. It was discredited by its association with the old regimes as the new press cast its lot in with the rising republican governments. It was also at odds with the industrial class that wished to transform our physical environment into an automobile-driven concrete Eden.
I believe there are still several inimitable obstacles that loom in the way of seeing a large-scale revival of actual history painting.