Exploring the art of moving pictures

Cinema is a visual language that tells stories in moving images. Pictures put in motion have a completely different effect than when they are static. Cinematic Art is a merging of many disciplines and crafts to create a powerful emotional experience.

What is Cinematic Art?

Bruce Block

Sergei Eisenstein Endowed Chair in Cinematic Design

USC School of Cinematic Arts

Artists struggled with Cinematic Art long before the first camera was invented. The elements of movement and time are challenging to convey in a still image, but some of the earliest efforts can be seen in the cave paintings at Altamira which depict animals with multiple legs: The artist was attempting to illustrate running movement.

Battleship Potemkin


By the late 19th century, the movie camera allowed picture makers to use real movement and time. The earliest published pioneers of Cinematic Art were a group of Russian filmmakers, the most famous being Sergei Eisenstein. These early filmmakers believed that the new cinematic element was “montage” or what we call today: editing. Montage meant that for the first time, a picture maker had control over the length of time a viewer looked at an image, the actual movement of the image and the ability to edit different shots together.

The Kuleshov Effect
(c. 1910s)

Editing the arrangement of images onscreen proved to be an invaluable tool in controlling the entire visual experience, informing the mood and manipulating an audience’s interpretation. In a famous experiment by another Russian filmmaker, Lev Kuleshov, he alternated identical close-ups of a man’s expressionless face with three other, completely unrelated shots: a bowl of soup, a child in a coffin and an attractive woman on a couch. The close-up of the man was always identical in its impassivity, but the audience interpreted his expression as different each time. Depending on what he was “looking at,” they perceived the feeling of hunger for the soup, grief for the child in the coffin, and desire for the woman on the couch. This discovery was a revolutionary milestone in Cinematic Art.

Another key aspect of Cinematic Art is the movement of the camera, which controls the audience’s point of view. The camera can move towards or away from the subject, rise up or down on it, pass by it moving left or right, or circle around it. Psychologically, each type of camera movement communicates something different to the audience. For example, as Alfred Hitchcock felt, moving the camera closer to a subject usually increases narrative intensity.

Cinematic Art is a powerful force in the world of Narrative Art, arming storytellers with ever-improving tools to bring their narratives to life. If a picture is worth a thousand words, surely a film is worth a million.

Indiana Jones™ and the Last Crusade


About the artwork

The Museum’s collection, launched with inspired objects from George Lucas’s personal holdings, is growing to encompass an unparalleled presentation of narrative art forms. Gifts from George Lucas, his family and trust will help the collection grow to show a breadth of narrative art forms, ranging from classic illustrations by Norman Rockwell to cutting-edge digital works of the 21st century, as well as a range of painting, children’s art, comic art and photography from many periods and cultures. Some of the featured artwork is not a part of the Lucas seed collection and is here to illustrate the role cinematic art plays in narrative art.

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art