Figural painter Sam Dargan depicts history and society with a bleak and mirthless sense of humor. Dargan’s self-described subject is the misery of “middle management grunts, battered priests, hollowed-out delinquents,” but he explains that he is not critical of the figures so much as the systems of which they are part. His works frequently feature specific historical narratives, sourced from newspapers and history books; past subjects have included the Russian Revolution and the war in Iraq. Dargan, who studied at the Royal College of Art in London, paints with a precise and graphic style that has been described by critics as almost cartoon-like. He is inspired by painting traditions at the turn of the century, and of Russian realist landscape painters like Ivan Shishkin and Arkhip Kuindzhi, but remains fervently skeptical of Romanticism.