Ancient stone friezes
Telling tales of war and conquests
In 17th century woodcuts were used to illustrate cheap publications called broadsides and later chapbooks or rags (named after the recycled fabric they were made from). These focused on murders, robberies and executions and provided grizzly depictions of victims and consequences.
By the nineteenth century news reporting had widened its scope and, with it, the breadth of material illustrated. As the market for newspapers increased the quality of the illustrations improved with the use of more expensive wood engravings and etchings. It took a while for photography to become integrated into newspaper publishing as a form of journalism, mainly because of the technical issues of printing photographs.
In Fine Art painters at the end of the nineteenth century painted social topics:
Degas Absinthe Drinkers
Sickert Camden Town Murders
Reportage illustration remained a mainstay of newspaper publishing well into the twentieth century.
German Expressionists: Otto Dix etc
Contemporary Reportage illustration
Still exists as a way of providing a viewpoint on hard to document events, from courtrooms where cameras are banned, to personal experiences such as travel that are difficult to sum up in one image. And to convey mood of a piece.
Jake and Dinos Chapman: reinterpretation and reworking of Goya and other contentious issues.