Moving beyond being just entertainment or a way to express ourselves, art holds wisdom and teaches us important lessons about life. Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, had some interesting ideas about how art affects us.
Plato’s Perspective on Art
Plato had mixed feelings about art. He believed it shouldn’t only copy reality, but show us new things too. He talked about something he called the “Form of the Good.” This was like a higher level of reality beyond our world. According to him, this Form was the most important thing, and it also represented beauty, goodness, and truth.
Plato thought that deep down, we all want to understand and appreciate this Form of the Good. But, we often get distracted by the things we see and want in the physical world. We chase after things that might look nice for a little while, but they don’t really satisfy us in the long run. This can cause us to forget who we really are and what we’re meant to do, leading us away from living a meaningful life.
Art as a Path to Enlightenment
Because of this, Plato liked art that reminded us about what’s truly important and what we could become. He admired art that showed qualities we need for our well-being, like balance, calmness, strength, and wisdom. He saw art as a way to educate our minds and spirits, making us care about the “Form of the Good,” and motivating us to seek it.
One of Plato’s sayings sums up his thoughts about beauty and art: “We find things beautiful when we sense qualities we lack in our lives, even if we don’t realize it.“ This indicates that beauty isn’t solely related to appearances; it can also reveal significant aspects of who we are and our experiences. This shows that art can help us uncover and use the good things we already have inside us.
Art’s Transformative Power
For instance, take an individual unacquainted with romantic love. Confronted by Gustav Klimt’s iconic work “The Kiss” from 1907 – an exquisite portrayal of intimacy and affection – a transformative experience unfolds. Through an interpretive lens, the observer absorbs the emotions emanating from the artwork, thereby evoking a profound sense of intimacy and love.
Similarly, someone grappling with inner turmoil and ambiguity might encounter Vincent van Gogh‘s masterpiece “Starry Night.” This celebrated painting captures the tumultuous beauty of a star-studded night sky. Engaging with the artwork’s swirling brushwork and vibrant palette, the viewer may find solace and a semblance of order amidst the chaos – a reflection of the potential for tranquility amid life’s tempests.
Another scenario involves an individual yearning for exploration and adventure. Confronted by Albert Bierstadt’s expansive landscape creations, such as “Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California” from 1868, they are transported to grand vistas and untamed wilderness.
These artworks forge a visceral connection to nature’s splendor, reigniting the viewer’s imagination and kindling a sense of awe for the world surrounding them. Plato’s insights offer a deep and thought-provoking way to understand why art matters and how it can make our lives better. The next time you come across something beautiful, take a moment to think about what it might be telling you. It could hold a valuable lesson about who you are and what life means to you.