Art is essential to the human spirit and an integral aspect of the fabric of society for many reasons. Famous artworks have become household names and inspire several reproductions worldwide. Some of these reproductions are not limited to paint and canvas, but rather a dedicated group of people have taken it upon themselves to dress up as some of the most iconic works of art in all of history. Institutions like the Getty Museum and the Rijksmuseum have encouraged people to dress up as paintings by Vermeer, Jan van Eyck, Frida Kahlo. Famous artworks have also been used in films by famed directors like Peter Greenaway, and subjects have been famously portrayed by Hollywood stars like Scarlett Johansson. Artworks have been the centre of novels like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.
The Beauty of Art
It doesn’t take a book on the subject to tell you why a certain artwork is beautiful. You know what you like and what you don’t like, and there is a lot of art you will find beautiful and a lot of art you’ll dislike. The most famous artworks around the world are enjoyed for their beauty, like The Mona Lisa (1503-06) and Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665). Then there are the landscapes that don’t exactly depict reality but a heightened reality, like Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889). You could be living deep in the city, surrounded by concrete walls and skyscrapers, and still enjoy the beauty of a natural landscape, a pastoral, or a seascape like Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633).
Art Makes You Feel Something
Not in the same way that a good-looking burger will make you feel something. Art will make you feel something substantial. If it’s good art, it will have you engaged, in good or bad ways. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937) was inspired by the bombing of the Basque town Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. While it may inspire sympathy, like Picasso’s painting, art is capable of inspiring wrath, as one man felt when he slashed Ilya Repin’s Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan (1885). Next time you enter a museum, proceed with caution.
Art Transports You to Other Cultures
Inside most museums around the world, they will have a national collection and an international collection. Both of these collections will let you peek into cultures long past and geographically different. Art usually lasts longer than the people who painted it and the subject depicted. Visual art, like paintings, drawings, and sculpture, don’t need language to understand and enjoy the work. It doesn’t require you to understand the royal court system or to speak Spanish to understand that the young girl in the white dress in Diego Velazquez’s Las Meninas (1656) is an important person in the painting as she is centred with a group of people doting on her. It’s also capable of transporting you to a delightful lunch in nineteenth-century France, as Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) achieves with its delightful lunch scene. You may have to bring your own lunch though.
Great Art Inspires Creativity
Good art can inspire a burst of creativity. There are a number of artworks that have inspired Vincent van Gogh to appropriate. This is partly because he admired the work, but also due to a lack of models and subjects during the colder seasons. The famous artworks he copied were completed by master artists like Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Dore, Rembrandt, and Francois Millet, to name a few. Even the genius Pablo Picasso looked up to the masters who came before him, and it is Velazquez’s Las Meninas that inspired Picasso to create a whole series after it.
Art is Poetic Reality
Sometimes there's great art is created, sometimes it misses the mark. It’s the great art that helps us to escape the mundane and we’re transported to another time. This is also the type of art that gets elevated to the status of famous. Through poetic reality, art can help us understand ourselves. In Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, he creates the mood and atmosphere of a diner in the United States with such skill that it transports us to the time and place that the work is set. On a brighter note, if you’re looking for a picnic scene instead of a gloomy diner scene, there is the pleasant beauty of Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-86).