The ability to make and appreciate art is one of the distinguishing features of humanity, as Dante wrote in his "Inferno," "Art is the grandchild of God." Yet, to the practically minded, art may seem useless because it seems to do nothing useful for the functioning of life and society. Artists vehemently disagree. The vital importance of art to humanity is readily seen by examining its aims.
Artists are born with a need to express themselves. The itch of images, ideas and emotions inside them can be scratched only through artistic expression, making the artistic process profoundly personal for the artist, sometimes spiritual. As modern artist Hans Hofmann wrote, "The artist intensifies his concepts, condenses his experience into a spiritual reality complete in itself and thus creates a new reality in terms of the medium. Thus is the work of art a world in itself but reflecting the sensorial and emotional world for the artist."
By creating art, the artist hopes to make the viewer experience the world as she does. Art's ability to communicate emotion is simultaneously what makes it so effective for expressing religious feeling as well as spreading political propaganda and advertising. Political cartoons and impressionist paintings both work because images are so effective at projecting subjectivity outward. Agree with it or not, images enter the eye to leave their permanent stamp on the mind.
Aesthetics and Happiness
Good art has an emotional impact on the space it occupies, giving it a sense of atmosphere and mood. Public art aims to make public spaces more lively; paintings of flowers hanging on walls serve to make rooms more inviting and less drab. It could be argued, therefore, that a further aim of art is happiness -- that of the viewer and of the producer. As artist William Morris wrote in 1888, "[T]he Aim of Art is to increase the happiness of men, by giving them beauty ... genuine art is an unmixed blessing to ... man."
Storytelling and Medium
The earliest known art was cave drawings depicting hunts, and the first stories children "read" are told in pictures; both attest to the fundamental role of art in storytelling. Hofmann wrote that successful art must also embody the inner essence of its medium: "... the artist has to ask what is the expression most proper to the medium ... then manipulate it to their personal ends." An artist's challenge is to bring his medium to its highest potential through his talent and vision.
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images