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Art To Bring Us Closer To The Truth Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1616 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“Art is a lie which brings us closer to the truth”- Pablo Picasso

Ever since I can remember I have always loved art in one way or another. I remember, on numerous occasions, sitting my father down at the kitchen table and begging him to draw me a ‘family of horses,’ this consisted of mum and dad and babies running along behind trying to catch up. For a long time I practically worshipped these pictures and let the horses run free in my imagination making them go on big adventures with one another. As I got older the pictures stayed with me, but I grew out of the way they looked. They no longer burst out of the page and came to life; they just did not look like real horses anymore. Life had disappeared from them.

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I suppose I fell into the trap in which many people fall into. This trap could be called ignorance. Many people believe that ‘skill’ is the most important feature in a piece of art. They think that paintings or drawings that ‘look-real’ must be the best because they have required the most attention from the artist. Some people say that these pieces “are the true meaning of art.” Of course this is something to admire about a piece of work, but does this mean that paintings or drawings with fewer detail are less good? Who is to say that these detailed pictures are the truth? – Who is to say what the truth is?

In order to put this theory into practice I have taken two pieces of art work. Albrecht Durer’s Crab made in 1495 and Rembrandt van Rijn’s Two Studies of a Bird of Paradise.

It is obvious how much detail and time Durer’s watercolour of the Crab has taken but who was to say that the birds are less good and required less skill? Rembrandt’s Birds do an incredible job of portraying the texture and character of the Birds with merely a few simple lines. He grasps their curiousness and profound features of their faces along with the softness and majestic element of their bodies. The piece may not look as realistic but it portrays the birds’ characteristics much better, something which could be seen as portraying the true nature of the birds as opposed to a “real life” drawing.

Another example of this are the Disney characters. “Mickey Mouse looks nothing like a real mouse but the artist, Walt Disney, knew it would be better to distort or change the way the real thing looked.” This could have been to make him seem more like a mouse because of his added characteristics and more pleasurable to watch for a younger audience. By making him less “mousy” he has made him even more “mouse-like.” Even though Mickey’s appearance is unlike a real mouse at all, ‘a distortion of the truth’, you do not see people complaining about it. This is because when watching a film or studying this particular art, people are not worried about art as a “work” or “piece”, only a source of entertainment or pleasure. This could also be because Walt Disney is a respected and admired man who is seen as a classical artist whose work has been carried on for generations.

Yet, if a modern artist were to draw something in his own personal way, just like Walt Disney once did, he would most likely be frowned upon and thought untalented. This leads us onto another piece.

Pablo Picasso’s work of a “hen and her chicks” is an interpretation of a mother’s caring nature towards her children. They way her body is bent towards them and her soft gaze shows that she is focused entirely on her chicks and their wellbeing. It really is a work that many people would find hard to criticise. However, when Picasso created his piece “Cockerel” he was not satisfied with giving a life-like aspect to the picture as he had done with the ‘hen and her chicks’ piece. Instead, he wanted to grasp the bird’s belligerent and foolish nature.

Picasso has taken a cockerel and changed it into something even more “chickeny” than the real thing. All of the cockerel’s characteristics are portrayed in the piece so that the onlooker can almost see, touch, hear and feel what the bird would be like in real life. This is where the statement “Art is a lie which brings us closer to truth” comes into account. The piece “Cockerel” is a lie because of its distortion of nature, it looks nothing like what a real cockerel looks like. However, it brings us closer to truth, closer to what a real cockerel behaves and acts like by its exaggerated features and comedic charms. In this work we can almost hear exactly what the bird would sound like, when interpreting the piece; one would suggest his voice would be loud, frantic and desperate. This is due to his bulging eyes, elongated neck, his mouth opened to a massive size and his small sharp tongue sticking out. The bird’s franticness and clumsiness is suggested from his outstretched wings and bowlegged feet. His toes suggest a thought of scratching around and quick movement showing that he is all over the place. From Picasso portraying the cockerel to be like this, we can see the cockerel to be more like a real cockerel than if Picasso just drew one from life.

“We humans have a habit suggesting that nature must always look like what is considered, by us, to be ‘normal’ in paintings.” It must always look like what we are ‘used’ to in our everyday life; we are almost forced from a very young age only to accept plain and predictable shapes and colours as the correct ones. An example of this is how we draw when we are younger. We are led to believe that a tree has one large straight trunk and a round bushy ball of leaves stuck on the top. We all know that no real tree looks like this, but if it were drawn any different, it would be thought unusual. Another example is how children perceive stars. Stars are not ‘star-shaped’ at all as believed but every child will draw a star like this. This is also when “art is a lie which brings us closer to the truth” comes into account as well. Even though a star is not shaped like this, it still gives a clear outline that the small star gives off light; the stars ‘hands’ acting like rays of light being given off. Although this “exaggeration” is not necessarily a bad thing, it would be better if everyone disconnected themselves from this trap and we look at things afresh, without interference.

In fact, many artists are able to disconnect themselves from this and look at the world and the natural surroundings as if they have never seen them before. This means that they would be seeing everything for the first time. Who is to say that the sky is blue and clouds are white? In fact, we would probably find things in the most astonishing colours and forms. If every person was to think like this and every artist was not persuaded or affected by society, art would never be considered a lie. For me, a lie can be different for each individual person, we as humans have created lies. A lie is seen as something which is not the truth, not normal. Therefore, a piece of art which does not portray the normality of the world is therefore considered a lie. Yet, if there was no such thing as normality, there would never be such thing as a lie. Then we come back to the question; who is to say what the truth is, and what a lie is? I suppose the answer to this question is everyone. We all have different opinions on what is the truth and what is not, but if we all look at things outside of the box and with open eyes, surely we will be able to accept completely different things to what we are used to, to be normal.

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To conclude, I believe that ‘skill’ is not the most important aspect in a painting or drawing. If an artist portrays what he or she wants to portray, it cannot be considered a ‘lie’. Furthermore, a lie is something which changes according to each individual. Some may believe something to be the truth, while others may believe it is not. No one really knows for sure what is the ‘correct’ way of drawing or painting a certain object or form. And if they insist that they do and state that people draw it ‘wrongly’ because it is not like that in ‘normality,’ it just means that they have been persuaded by society and the people around them, as well as the banality of our own sense perception. An example of this is how children draw hearts in ‘heart-shaped’ form. Hearts are not really shaped like this at all, but it is how everyone knows a heart to be drawn and is not considered a ‘lie’, yet it brings us closer to the truth by showing us that a heart has two sides; a left and a right side. This leads to biological explanation of what each side does, the right side pumps blood to the lungs to be oxygenised and the left side pumps the oxygenated blood all around the body. The fact that the “heart shape” shows a left and right side would not be evident if it was just drawn as an oval-like shape. This is how art ‘can bring us closer to the truth’ even if it is ‘a lie’.


“Art is a lie which brings us nearer to the truth (Pablo Picasso). Evaluate this claim in relation to a specific art form (for example visual arts, literature, theatre).

Alice Elphinstone

Centre number: 002351

Candidate Number: 026

Word Count: 1668


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