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Art is Life or Life is Art?

An existential thesis how life is meaningless without the beauty of art.

By Dana StewartPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 6 min read
Top Story - June 2023
Dall E

Life imitates art far more than art imitates life. The Decay of Lying ~Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) is widely regarded as believing the exact opposite of Mr. Wilde, that art imitates life. Aristotle, a born thinker, son of Nichomachus, the personal physician of King Amyntas of Macedon. In fact, in his ancient script Prior Analytics, Aristotle is credited for having the earliest study of formal logic. Aristotle went on to serve as an apprentice to Plato for twenty years before politics changed things. An invitation from King Philip II to tutor the King’s young son, Alexander (The Great) of Macedon started a new realm for Aristotle in the Macedonian Court. In the royal academy, Aristotle was teacher to not only Alexander but also two future kings, Ptolemy and Cassender.

Engraving of Aristotle teaching Alexander the Great, 1866, by Charles LaPlante

King Philip recognized the importance of culture and free thinking. Young Alexander, groomed to dominate with the power of his sword was intentionally paired with Aristotle's approach of knowledge and intelligence. In an uncivilized world, the powers that be recognized that knowledge is power. And that power is knowledge.

And there you have it, the crux of the debate, the philosopher teaches the warrior.

Alexander The Great, a Macedonian king, conquered most of his world. Built his empire with military genius, diplomacy and introduced Greek culture to Asia Minor, Egypt and beyond.

In the 1930's in a cave near the village of Pitsa, in the vicinity of Sicyon, an ancient Greek city, The Pitsa Panels or Pitsa Tablets were found. Four ancient pieces of art in total, two of these were fragmented. Two thin wooden boards or panels, covered with stucco, painted with mineral pigments told a story. Their bright colors were incredibly well preserved. Only eight colors (black, white, blue, red, green, yellow, purple and brown) were used, with no shading or gradation of any sort. It is believed the black contour outlines were drawn first and then filled in with colors.

These tablets represent the earliest surviving forms of art from the Archaic Greek period.

Pitsa Panel - Artist Unknown image from Wikipedia

In the BC or BCE system, the larger the date is, the further back in time the event. In this particular Pitsa tablet, you can tell the artist chose to tell the story of what appears to be an animal sacrifice. This art can be stylistically dated to circa 540–530 BC, i.e., to the late Archaic period of Greek art.

These tablets were created well before Aristotle lived. Clearly the artist is taking inspiration from daily life.

Life imitates art.

What influenced Aristotle to believe that art imitates life? If only we could ask him how he came to that conclusion.

Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954) used a folk art style to explore her identity in her many self portraits. She said "I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to and I paint whatever passes through my head without any consideration."

Frida Kahlo used a variety of mediums to explore her art, including painting and photography. She explored issues of identity, gender, class, and race in her work.

Frida Kahlo looked in the mirror for inspiration. Art imitates life.

What about works of art inspired from events centuries ago? Leonardo daVinci found inspiration from the written words of The Bible and created many masterpieces. Perhaps the most famous of these, a mural depicting the twelve apostles and Jesus Christ on what's referred to as Maundy Thursday.

Life imitates art.

The Last Supper - image from Wikipedia

Novelist Dan Brown found inspiration, intrigue and controversary from da Vinci's art and other historical events. He fictitiously tied these theories together in a plot that stoked a fever pitch and wrote a bestselling novel in 2003. The main argument of the book centered on the negative space in the center of painting, between Jesus and the disciple to the left. The novel conceded that the shape in the mural was a hidden message. If you haven't read the book, and love history and art, it's entertaining and really a masterpiece in itself.

Art imitates life.

Book Cover, photo from Wikipedia

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) pioneered dramatic art in the form of playwriting in Elizabethan London. The Bard's works stand the test of time and are arguably the greatest gift to the world of literature. Playgoing was part of the city's daily life and all levels of society shared the experiences of the theatre. Art for all!

A character in Shakespeare's Hamlet inspired John Everett Millais (1829 - 1896) to paint Ophelia, singing in a river before she drowns. When this painting was first exhibited, it caused quite the commotion. It is now regarded as one of the most important art pieces from the mid nineteenth century.

Ophelia, John Everett Millais, image from Wikipedia

Perhaps art imitates art? In the best way possible. An artist creates something, whether it be a play or a novel. Another artist has an emotional connection and feeds off of the inspiration and creates more art. A self-defining, soul pledging masterpiece. Creators do that very thing. Some art is organic, some is not. Sometimes art can predict the future. Often, as with Millais' Ophelia, it takes a couple centuries to be properly appreciated for what it is, an expression of a feeling.

The seven fine art categories are divided as follows:






Performing (dance)


As a creator of art you find inspiration in the strangest of places. Nature can yield uncompromising prose about the balance of life. A perfectly timed photograph of a dandelion shedding its pappi can be awe inspiring. Sculpture provides a medium for man made form. The house beat of an underground night club can make you move your body. Can you name anyone who hasn't admired the Flat Iron building in New York? Paintings can magnify the dangers of an ancient battle. The artist Edward Hopper said 'If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.'

The beauty of art is that by losing yourself in it, you can find yourself. Your identity. Breathe in the beauty of a museum's treasures. Listen to the composers of the Vienna State Opera or the rapper Emimen. I promise, both have a message.

Whether art imitates life or life imitates art, I can't say for sure which is correct. I do believe that art is art, and unharnessing that energy is satisfactory and funnels future inspiration. And that's what art is. It's a force of nature, about nature, created by imperfect humans. Beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. Art creates a feeling, a memory, a decipher of meaning and intent. Whether we express ourselves or immerse ourselves in art, the translation art embodies is specific and personal for each of us.

Life without art would be meaningless. Art is life, life is art. Through art creatives explore their ideas, unleash their imagination. Art is emotion. Art is experience and art is fantasy. Art communicates to the masses. Art stimulates the senses, provokes thought, and allows experiences of an alternate perspective.

Without art, the world would offer no way to transcend the ordinary. Art preserves history and traditions.

Art tells a story.

Art challenges society and unites us.

Oscar Wilde further wrote that 'the self conscious aim of life is to find expression.'

I couldn't agree more.

InspirationGeneralFine Art

About the Creator

Dana Stewart

Soup lover proudly owned by fluffy little lap dogs. Likes: sunsets, chocolate, witty replies, and good hair days. Dislikes: Mean people and flan. Hit that subscribe button.

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Comments (23)

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  • Raymond G. Taylor2 months ago

    Great article. I have included a review in my latest "Art for our sake" and hope this is okay. Thanks for sharing

  • Art is essential in my life. I enjoyed this. My favorite parts were, "I do believe that art is art, and unharnessing that energy is satisfactory..." and your discussion of Dan Brown. I pre-purchased DA VINCI CODE and read it twice after publication. Thank you for bringing back great memories. 💜👏💜

  • This was a great article. I learned so much! The Dan Brown books two of my favorites

  • Harmony Kent4 months ago

    I love all your many examples and the wonderful way you’ve woven them all together to tell their own story. This piece on art and life is a work of art itself, Dana. Bravo! So inspiring 💕🙂

  • L.C. Schäfer4 months ago

    Reading this, I felt like I was walking a beautiful labyrinth. Wending backwards and forwards and finding so much of value on the way.

  • I had been meaning to get around to this. Fantastic! I love the history lesson that came along with this, I did not know most of this. But your examples you give are great, and I love that you leave it open-ended. I don't know which way I lean, but I agree with your words "life without art would be meaningless." Well done!

  • Lamar Wiggins4 months ago

    That was profound and amazing stuff, Dana! It’s nice to see another side of you come out with the start of a new community. It shows your versatility as a writer. This is the type of article that deserves to go places beyond vocal! Congrats!

  • C. H. Richard4 months ago

    So much good stuff in this piece. I really enjoyed it. Life imitate Art or the other way around too 😊 Congratulations on Top story too. ❤️

  • Gal Mux4 months ago

    I really wish there was an option to highlight on Vocal so that I could pinpoint each line that pierced through deep. I think that life itself is art. A story gets written everyday when we wake up.

  • Gina C.4 months ago

    Oh, this is fantastic, Dana! I admire your research here, which has been blended together seamlessly with your insight and intellect! Truly fascinating concept to me. “Art is life and life is art”… the poet in me is radiating right now 😍😍😍 Congrats on a super well-deserved Top Story!!

  • Dana Crandell4 months ago

    Wow, Dana! You covered the whole spectrum and did so beautifully! A riveting read and it covers, art, history, philosophy and so much more! I doff my hat to your literary prowess!

  • Caroline Jane4 months ago

    Boom! Superb! 👏👏👏 I soaked in every single morsel of this. Brilliantly penned and wonderfully researched. Well done!

  • Babs Iverson4 months ago

    Magnificent and masterfully written!!! Love this!!!♥️♥️💕 Daba, Congratulations onT S too!!!🥰

  • Tiffany Gordon 4 months ago

    Congrats on your TOP STORY!🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Heather Hubler4 months ago

    I loved this piece!! I enjoyed your thoughts and the way you highlighted others in this back and forth thing that kept me engaged. And I loved The Da Vinci Code. Wonderful work on this, congratulations on Top Story :)

  • Melissa Ingoldsby4 months ago

    Excellent sociological introspective about why humans need art! Well done 🥰and a well deserved top story 💕congratulations 🎊

  • Congratulations on your Top Story, well deserved

  • Tiffany Gordon 4 months ago

    Brilliant analysis Dana! Very inspiring and exceptionally thought-provoking work! Well done!

  • This article was very thought provoking! I'm not a huge art fan but this was so fascinating. But like you say, I couldn’t agree more; art is life and life is art. I truly enjoyed reading this!

  • Novel Allen4 months ago

    Both statements are true as far as I am concerned. The arguments of learned people of long ago are so fascinating. The Da Vinci Code is on of the best books I have ever read. Life entangles art and art brings life to our senses.

  • Brin J.4 months ago

    So much history lies in art. Therefore, art is life itself, frozen in time. I loved this Dana🥹. Great piece.

  • Kendall Defoe 4 months ago

    Life is art; art is life. The twain rarely meet...and we can just stand in the middle. Well said and well written!

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