Does Art really matter?

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What is Art anyway that it should matter? I’m speaking of Art with a capital “A”, not the small “a” art that is done for fun or by one that has not achieved some degree of mastery. If Art can’t be identified, how can we possibly know if it matters? It’s kind of like Truth; how can we recognize what is true if we have no standard of truth?  (Click images to enlarge)

Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652) – “Clubfooted Boy” – 64.5″ x 36″ – Oil  (1642)


For some, defining Art gives rise to an endless, unresolved debate that usually culminates with a raised eyebrow, a puzzled expression, a shrug of the shoulders, and a flick of the wrists with upturned palms, all the while exclaiming, “It’s in the eye of the beholder, I’ll know it when I see it!” If that’s sufficient for accepting something as Art then really just about everything qualifies…every acting , musical and dance performance, every poem, and every sculpture and painting, regardless of their quality… because they’ll be loved by some beholder. We see it everyday.

Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945) – “Self Portrait” – Oil (1909)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) – “The Waiting Room” – 27.75″ x 22.75″ – Oil


Not all is lost however. Here are a few thoughtful definitions worth considering:


“Art is the sincere and artfully refined expression of an idea, thought, emotion, or narration that attempts to effectively reach an audience.” –  David Gray



Jan Steen (1626-1679) – “Wine is a Mocker” – (34.25″ x 41.25″ – Oil

Leon-Augustin L’hermitte (1844-1925) – “Paying the Harvesters” – 84.75″ x 106.75″ – Oil  (1892)


Art is the story of man and his relationship with what is both visible and invisible. It’s an act of creation. It’s inspirational, emotional, educational, technical, and spiritual. It’s a gift of God that no other creature possesses. It enables us to communicate with our fellow man in ways words alone cannot. It’s the production or expression of that which is beautiful, appealing, and of more than ordinary significance. It is skillful and imaginative creations that encompass visual, auditory, or performance activities interpreting the human experience and producing an aesthetic response.


“Art is an expression of beauty and truth communicated through skillful and thoughtful mastery of the artist’s chosen medium.” – Denise Mahlke



Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904) – “The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer” – 34.5″ x 59″ – Oil  (1883)

Gari Melchers – (1860-1932) – “The Sermon” – 62″ x 86″ – Oil  (1886)


It should be pretty obvious that Art matters simply  by observing what an enemy does when they want to overtake a country or culture. Art is one of the first things destroyed, and with it, the country’s history…and eventually, the memory of that history. Our country, even now, is experiencing that on a small scale. Destroy all the art of our Western Civilization and we will quickly realize just how important that Art is; it’s our identity, it shows the world who we are, where we’ve been, where we are, and what we believe.

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissenier (1815-1891) – “The Poet” – Oil

Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828) – “Ben Franklin” – Marble  (1778)



Do I believe Art matters? Indeed I do. Here are a few reasons why. I invite you to add to this list if I’ve overlooked something.

1 – Great Art elicits powerful sentiments and tells meaningful stories.

2 – Communicates on a level that removes all social, cultural, economic, and religious barriers.

3 – Educates and informs.

4 – Inspires one to action.

5 – Promotes cultural appreciation and understanding.

6 – Stirs the imagination.

7 – Promotes both physical and spiritual beauty.

8  – Promotes an atmosphere of reflection and higher order of thinking.

9 –  Communicates in a way all humans can understand.

10 – Has the power to access and bring to the surface every human emotion and spiritual need.

11 –  Promotes thinking. Causes us to reflect, remember, and learn.

12 – Exalts and honors our Creator in that He has given to man such talent and an amazing gift to create.

Abram Efimovich Arkhipov (1862-1930) – “The Laundresses” – 40.41″ x 27.29″ – Oil  (1899)


In our fallen world, unfortunately we must also deal with the negative power of art. It also has the ability to tear down, lie, dishonor, deceive, promote the ugly and impure, and to blaspheme the very One that gave us the gift to create.

In Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wrote: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there be any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” I like that. Not a bad test for ART.


Next week: An interview with Romona Youngquist

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I’m going to be online live with Eric Rhoads of Streamline Publishing on Wednesday, August 26, at 12 PM ET. You can tune in to the live stream on Facebook and YouTube. I will be discussing the ins and outs of my plein air studies. Hope you’ll join us. You may submit questions and I will answer them on air.



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