Who knows where art comes from? For some it is a hobby, a pleasant moment to spend. That is why artists, who can spend most of their days in what seems to them a blessed state, indulging in what can be considered leisure, are often envied. Others link art to the world of the child, still a blessed state, a world without much responsibility and without real work. If the reflection is pushed further, one may say that art seems to take care of an ideal world, in which man and the material world are idealized, brought to more beauty and perfection. There is truth in each of these reflections and yet none touches the essence of what true art means, what the real purpose of art is and why it was created.
The modern philosopher will say that it is not possible to know where art comes from and why it exists in the world. For him, the existence of art is a simple fact, supplied with meaning by man himself. Yet, why does art seem to have lost its meaning, its mission? Of course, it all depends on the meaning or the mission one would like to give to it, but beyond that, no one can deny that art seems to have lost something in the modern world: its aesthetic sense. For 100 or 150 years, art has gradually developed into the direction of originality rather than into the sense of beauty. Of the majority of present day creations one can say that they are original, but the word ‘beautiful’ will rarely come to us. Why? Because the purpose of the artist is no longer to get closer to a world, a reality, surpassing human reality and of which the ancient Greeks spoke in terms of a world where ‘Ideas’ circulate. For Plato, these Ideas were linked to a universal structure, Divine, seeking to materialize in physical reality.
But how do we know if it’s a Divine Idea that materializes in front of us or something else? For the ancient Greeks, it was Beauty that served as a measure, it was the principle of Beauty that allowed to weigh and to measure the intrinsic value of objects and creatures and for them, this principle was alive, real. A philosophical idea was translated into concrete life, reality, and the ancient Greeks intuitively felt whether what was in front of them approached this original principle of Beauty or not.
At the beginning of the height of Greek civilization, this principle was not yet bound to a form or an outward appearance, as it did later. Originally, in ancient Greece, Beauty was a principle of internal order, a moral value, which might later develop into form. But the outward manifestation was not required. The essential thing was to find and live this principle internally; then, this original Idea, this Beauty, could express itself with more or less perfection in form, visible. Later, the external, physical perfection has taken over the greatness or inner moral value preceding it, and this has led to the decline of Greek culture.
We already said that in the modern world the principle of Beauty seems to have been abandoned for a century and a half. But what does that mean for us and how can we recover this principle in the future?