Art and Truth

Truth is one of those concepts that is so simple, complex, and profound at the same time.

It seems there is always some debate over what is true, as well as the nature of truth itself. I think Truth (capital “T”) is some kind of entitity closely related to God. In fact, Jesus calls himself “the way, the truth, and the life” in John 14:6.

I think where a lot of us get stuck and disappointed is we have this idea that if something is true, it is also beautiful.

There’s merit to that. John Keats in his poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” declared that truth and beauty are one and the same:

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
There’s a big part of us that wants truth to be beautiful, pretty, and uplifting.

The sad reality is that life is not always so.


“Art is a lie that makes us realize truth …” — Pablo Picasso, 1881–1973
I think what Picasso was getting at is that art is an edited version of what we see, feel, hear, taste, smell, or otherwise experience. Empiricism can only tell us so much, because our human condition colors so much of what we experience.

And if beauty and truth are the same thing, why are the realities of war and the world we live in so horrifying?

It’s like the scene in My Name is Asher Lev, where Asher’s father asks him why he doesn’t paint pretty things:

It’s not a pretty world, Papa.’

‘I’ve noticed,’ my father said softly.

And it isn’t.

There will always be horrors. There will always be war, sickness, pain, poverty, extortion, death.

But there will always be beauty: redemption, love, grace, hope.

Life is beautiful

“La Vita È Bella” (Life is Beautiful) is about a family torn apart by the Holocaust in fascist Italy. There are some funny scenes, some touching scenes, scenes of heart-wrenching beauty, and scenes of heart-wrenching horror.

The most beautiful part of the story is the father’s love for his son, and the sacrifice he made for his boy.

And that redemption — heartbreaking as it is — is beautiful.

I think the bottom line is this: the truth is beautiful. It just depends on which side of it you are on.

Photo Credit: Seattle.roamer via Compfight cc