Thursday, January 21, 2016

The 10 Best Quotes About Art from Kuyper’s Wisdom & Wonder

Wisdom & Wonder by Abraham Kuyper is a fascinating book about how science and art fit into a Christian worldview. The half of the book that focuses on art is my favorite part. It is worth reading for anyone interested in art, whether in general, or in specific art forms such as painting, film, music, and literature. I especially recommend it to everyone who wants to create art.

Although I don’t necessarily agree with everything Wisdom & Wonder says, or with everything in the following quotes, Kuyper’s ideas about art are certainly thought-provoking. Because the book contains so many great quotes, it was difficult to pick only ten. I eventually narrowed the list down to these. The quotes are in the order they appear in the book.

1. “The motive of art comes to us not from what exists, but from the notion that there is something higher, something nobler, something richer, and that what exists corresponds only partially to all of this.”

2. “Naturally, if, as spiritualism claims, no observable world will exist in eternity, then indeed art belongs to the lower matters. If, contrary to this, you confess with Scripture and on the basis of Scripture that there will be a new Jerusalem, located on a new earth, under a new heaven, then art is a preliminary scintillation already in this earthly life of what is coming.”

3. “God creates history, while people create an epic or a drama, drawn either from God’s history or from unreality and pure fiction. Thus, in all art we find an imitation of the creating ability of God. His universe is replicated in our palaces and cathedrals; his organic creation is imitated in our sculpturing; his landscapes of life in nature and among people are portrayed in our artistic painting on a canvas; what God created and sustains within the human heart sounds forth in our music; and what God created through his word finds expression in our poetry.”

4. “Even as we can certainly make a music box, wind it up, and let it play, we are also impotent when it comes to creating one tiny nightingale or one meadow lark. Similarly, in the entire field of art we can get as far as imitating God’s creations without ever getting beyond the imitating. God alone remains the Original, the only Real Creator, for he alone is the powerful and wise Artist.”

5. “God himself inspires those who have breathtaking genius in the field of art. He makes them to see a beauty and to experience in their spirit something far beyond what the world can offer, something that, once it moves from their imagination to outward expression, enriches the world, delights those initiated into its meaning, and contributes to our human living something we never would have enjoyed were it not for this artistic capacity.”

6. “There is a multitude that has broken with everything lofty and that cares no longer for either religion or art. There is another multitude that has completely abandoned religion and now seeks the ideal in art, but does not seek art’s ideal in the lofty and dignified, but in the stimulating, the sensual, and the pleasurable, which calls for satisfaction from below. The priest of art must stand free, lofty, and independent over against all of that. His is not the calling to feed this confused appetite, but to lead it back to the pathway of genuine beauty.”

7. “No serious person will disagree that in its deformation and due to the sin of its practitioners, all too often art defies the moral ideal. One really need not be a Christian in order to acknowledge that fact.”

8. “Art cannot be excused from following God’s law, and art disgraces itself by seeking that freedom. Anything that cannot be put into an image or onto a canvas without demanding the sacrifice of modesty or injuring shame must simply be eschewed.”

9. “The relationship between our personal spiritual life and our artistic life is a matter of utmost importance.”

10. “The chief harm that art can cause, and does so repeatedly, is the wrong direction in which it subtly drives our spirit. The worship and idolizing of art is limited to a few fanatics, to a few art zealots. By contrast, the wrong attitude that art can arouse subtly affects the broad masses and causes destruction among the multitudes. This is to be explained by the fact that art is designed to be an instrument for making access for the Spirit of the Lord, for inspiring the holy and high ideal, and thereby for glorifying God the Creator in all art. Despite this intention, art can become alternately an instrument for crowning the spirit dwelling in the depths as master, and thereby turn its artistic products against the Spirit of God.”

Have you read Wisdom & Wonder? What are your favorite quotes about art?