When we ask if art could possibly be more beautiful than nature, our tendency is to at once deny it. Isn’t creation much more important and beautiful than anything man could make? I sustain that, in a sense, art can be more beautiful than nature. My argument? Well, let me tell you a parable…
Once there was a man who dedicated his whole life to designing and building race cars. For years he tried different models to improve his design and ended up producing the Ferrari. Now he had completed his very first model, a sleek and perfect masterpiece, his lifework. And when nothing else remained to be done, he called his neighbor’s eighteen year old son from across the street and hired him to paint the Ferrari a sharp fierce red. Now, which is more beautiful: the Ferrari before it was painted or after?
I think we have to admit that the painted Ferrari, assuming the kid does a good job, takes the prize. If we consider who has accomplished the most, done the best and most impressive work, it’s obvious that the man who built the Ferrari has achieved more and deserves much more credit.
In the same way, the artist uses nature for his work, and assuming he does his work well—an entirely different discussion—he adds beauty to that which already exists in nature, helping to perfect it and participating, in a sense, in the work of creation.
So the work of an artist takes on a very great dignity as “sub-creation”, to use Tolkien’s term. More on beauty in art and nature soon!