Artists' perception of reality

Are paintings and drawings a gateway to how artists view the reality around them? What is the role of imagination in our reality? I look at artists who paint realistically, and where they change the “real” reality.

Adoration of the Magi in a Winter Landscape

1567, oil on panel by Pieter Brueghel the elder (c.1525–1569)

The Tarn

Painted in 1865 by Lars Hertervig (1830-1902)

Dante running from the Three Beasts 1824–7

William Blake (1757 – 1827) 

What strikes me in this beautiful painting are the colors and contrasts. Even though it’s a winter scene, the picture feels warm and happy, a snapshot of a good day somewhere in the world. The color of the sky in the background is repeated in the ice in the foreground, houses and walls have warm earth tones. The composition has triangles and rectangles, and people and trees make up lines and clusters that move the gaze in different directions. The dark surfaces are lit up by snowflakes.

In my opinion, this is a perfect painting, full of invisible life. Everything is alive, the light, the clouds, the trees. The water stretches outward into a quivering expanse and dissolves the ground of rocks, mounds and tufts of grass, and the sky with the wonderful clouds mingles with the earth below. I feel like I can see the spirits of nature taking shape, in a mystic’s vision.

“I feel that a man may be happy in this world. And I know that this world is a world of imagination and vision. I see every thing I paint in this world, but everybody does not see alike. (…) The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. (…) But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. As a man is, so he sees. (…) To me, this world is all one continued vision of fancy or imagination …”

William Blake