Prophetic artists: How deep a work of art can be?

In the 1969 documentary entitled BBC Civilization, Kenneth Clark used the following words  to describe one of the paintings by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling.

“This might seem to me the most convincing one might even say the most realistic of the rare attempts of finite man to set down infinite energy. As even the photographs of the formation of stellar nuclei show very much the same swirling movement.”

 

The painting in question is the one depicting the biblical verses where God separates light from darkness. It is quite complex when compared to the simple biblical verses, and the actual inspiration behind it remains unknown. But, as Kenneth Clark said, it does slightly resemble the pictures of a stellar nuclei, which as we know, lies at the root of our creation.

It might be a mere coincidence. But, if it is, then it certainly isn’t the only one. The world of art is full of them. And, curiously enough, in comparison to others these coincidences happen more frequently in the works of great artists.

 

Artists and some of their prophetic works

An artist is someone who has a gift of expression. This gift could be of any kind. It might be of painting, sculpture, music, writing  or (as it often happens) the person might be gifted in more than one respect . But, there are only a few mediums which allow the artist to express something that might contain a prophetic insight. Mediums like writing and painting are best suited for that purpose.

It isn’t hard to misinterpret something vague and call it prophetic. And there are plenty of works of art that suffer from such misinterpretations. But, at times we encounter a resemblance that is so striking that we cannot help noticing the similarity.

So, here’s a list of a few artists who are known to have created some genuinely prophetic works of art:

 

1. Jules Verne

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Jules Verne was a French writer who was born in 1828. He was one of the first and one of the few science fiction writers of the 19th Century.

He lived in a pre-modern  era where one couldn’t even dream about the modern day technological advances. And yet, in his works, he successfully predicted many of them.

His list of predictions include: electric submarines, news broadcast, video-conferencing, light propelled spacecrafts and lunar sails.

No science fiction writer has ever predicted as many inventions as he did. And some of his prophecies are still unfulfilled.

 

2. Pablo Picasso

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Of 20th century painting it is said that there were three types of painters back then:

  1. Painters who followed Pablo Picasso.
  2. Painters who were influenced by Pablo Picasso.
  3. And Pablo Picasso himself.

Each of his paintings was celebrated as a new revelation, and he created about 2000 paintings in his lifetime.

Picasso’s works are so complex and his time was in such a direct contact with his art that it’s absolutely impossible to determine it’s exact influence. But, there are a few instances that show us it’s extent.

One of them was concerning the use of camouflage in military.  It is said that when Picasso saw a camouflaged truck for the first time, he exclaimed to his friend:
“Yes, it is we who made it. That is cubism”

 

3. James Joyce

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James Joyce is regarded as one of the most influential and important writers of the 20th Century. He based all his works on real life and real people. But, unlike other artists, he himself proclaimed that his works are prophetic. And his claims weren’t baseless. Here are a few instances which justify them:

  • Once a man named Gray said that he disliked a story called ‘A Painful Case’ which was written by Joyce. The story was about the death of a lonely woman, and Gray said that he knew the woman of that story, and it wasn’t nice of Joyce to write about her. But, when he was asked about the time when that woman had died, then he said that she died in 1909. And Joyce on the other hand wrote that story in 1905.

 

  • Joyce was betrayed by his friend Vincent Cosgrave. He took his revenge by mentioning Cosgrave in his books under the name of Lynch (also means hanging), and in his most famous book he ultimately denounced him as Judas (the disciple of Jesus who betrayed him and committed suicide) . And this proved prophetic when five years after the publication of his book Cosgrave committed suicide by throwing himself from the London Bridge.

 

4. Albert Einstein

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Who doesn’t know about Einstein? He was a great scientist, and it won’t be wrong if we also call him a great artist.

In 1905 he came up with the idea of special relativity and by 1911 he had built upon it the grand idea of general relativity.

Einstein’s ideas were based upon the experimental findings of many of his contemporary scientists. And by using those findings he made very grand and almost unreal speculations.

Initially other scientists were cautious in admitting the veracity of his theory.  But ultimately, an experiment performed during the solar eclipse of 29 May 1919 confirmed all of Einstein’s theoretical speculations and he became a celebrity overnight.

 

Conclusion

By reaching new limits of expression artists have shown us an unbiased reflection of ourselves. And not only that, they have also probed into the very nature of things and made us realize that no matter how advanced we are, we still don’t know much about the world that we live in.

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