Modern Art and Artistic Plagiarism

Thieves steal from God and give him glory. Plagiarists steal from God, and boast as if their work is all their own. Those artists who find inspiration from his beautiful creation, yet do not give thanks to God by acknowledging Him and His work as their source, are guilty of the worst artistic ingratitude. God is the true artist. Human artists are but splendid imitators. God has created all that there is, there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9). There is no new art under the sun as well.

Only God creates ex nihilo. Today’s artists pretend they also create from nothing, completely original. They pretend to be the ultimate source, denying the true One. They see absolute and utter originality as their ultimate aim, for they place themselves on God’s throne. But the Christian, being dethroned by Christ, does not try to imitate God as Creator, but merely imitates God as creature. We create with what He created. We dream with the dreams He created in us. Beauty is God’s glory as our souls perceive it. To deny God as it’s source is to imply that it’s source is us.

Only God can be truly original, absolutely original. No human has ever escaped the being of imitation. Man is created to imitate the Original.

The best artists are thieves. I know of no respectable artist who did not steal. Eric Blair, known as George Orwell, stole from the reality of the Russian tyranny. There is hardly an aspect of his book not found in Stalin’s Russia. Victor Hugo took a page out of Scripture. We could continue ad nauseam cataloging examples.

The philosophy of monism, (that is, the religion called pantheism) produces two lines, the line where we imitate slavishly in our art production, for “creation is God.” The other trajectory reasons like this; if everything is God, than I am God, therefore, I can create like God. 

Michael Craig-Martin is a god. Or, would have us take this on faith to be true. He made “an Oak Tree” out of a glass of water, sitting on a wall. To prove he can fabricate with such great and magical power, he provided commentary for his art; the glass of water does not represent an oak tree, it is.

The hubris of the modern artist reflects the Apostle Paul’s words, for “they did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,” (Rom. 1:21-22).

For Further Discussion:

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The Reformed Conservative aims to reunite gentlemanly virtues with scholarly conversation. Standing in the great Reformed and conservative heritage of thinkers like Edmund Burke and Abraham Kuyper, we humbly seek to inject civility into an informed conversation, one article at a time, bringing clarity out of chaos.