Today's New York Times op-ed page contained an essay by someone who spent considerable effort to try to find the actual diner depicted in Edward Hopper's famous painting "Nighthawks". The story makes for a good read, and yet there is a an almost plainly self-evident revelation late in the column. The author turns to a book about Hopper and reads that
the diner was “based partly on an all-night coffee stand Hopper saw on Greenwich Avenue ... ‘only more so,’” and that Hopper himself said: “I simplified the scene a great deal and made the restaurant bigger. Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.”Here we see the expression of an essential point about art--that it is not just a literal depiction of objective reality, but rather speaks deeper truths that spring from the imagination of the artist.
Partly. More so. Simplified. The hidden truth became clearer. The diner began to fade. And then I saw it — on every triangular corner, in the candy shop’s cornice and the newsstand’s advertisement for 5-cent cigars, in the bakery’s curved window and the liquor store’s ghostly wedge, in the dark bricks that loom in the background of every Village street.
This same thing could also be said about religious doctrines and scriptures, could it not?