The Journey as Portrayed by Four Artists (Part 4)

In my last three posts, I presented three paintings centered around a meal.  The Van Gogh painting illustrated the need for food, being satisfied through the family.

The Brueghel the Elder painting illustrates the need for safety, being satisfied through one’s family as well as one’s community.

The Renoir painting illustrates the need for belongingness and friendship being satisfied through one’s friends.  It is the need for flow experiences, distancing one from the worries of the everyday world,  that this “involvement” activity satisfies. But this activity can only be  pursued if the previous needs have been satisfied by one’s family and community.

The fourth painting, representing the final segment of the Journey, is by Rembrandt.  This painting represents the attainment of the “good life.”  It presents a man who has achieved much in life, a position achieved by one who has developed self-esteem.  The satisfaction of the self-esteem need (Maslow’s fourth need) is achieved through engaging in “exposure” activities.  These activities distance the individual from others and leads to recognition, prestige, and the goodwill of others – self-esteem.  The desire for further flow is the catalyst for the individual to engage in these “exposure” activities, which, if successful, lead to the satisfaction of the self-esteem need.


This painting expresses the artist’s ideal of a man successful in his vocation. This ideal includes a woman (his first wife) and ale in hand, fine clothes, fine food, and attractive surroundings. The main character is shown as healthy and sociable, proud of his material possessions, and willing to share them with friends. The visual richness of the sword attests to his earlier vocational successes and status in life. The painting reflects a life of materialistic preoccupation that would preclude any serious human revelation by the artist at this time. The character is simply enjoying the “good life.”

How do these paintings reflect philosophical teachings will be discussed next.

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