Tag Archives: Bruegel the Elder

The Journey – Artists and Philosophers (Part 1)

Let me summarize the previous four posts:

1) Van Gogh – First Maslow need satisfied with food and warmth provided by family.

2) Brueghel the Elder – Second Maslow need satisfied with safety provided by community.

3) Renoir – Third Maslow need satisfied with a sense of belonging and flow experiences achieved with friends.

4) Rembrandt – Forth Maslow need satisfied with a sense of self-esteem and further flow experiences expressed by family and friends.

These four paintings, all with the dining table as the center of action, depict the satisfaction of the first four needs of Maslow.  But what do the philosopher say?

In my previous posts I mentioned the Epicurus was right up to a point.

Epicurus agreed with the other ancient philosophers that the aim of life is happiness; however, he defined happiness as tranquility and freedom from pain and anxiety – the “good life.” In psychological terms, the Epicurean state of happiness is the satisfaction of Maslow’s first four needs of his hierarchy (achieved through a loving family, just society, and flow experiences).  Remember, it is the flow experiences that distance oneself from the worries of the everyday world; however, you can’t approach these experiences without first having satisfied the basic needs of food and safety.

The above paragraph is very remarkable: 1) we have a great philosopher, Epicurus, whose philosophy closely matches that of modern psychology regarding the necessity of a loving family, a just society, and flow experiences to lead one to a state free of pain and anxiety, 2) the same philosophy matching the first four of five levels of needs satisfaction of modern psychology driving human behavior, and 3) that a life free from pain and anxiety is one that avoids excessive greed, fame, and power, those things that will never lead to tranquility and happiness.

In summary, we can go so far as to say that the end of the Journey, the “good life,” is the aim of Epicureanism. Or, to put it another way, the Journey segment of the road to happiness is philosophically one of Epicureanism. It is the best approach ethically for completing the Journey. Seek out flow experiences and you will have friendships, family love, financial comfort, and a sense of self-esteem. Not a bad life, in fact, a “good life.” But, not happiness. You also need the Adventure!

The Journey as Portrayed by Four Artists (Part 2)

In my previous blog I discussed how Van Gogh had captured the first segment of the Journey by representing a family around a dining table happy just to be have food on the table.  There is very little else that the family can hope to attain if the desire for food and warmth (Maslow’s first need) is always present and never satisfied.

Once this physiological need for food and warmth is satisfied then the individual will become concerned with his/her safety.  This need for safety (Maslow’s second need) includes protection from animals and invaders, crime, disease, education, and the beginning need of being with others.

This safety need is best expressed in the following painting, The Peasant Wedding, by Brueghel the Elder.  It is in this painting that there is a depiction of plenty of food for future consumption and a sense of safety afforded by the community, which has come together to celebrate a wedding.

The Peasant Wedding by Bruegel

In this painting guests come to celebrate a wedding among peasants set in a barn after the harvest. This is a colorful painting of earth tones depicting the satisfaction of the first two Maslow needs (food/warmth as illustrated by the harvest, and the safety of those in the community) as well as the beginning emerge of a third need for friendship and a sense of one’s place among others.

This painting goes further along the Journey in that the need for food has been satisfied as well as the need for safety from animals, crime, inclement weather, etc.  However, the characters in the scene are not nearly as engaged with one another as you might expect at a wedding.

In my next blog I will discuss the depiction of the belongingness need expressed during another meal, but by a very different artist.

Belongingness – Great Art

In several of my previous posts, I presented artworks that best represent the feelings of those that have had their physiological and safety needs met (the first two of Maslow’s needs at the bottom of his Hierarchy of Needs).  As such, they are able to move to the next level, one involving the need for belongingness.

Belongingness involves the desire to be with others in what I call “involvement” activities: clubs, civic groups, churches, hobby groups, family and loved ones, etc.  This need is best satisfied by friendships and the love of family.  It is how we belong as a “member in good standing.”

Below are two paintings, separated by time and class.  Nonetheless, the need for belongingness is being satisfied by all involved.  The feelings expressed in each work are nearly identical.  Even though one set of characters are peasants in a barn and others characters are well-to-do members of society on a boat, the experiences are the same.  These same experiences shared by all give us comfort that this need is universal and satisfied in a universal manner.

The Peasant Wedding by Bruegel

The Peasant Wedding (Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1566)







Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir

Luncheon of the Boating Party (Renoir, 1881)