Aesthetic Paper: Art As A Source Of Inspiration

Inspiration can come from many sources, but a new study has shown that visual art may play a particularly important role in the creative process. 

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany, conducted a series of experiments in which participants were asked to write short creative stories in response to either an aesthetically pleasing artwork (which they had rated highly aesthetically moving in a preceding task) or an unappealing artwork.

The results, published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, showed that the participants reported feeling more inspired when writing in response to an aesthetically pleasing artwork, and they also wrote more.

We believe that the state of ‘being moved’ by a work of art can trigger a state of ‘wanting to create’.

Dominik Welke, lead author of the study

Lead author Dominik Welke sees the findings as a contribution to our understanding of how creative processes work: “We believe that the state of ‘being moved’ by a work of art can trigger a state of ‘wanting to create’ – possibly because the two states are psychologically similar. In both cases, you are motivated and experience a sense of transcendence.”

Sergio de Camargo Untitled
© Sergio de Camargo, Untitled, 1980,
Photo via Galeria Raquel Arnaud under Fair Use
Taking the time to look at art can inspire your own creativity. © Studio Aesence

The findings also suggest the potential for art-based interactions in educational and professional settings. Senior author Edward Vessel explains: “How often someone has inspiring ideas can definitely be influenced positively. For example, students could be exposed to art more often or given the opportunity to work with materials that they find aesthetically pleasing.”  

Taken together, the study’s results suggest that moments of inspiration are an important part of the creative process, “acting as bridges from generating ideas to acting on them”. So we should definitely look more often at art that we find aesthetically pleasing!

Further reading

Original Publication

Welke, D.W., Purton, I., Vessel, E.A. (2021). Inspired by art: Higher aesthetic appeal elicits increased felt inspiration in a creative writing task. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/aca0000393

Aesence is a creative studio and digital design magazine with a high curatorial approach. Founded by Sarah Dorweiler, a creative mind and entrepreneur from Berlin, her goal is to capture the feeling of harmony, balance and inner peace in her curatorial work and photography.