"The arts (painting, music, literature, etc.) reveal the otherwise hidden ideas and impulses of a society."
From my point of view, I can only agree with the statement above with my own reservation. Certain arts may reveal some ideas and impulses which serve as stimuli of our society, but not always accurately. As this topic is a little complicated, following discussion is needed.
First of all, the arts are considered as a mirror reflecting people’s ideas embodied deeply in hearts and are good representatives of social trends. We know that composers devoted their heart and emotion into pieces of music, while writers pour their discontent with love and realistic and into their novels. That’s why we say each production of arts is a miniature of all one’s life, and emotion accumulated together reveals to a large extent that the progress and seamy side of a particular society. For example, the Marseillaise, which was originally written as a battle song, is booted in the fact that conquerors were going to throttle the French revolution. It expresses the patriotic sentiment of the composer, and greatly inspires the fighting will of the French people, evoking their resonance immediately. By citing this example, I want to elaborate the point that there are abundant evidence which are all in support of author's statement, and no one can deny such facts.
Nevertheless, as I mentioned at the very beginning, not every painting or other forms of arts has such a power to illuminate the impulses. Take impressionism for example. Facing its glorious achievements in the second half of the 19th century, nobody would deny the fact that it is an outstanding genre of art. But what kind of social impulse does it reveal? Mostly, impressionists are addicted to the beautiful landscape filled with light and shadow, presented silently or vigorously. Although I am a big fan of Monet and Van Gogh, I think such kind of painting just reflects emotion impulses of the painters themselves...