We are required to keep a "personal reflection" journal in my English class. This is one of my entries, lightly edited for coherency. If I rambled a little I apologize. : )
Can art really be considered beautiful if it is not also truthful? I can see both sides of this question. Lies are ugly things, so can a lie ever really be beautiful?
Truth and beauty are synonymous. The things we think of as beautiful are also reflecting truth.
Great art and literature reflect the truth of humanity. When we really love a book, it is because the characters behave in a way that is consistent with what we know of the world. The characters are realistic and true to life.
Even when the settings are imaginary, the people behave as you would expect them to. There are universal truths about the way people react when happy or sad or startled, so even when it is an alien startling the character, the reaction is the same. Truth is what makes literature beautiful.
The same concept carries over into art. The most beautiful paintings are the ones that show us something about life that we know is true. That is why it is possible for the subject matter of a painting to be false while the painting itself is a beautiful expression of truth.
For example, there are some historical paintings depicting the heroic battle scenes of war that are completely false. Maybe that glorious charge into battle never happened, and the artist conveniently left out the gruesome details of battle. While it may not have happened exactly the way it is shown, I believe it is still true. The universal feelings of national pride and selflessness and heroism are the real truths that inspired great paintings of war.