“Bien qu’on dise avec raison qu’il n’y a pas de progress, pas de découvertes en art, mais seule, dans les sciences, et que chaque artiste recommençant pour son compte un effort individual ne peut y être aidé, ni entravé par les efforts de tout autre…” Marcel Proust
Trans. " It is rightly said that there is no progress, no discoveries in art, but only in the sciences, and that each artist re starting for himself an individual effort cannot be neither helped, nor impeded by the efforts of all the others"
We all know that scientific discoveries become obsolete, when replaced by newer findings in their area. The treatment they gave Proust for asthma, for instance, is completely outdated, and medicines that didn't exist in his time took its place. On the other hand, Leonardo Da Vinci's La Gioconda, to name a famous artwork, was made all the way back in the Renaissance, and is art through and through. It is timeless, and will never be replaced.
Proust's extensive reflections on art, when he talks of it as the book he had within, and that had already been written for him, (admitting that each of us has his own inside) he expresses the transcendence and individualism of this book, which he has only to discover and bring to light. A task from which, according to him, people in general will do anything to escape. Escaping from something that exists within independently of one's will is to escape from one's own essence.
Every artwork is contextual, in the sense of its being traceable to a period in Art History, or to a determinate culture. In this sense, it is bound to time. But insofar as an expression of the uniqueness of the artist's individuality, of its absoluteness, it is timeless. People no longer paint like Renaissance artists, because the culture and ideals of that time, its context in other words, is gone. But the unique way Da Vince painted is alive forever.
Scientific discoveries, on the other hand, go on dethroning one another, because they are stages of a development that is collective and purely objective, since it is empirically deduced from the observation of facts that should be the same for all, or from the development of laws that should also be the same for all. Knowledge is objective: The subject of science (the scientist) objectifies the world, abstracting his field of inquiry into knowledge, and being therefore, split from it. The artist, on the other hand, feels, senses, or communes with, rather than abstracts. His rules are his own, because they oblige the expression of his uniqueness.
The fact that these rules, or ways of expression, are individual, does not detract from the universality of an artist's work. On the contrary. The miracle of art concerns precisely the point in which subjectivity is soul, rather than arbitrariness. This miracle is the elevation of what would be mere particularity to absoluteness.
Proust contends that the duty of artists is to live for themselves; for their inner world. Like Proust's narrator, they have to look within, to discover this world in the depths of themselves. To discover what has been already there, uniquely for them; their essence. Their struggle is, paradoxically, to be led by it, to bypass their ego. From the sphere of being one-among-many, they become alone in being.
I would say that while science aims at asserting the truth, art is beyond the division of reality between true and false; while science is conquest, art is surrender, and if science tames the world, art gives it rebirth.